5 Guys: Burgers, Fries and the Gospel

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5 Guys: Burgers, Fries and the Gospel

Good morning Father, Son and Spirit!  I begin today with a heart of thanksgiving for all that you have in store for me today.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

Last night I was at a dinner at 5 Guys with a group and my daughter Milan was sitting next to me.  My daughter and I were in a side discussion together arguing a point when the person across the table commented at us, “You two look just alike.” 

I thought of who is Milan?  She has a passion for life and people that is contagious.  She questions and examines the reason why and purpose for everything and loves discussing and arguing points.  Milan pushes back at the “status quo,” and establishment with a rebel heart that doesn’t like conformity or doing things “just because..”  She stands her ground when she knows she is right despite the consequences.   Yep, she is just like me.  So parenting her for me at times has been challenging when our “likenesses” collide.  Parenting her has also been amazing.

Back to the dinner table we were atin 5 Guys.  My wife, Milan, and I were at the table, with other 17-19 year old teenage girls.  Milan and I are serving on a Chrysalis flight for three days over Labor Day Weekend.  It is a girls flight, where teenage girls are invited to come and spend a weekend on a spiritual retreat to deeper discover their identity in Christ, their purpose, gifts and their calling.  All the girls around the table Milan had missional reached out to and invited to attend the Chrysalis weekend and I had invited the girls to come have dinner with us to discuss, explain, answer questions, and pray over the weekend. 

I looked at these girls Milan had reached out to: One is a teen mom who the father of the baby left her to raise it alone.   One girl, her father left her and her mom when she was a child.  Her mom got into a relationship with a man who did not want her around, so her mom chose him over her daughter and literally kicked her out.  She lived in her car for over a year, got into drugs, is clean now however is pregnant.  One girl’s father has little to do with her and she spends time living either with her mom who is a recovering meth addict or her grandparents.  Another girl who’s family does not have a vehicle questions if there is a God and struggles with her identity.

I began the meal with a prayer then started explaining the weekend to the girls.  However, after a minute Milan jumped in and took over most of the conversation with these young ladies.  With love for them she told them about the weekend and Jesus and the blessing they will receive by letting go and opening their hearts to Christ.  She told them how excited and proud she was they were going, that she is here for them, and wants to start a group meeting weekly with them for accountability and support after the weekend.  After the discussion Milan had all of us hold hands in a circle and prayed over these young ladies.

During the meal as I looked around at these young ladies Milan had sought out who are marginalized by society and I listened to my daughter share the Gospel with them out of love for them, my heart praised God!  Yep, she was just like me.

I am the Lead Follower at One Direction Community.  I launched One Direction Community (ODC) to be just that, a community of house churches that meets in homes, restaurants, laundromats, flea markets, apartments and other locations in the Madison-Huntsville, Al area. I believe we can more effectively reach our city through a network of reproducing churches.  My home is the central gathering place of ODC where trainings take place, food for feeding the community is cooked, accountability groups meet, counseling and prayer takes place, and a house church meets every Wednesday night.  Our home always has people coming and going, spending the night, and hanging out.  Sometimes the lack of privacy and dynamics of this can be a challenge for my daughters and they at times have brought this up to me.  I at times questioned how it was effecting them and their faith.  Last night, as I sat their and watched and listened to the Holy Spirit just work through my daughter and reveal her missional heart and love for people and her love for Jesus, it answered my question about what I have been exposing her to.  She gets it.  She led church last night. She is just like me.  I am full of praise!!!

My ODC family, I pray today you will seek and allow the Holy Spirit to work through you and create and reveal a missional heart and love for people and love for Jesus.  I pray you will invite to coffee, lunch, or dinner today someone who needs you to speak the Gospel of grace and love into their lives.  Please pray the same for me.  God bless you my friends!!

 

Gary Liederbach-Lead Follower

One Direction Community

 

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"Darkened Sun"

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"Darkened Sun"

Good morning, Lord Jesus. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of God! I worship You in every dimension of Your Being and welcome You into every dimension of my being. 

"And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:  Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls" (Joel 2:30-32 NKJV).

Yesterday we all experienced "the sun shall be turned into darkness" across America. Many of us gathered to celebrate the signs in the heavens, and many gathered to cry out to God in repentance and prayer for the sins in the heart of our nation. Many studied the science of this event, and many searched in all kinds of ways for it's spiritual significance.

It's of interest to me that this day of the total eclipse of the sun marks the first of the forty days leading up to the Day of Atonement on the Biblical calendar -- the forty days set apart for prayer and repentance to prepare for the most holy day on the Jewish year. Perhaps it's a sign in the heavens of a call to prayer for repentance and revival in our hearts and in our land, as with all the hate, racism and violence we have experienced lately we needed one.

And just as the ancient prophecy speaks of dramatic moves in the heavens, it also speaks of a dramatic move of the Spirit:  "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days" (Joel 2:28-29).

So often in Your Word and in our lives, Your judgment leads to conviction; conviction leads to repentance; repentance leads to mercy; and mercy leads to revival, as You "create in (us) a clean heart," "renew a (right) spirit with (us)," and "restore unto (us) the joy of Your salvation" (Psalm 51:10-12). May Your signs in the heavens lead us to seek Your Scriptures and search our hearts and lead us to our Savior. And by the power of the grace of God, may we yet repent and return to You in our hearts and in our land to experience a great breakthrough revival and awakening and outpouring of Your Spirit in the great "harvest" Your Word promises to come (Matthew 9:37-38; 13:24-30 and 36-43).

Thank You for Your covenant of revival that comes in power, as Your people see what You're revealing, hear what You're saying, and obey what You're doing. "If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV). "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 33:12 NKJV). 

So come, Holy Spirit. May we hear the voice of Jesus and "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 4:17)  May You use these signs in the heavens to lead us to repentance in our hearts and revival in our land. Thank You that though the 40 days of preparation began yesterday for the Day of Atonement,  it is simply now a remembrance as the Day of Atonement was eternally fulfilled on the Day of the Cross. And may yesterday, the day the sun was darkened across America be a day that America begins to repent and return to the light of the glory of the Son. "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

My ODC family, I pray you'll be moved to pray and repent in your heart and for our land, that we may experience revival and awakening for the great harvest to come, in Jesus' name! Please pray the same for me. God bless you, my friends!

Please share you reflection in the comment box below.

Gary Liederbach- Lead Follower

One Direction Community

 

 

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"Leave The Harbor"

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"Leave The Harbor"

"These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm and fasten them as symbols on your forehead. Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and gates. “ Deuteronomy6:7-9

This past Friday I did not write a blog post.  Friday was move out of the house and move-in day for my oldest daughter Paris at Birmingham Southern College where she will attend for the next 4 years.  My wife Nancy and I have two daughters and Paris is our first one to leave and start her life outside of our home.  It was a full day for all of us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Physically, we left our home at 6:20am to get there at 8:00am.  After checking in we spent the four hours along with the hundreds of other students and their parents helping them move in into their dorm rooms. We carried clothing, bedding, furniture and items up flights of stairs to get their rooms set up.  Then running to Wal-Mart and back getting items needed.

Emotionally, we were surrounded by incoming students who were excited, terrified, sad, and joyful, and their family members like us who shared these emotions.  As final good byes were said lingering hugs and tears took place then that release when both parent and child looked into each others eyes and expressed to one another, “This is really it, the moment of separation has taken place and our relationship will never be the same again.” My wife, younger daughter Milan, and Paris hugged and shared tears as well.  I hugged Paris goodbye as well through all kinds of emotions. 

Spiritually. Prayers were said by all, both parents and students; out loud at times however constantly in silence by parents wanting to get in their last minute prayers and blessings over their children.  Parent's joyful yet reluctant prayers of thanksgiving and release of the precious gift their son or daughter is the Father has allowed them to raise for 18 years and letting them go to discover what God has in store for them on their own.

Before Nancy and I left our home after her water broke with Paris to head to the hospital for her delivery, Nancy stopped at the front door and said turn around and look at our house, when we return it will never be the same.  18 years later, Nancy and I returned and walked into a home that again will never be the same.

And as I looked over the auditorium during their Convocation at the room filled with 18 and 19 years old young men and women (my daughter is the girl near the middle smiling) looking around with deer-in-the-headlights looks on their faces of all the unknown and uncertainty that lies ahead of them it was a reminder to me of the inevitable, constant, continual change that occurs in our lives.   For Paris to continue on in all that God has in store for her it requires a change in her life’s structure and surroundings,  A release of the comfortable, the familiar and a going forth into the new, uncertain, yet wonderful adventure God has for her.  And it requires a releasing and encouraging to go by her family structure.  The only thing that is constant in life is change. 

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In our walk with Christ the only thing that is constant, besides the Father, is change.  For us and the church to continue into all God has in store for us and are calling also requires a change in The Church’s structure and surroundings.  A release of the comfortable and familiar and a going forth into the new, uncertain, yet wonderful adventure Jesus has for it’s bride. 

I am reminded of a quote, “A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” John A. Shedd.   My daughter was safe at home, but that is not what God designed her for.  And The Church is safest gathered in a building, but that is not what God designed it for.

My ODC family, I pray today you will listen to the Holy Spirit and embrace the calling and adventure God is calling you to enter into outside of your comfort zone, your structured life, and your safety net of familiarity, family and friends, your harbor, and sail out into the adventure you were built for.  Please pray the same for me.  God bless you my friends!!!

Please share your reflections with us in the comments box below.

Gary Liederbach

One Direction Community – Lead Follower

 

We would love your partnership and support of our ministry as we serve outside the harbor in our community!

 

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I Regard Them as Rubbish

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I Regard Them as Rubbish

Good morning, Lord Jesus. Fill my spirit with Your Spirit and my heart with Your heart, so that Your will becomes my will and Your ways become my ways, more and more, every day. 

"Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith" (Philippians 3:7-10).

I've tasted and seen much of what this world has to offer. At one time in my life I tried to be bad and was bad; embracing, succeeding in, and being identified with the culture of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.  And at a time that followed, I tried to do good and be good at what I thought religion had to offer and required of me. I wanted badly, and then succeed at pleasing religious systems and structures and being accepted and identified with them.  But whether I was trying to please the rulers of this world or the leaders of religion, what I've come to know is that what I really want, deep down inside, is to please You.  And the only identity I want is in You.  That's become my hunger and my passion. And by the power of the grace of God that stirs my heart and moves my soul, by God I'll settle for nothing less because I've come to know I'll never be satisfied with anything less.

"I want to know Christ" (v. 10). I want to "gain Christ" (v. 8). I want to "be found in Him" (v. 9). I want to be free from trying to live a life that somehow defines success as "having a righteousness of my own," based on my own abilities or hard work or self-will or self-righteousness. And I want to embrace a life where I daily humble myself to willingly choose to be desperately dependent on You alone; hungering and thirsting for more of You, more of Your Presence, more of Your Spirit, more of Your power at work in me to change me from the inside out to be more like You every day. This is the righteousness of a right heart that I'm asking You to form in me.

So as best as I can and all by Your grace, this is the choice I choose to make today and that I pray I will make every day:  "I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.... I press on toward the goal for prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus" (v. 12-14). To be like You, because You are work in me, from the inside out by Your Spirit within me, is my goal. And You are my Prize. May I settle for nothing less and never be satisfied with anything less.  May my ministry be about leading people to nowhere else but the same goal. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

My ODC family, I pray you'll be free from the expectations and demands of the world and religion, and be free to pursue Christ by the desire and power of His Spirit at work within you, just as He is pursuing you, in Jesus' name! Please pray the same for me. God bless you, my friends!

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Trust and Love

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Trust and Love

Good morning, Lord Jesus. I speak out Your name and listen for Your voice. 

"If you love Me, obey My commandments.... All who love Me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make Our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn't love Me will not obey Me. And remember, My words are not My own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent Me. I am telling you these things now while I am with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as My Representative -- that is, the Holy Spirit -- He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you" (John 14:15-26).

Does loving You also include obeying You? Or does loving You only include receiving Your mercy and grace and the freedom to do what seems right in my own eyes to follow the leading of my own heart in the logic of my own reasoning? Will Your Holy Spirit lead me in love without leading me in obedience?

I sense there is something You want me to hear about love and obedience. 

It seems I hear You speaking in my spirit:  "My son, your desire to obey Me is a mark of your desire to love Me. It's a matter of the nature of faith; faith that trusts Me to know and to desire what's best for you.  To trust Me and believe if you surrender your life to Me I won’t wreck it.  To love Me is to trust Me, and to trust Me is to obey Me. This is the nature of love and obedience I want you to come to understand. Seeking to love Me without the desire to obey Me is loving some idea of Me that is crafted by human minds, not by My sovereign will."

Yes, Lord. Help me understand this more deeply. Help me test what seem to be Your spoken words against Your written Word. "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. I have said these things to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:8-11).

There is a connection between love and obedience, between living in faith that trusts You and Your Word and the complete joy we're created to experience in our loving relationship with You and one another.

A Scripture that comes to mind now is from Galatians 5:3-6:  "For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love." And this:  "For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.... those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:13-21).

Truly loving You will lead me to seek to obey You because I trust You. And You've given me Your Spirit who is at work in me, changing my heart to love You more, trust You more, obey You more, and become more like You every day (Romans 8:29).  "For God is working in (me), giving (me) the desire and the power to do what pleases Him" (Philippians 2:13). As the old song says, help me "trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

My ODC family, I pray your joy will be made complete as you grow in the desire to love and obey the Lord our God in ever-increasing, trusting faith in Him, in Jesus' name! Please pray the same for me. God bless you, my friends!

 

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Blessed are the poor, for they shall be put in jail.

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Blessed are the poor, for they shall be put in jail.

 My main office is the Waffle House (WH) on Hughes Road in Madison.  This morning I was at my Satellite WH office in Huntsville.  As you know from my previous blog posts my family and I were gone on our trip to Europe for 18 days.  So it has been over 3 weeks since I have visited my Satellite office.  One of the waitresses who works the morning shift was not there so I asked about her.   I found out she was in jail and when I found out why it infuriated me.

I will call her Sandy, though that is not her real name.  Around 6 months ago Sandy got pulled over for speeding and the officer gave her a speeding ticket.  She went on line to see about paying the ticket and the fine was $179.  Sandy did not have the money.  Sandy is in her late 20’s and is a single-mom of two young children.  Working at the WH she makes approximately $400 a week plus or minus.  She pays around $150.00 a week in child-care for her kids.  That leaves her $250 a week/ $1,000 a month to live on.  Take out her rent and utilities that leaves her $100.00 a week for her and her two young children to eat and live on so $179 Is almost 2 weeks of living expenses. 

Since she did not have the money for the fine, she did not pay it on line, and out of fear of what might happen, she did go to court.  After missing a couple court dates, her driver’s license was suspended.  She knew this from letters she received, but she had to get to work, kids to day care, and survive, so she drove with a suspended license.  Monday July 17th Sandy got pulled over again for an expired tag.  Not having a valid drivers license meant she could not renew her tag for her license plate.  When they ran her license they saw it was suspended so they took her to jail.  Sandy had to pay  $370 fine or they were going to keep her in jail.  She did not have the money.  She has one family member in town and they are an addict, and no friends with money to help her, so to pay the fine off she had to do 30 days in jail. 

Because she is in jail and could not take care of her Kids, DHR was called in and took her children into foster care.  Her car, a 2002 Chevy Impala was towed to an impound lot where it now sits.   From what I was told she has a real slum landlord.   And though it was not legal,  this past Saturday, since she had not paid her rent that was do the first, he took all of her things out of her apartment and put them in the parking lot by the street where people took them.  Another waitress at WH who lives near her heard about it and went down and managed to save a few of her things for her.

Sandy’s 30 days is up at midnight tonight and she will get out of jail.  However when she does, she will have no place to live.  She will most likely go to the Downtown Rescue Mission.  All her cloths and children’s cloths and belongings except what her one friends was able to save for her are gone.  With the fee for towing her car plus a daily storage fee, it will cost her around $400+ to get her car out of the impound lot that she does not have, so she will probably lose her car.  She then will have to deal with DHR to try to get her children back.

Now, I understand there needs to be laws and fines for speeding tickets.  And I understand Sandy broke the law and should have gone to court.  However, a speeding ticket is not supposed to ruin your life!!!  If most of us, including myself got a speeding ticket it would not be good.  $179 is allot of money to me since I raise my own support. And at least in my case I would hear it from my wife over and over again, but we would manage to pay the ticket.  However, $179 is not two weeks living expenses to me.  THE ONLY REASON SANDY WENT TO JAIL IS BECAUSE SHE IS POOR!  If I had to come up with $370 or go to jail for 30 days I would find a way to come up with it.  If I did not have it I have family or friends I could borrow it from.  Sandy went to jail because she was poor and did not have the money, support of a family, and has poor friends like her who are themselves are barely living paycheck to paycheck like her. 

Should Sandy not have been speeding, Yes.  Should she have gone to court, probably so.  But the fact that you are poor and do not have $179 dollars to pay a traffic ticket should not result in jail, losing everything you have, losing your children, and ending up homeless in a shelter.  That ticket ended up being a literal ticket to hell for her.  Now you know why I was infuriated.  I sat there at the bar in my office listening to the waitresses telling me this, and though I have heard and helped people with similar stories before, I was getting worked up, mad and upset at this injustice.  The waitress telling me this spoke matter of fact to me, as this injustice and system that adversely and in-proportionately impacts the poor was just the reality she also lives in.   At least the WH Sandy works at said she still has her job when she gets out.  I will come to the WH Wednesday or Thursday morning when she starts back to work and listen, love, and talk with her to get clarity on her situation, plans, and needs.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

My ODC family, Jesus had a special love for the poor.  They were his crowd of choice.  I pray today that your hearts may break for the poor and that the Holy Spirit will guide you into ways of interacting and sharing life together.  They have so much to teach us.  Please pray the same for me.  

Gary Liederbach

One Direction Community- Lead Follower

Please share your reflections in the comment box below.

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Jesus' Italian Supper

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Jesus' Italian Supper

On our trip to Great Brittian, France and Italy I visited and spent time in several cathedrals and famous churches.  St. Paul and Westminster Abbey in London; Bath Abby in Bath; Notre Dame, Sacre Coure, and St. Chappelle in Paris; and the Doumo and Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. I will continue my daily blog on my reflections from my time spent in these churches.

We visited Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.  Painted on the wall in the Dominican Monk monastery next to the church is the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci,”The Last Supper.” Here is a photo I took of it.

 

Besides the fact that it was painted by Da Vinci, what makes this painting so famous?  Why was it so unique when it was painted?  Da Vinci was a renaissance artist, and the renaissance was focused on the mind, beauty, and accomplishments of mankind.  Here is a picture of Jesus in the painting.

In almost all the paintings and Icons of Jesus before this painting it was Jesus’ deity that was stressed.  He was painted with a halo around his head, on a cross, "glowing" in some way, or painted larger than other people around him.  In The Last Supper, Jesus is painted simply as a man.  He has no halo around his head, no other sign of deity and is the same size as the other disciples in the photo.  Jesus is painted emphasizing his incarnation, completely human, in context, in community, present at the supper table.

Another thing that made this painting unique is the food on the table.  Remember, the last supper took place in Jerusalem.  When you study the food you will see some of the traditional foods used in the Passover meal, however most of the food on the table is that which would be served at a typical Dominican Monk’s dinner.  Da Vinci painted this painting in a Dominican monastery, and he wanted to reflect the meal in its context painted.  Like we do today in our context when we celebrate the Lords Supper in remberance of the Jesus’ acts in salvation.   

Da Vinci is stating in his painting that Jesus desire was not to imitate or replicate the meal when we remember it as happening somewhere in the past, but to incarnate it into our current meal.  At ODC we are centered around simple churches, house church type models.  I remember back when one of our new house churches just launched that was made up of recovering addicts.  I received a call one night from a member as they were meeting and they asked, “Gary, we do not have any grape juice in the house, is it ok to use apple juice, or will it ruin it for Jesus?”  I told them apple juice is fine, Jesus is just delighted you are inviting him to your table.  I got another call one night from a house church meeting in a restaurant asking me, “Gary, we forgot to bring bread from home, is it ok to use the restaurant’s dinner rolls?”  I said, Yes, that will be fine.”  When I was in Darfur, Sudan, I celebrated The Lord’s Supper every night.  However, this were no grapes within 100 miles of where we were.  So I celebrated The Lord’s Supper using some type of Sudanese moonshine/wine made of local flowers.  Jesus’ promise of Whenever you do this in remembrance of me I will be present was not to the elements, but to you and I.  It does not matter whether you use Matza or Wonder Bread.  Nor does it matter if you serve it in a gold chalice or a red solo cup.  At our ODC gatherings, I always ask the family who will be assisting me in serving The Lord’s Supper to bring a cup and plate from their home for us to use.  One Gathering, a young girl of the family came up to me and handed me a “My Little Pony” cup and plate she had picked out to use for the Lord’s Supper and asked if this was ok?,  I said perfect!  And I consecrated the bread and wine on them and she proudly stood and served the congregation the Blood of Christ from her My Little Pony cup.  Everyday at home when she uses that plate and cup she will be reminded of the incarnation of Christ in her everyday life.

Another thing that made this painting famous and unique are the three windows in the back of the painting showing outdoor scenes.  Again, the Lord’s Supper to place in an upper room in Jerusalem and the wall would have been solid behind Jesus.  However, Da Vinci added and painted scenes of landscape through these three windows.  When you examine the landscapes painted, they are not of Jerusalem, but landscapes of Italian countryside.  Again, by doing this Da Vinci is moving the setting for the Lord’s Supper from the past to the present context.  He before his time, was missionaly stating in his painting, the Lord’s Supper and the incarnation of Jesus is not about Jerusalem anymore or any church building or location, but Jesus is present and glorified where ever and whenever it is celebrated to his remembrance.

My ODC family, I pray today you will remove any lingering religious teachings, traditions, or customs that have enforced in you the belief that Jesus is only present in a certain location, building, sanctuary or restricted to certain altars, vessels, or elements.  I pray, like Leonardo Da Vinci, you will see and experience the incarnation of Jesus in your context and in your community and in doing so, bring the remembrance Jesus in your life and the life of those you meet today.  Please pray the same for me.  God bless you my friends!!!

Gary Liederbach

One Direction Community- Lead Follower

Please share your reflections and thoughts in the comment box below.

 

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What's beneath your cross?

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What's beneath your cross?

On our trip to Great Brittan, France and Italy I visited and spent time in several cathedrals and famous churches.  St. Paul and Westminster Abbey in London; Bath Abby in Bath; Notre Dame, Sacre Coure, and St. Chappelle in Paris; and the Doumo and Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. I will continue my daily blog on my reflections from my time spent in these churches.

 

When I was in London and I looked at St. Paul’s Cathedral and its massive dome and cross on top it is an impressive monument to the glory of God.  As I looked at it though and I pondered the wealth, resources and lives it took to build it, it is also an impressive monuments to greed and exploitation of man.

 

Great Britain grew rich on the slave trade, or from the sale of slave-produced sugar, in the 17th and 18th centuries.  It also grew rich from the plantations of tea farmed by indigenous workers in its African Colonies.  Brittan grew rich from the take over and colonization of countries around the world and the taking and exploitation of their resources.   It also grew rich from the opium trade in China.  Families became millionaires, rich from the exploitation of countries and trafficking on humans, and so did the church.

 

So when I stood and looked at St. Pauls, (and I am not singly it out or London as the same can be said of the cathedrals, Palaces and monuments in France from its conquests by Kings and Napoleon and Italy as well) I see and get sense of just how much, how great of things greed, power, and injustice can create.  The beauty these cathedrals display to the world were forged out of the ugliness of world and human conquest.  The cross placed at the top of them that represents the ultimate example of servant hood sacrificial love for the church, sits atop an ultimate example of dominance and greed of the church.

 

America is not by no means exempt of riches and wealth gained from slavery, human trafficking, exploitation of nations, and people.  Lets step down a notch and you look at the churches in the US today, the church you attend.  Though it may not be a cathedral to your eyes, however it is in the eyes of 80 percent of the world.   A visitor from Kenya, Sudan, India and other countries would see it as I saw St. Pauls: these people are rich and wealthy!  The we build worship centers to a level of comfort beauty of those of our homes that are a monument to God and a monument to materialism.  And placing a cross on top of them for all to see does not hide from God what he sees below it.  I am not sure God likes that his cross representing suffering servanthood is placed on top of St. Paul’s representing power and greed.  And I am not so sure God likes that his same cross of suffering servanthood is placed on top of our churches representing materialism and comfort.  And we could also step down again and look at the cross hanging on the wall of your home or the Icthus fish on the back of your new car.

My ODC family, I pray today you will allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to honestly reflect on what is built beneath where sits your cross.  The cross on your church, the cross on your home, and the cross around your neck.  Please pray the same for me.  God bless you my Friends!

Gary Liederbach

One Direction Community-Lead Follower

 

Please share your reflections and thoughts in the comments box below.

 

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"Old School Church"

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"Old School Church"

On our trip to Great Brittan, France and Italy I visited and spent time in several cathedrals and famous churches.  St. Paul and Westminster Abbey in London; Bath Abby in Bath; Notre Dame, Sacre Coure, and St. Chappelle in Paris; and the Doumo and Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. I will continue my daily blog on my reflections from my time spent in these churches.

The picture above is part of a marble plaque that is inside the Duomo in Milan.  The Duomo is the largest Catholic Church in in Italy, the third largest in the world.  It lists the Bishops of the church.  When I read it, it made me stop and reflect.  The first bishop was Saint Antalone and he became bishop in 51 AD (“Anno Elez”- year elected). In 51AD!!! Jesus was crucified in 32AD so this is only 19 years after his death!  This is before most of the books of the New Testament were written. This church was planted and grew without any Bibles. John 3:16 would not be written until 25-30 years after this church was planted!  Actually, Antalone died before it was written.  When we talk about the “early church”, this was the early church.

 History states that Barnabas brought the Gospel to Milan and that Saint Antalone was converted by and discipled by Barnabas.  This church then was birthed out of one thing, the Goepel of Jesus Christ and becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Trying to form a community that simply conformed to and imitated the life of Jesus.

As a planter of missional churches I am aware that church plants tend to be of a different culture.  In there attempt to create a “new” form of church, a “Cowboy” or anti-established church attitude can take shape. As I read this plaque I am reminded and reaffirmed that though I may take issue with some of the current models of church structure, I am not trying to distance my self from the established church.   

I am not smart enough nor do I want to try to create from scratch a new denomination. (And saying you are non-denomination basically means this).  Nor do I want to disconnect myself and our church from those like Antalone.  Those early saints and martyrs whose blood and sacrifice first joined in the Missio Deo, the Mission of God to establish his Kingdom on earth and laid the prayers and ground worked my church today flows out of.

The more my heart was opened to “new church” the more my heart and my understanding was exposed to the “old church.”  As I understood, embraced and began to imitate not what the church has currently morphed into, but what the current church morphed out of. The early church illustrated in Acts of the Apostles and the explanation and implementation teachings on the church contained in the Letters of Paul and James.  And since we are a church committed to discipleship, I have spent much time spent in close examination of the life and teachings of Jesus found in the Gospels. The life and teachings on which Antalone founded the church in Milan   

I came to the greater realization that Christianity and discipleship is not about imitating a religion, but imitating a person, namely Jesus Christ.  So my plant is not called to try to conform to and imitate current church models, but it is called to conform to and imitate Christ.

A deeper study of John Wesley, the early Methodist movement based on band and class meetings, the reading of Wesley’s sermons, and reading through the journals containing the stories of the lives of early Methodist preachers exposed me to the “old” of our denominations roots.  What "new" form of church was used to birth the Methodist movement and caused it to spread like fire. Added to this, I spent much time honestly assessing the state of the church today, which is not good.   Through all this my heart was not just opened to, but convicted and compelled to doing the “new.”  "New"   basically means returning to the “old,” forming and returning to simple churches that Love God, Love Neighbor, and Make Disciples.

Starting a church is not the goal, but starting a community imitating Jesus. If you start with church, you do not always end up with community.  But start with community, a church will be formed.  And lives will be transformed.

My ODC family, I pray today you will reflect and pray “old School.” Paul states in 1Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.”  The ultimate price was paid by Jesus Christ on the cross.  However, the Church today through which you receive grace from God was paid for by the dedication, suffering, prayers, and lives of the millions of saints who have gone before you.  You are part of a community of faith, a communion of saints, which includes Saint Antalone.  Please pray the same for me.  God bless you my friends!!!

 

Gary Liederbach

One Direction Community- Lead Follower

 

 

 

 

 

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The Art of God

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The Art of God

On our trip to Great Brittan, France and Italy I visited and spent time in several cathedrals and famous churches.  St. Paul and Westminster Abbey in London; Bath Abby in Bath; Notre Dame, Sacre Coure, and St. Chappelle in Paris; and the Doumo and Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. I will continue my daily blog  on my reflections from my time spent in these churches.

In my blog yesterday I stated, “When you walk into these churches they instill in you a sense of awe, and belief in God, or at least definitely a sense of awe, and belief in architecture.”  The early church and I would say the church up through the 15th century was the source of creativity, innovation, inspiration, promotion and commissioning of the arts.  Architecture, painting, sculpture, music, poetry, and dance all had importance in the church and were used to illustrate the Gospel, the stories of the Bible, the life of Christ and to present the glory of God. The church was the major influence of these arts and used them to shape and influence the culture of their time.

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther defiantly nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church, and all this began to change.  Luther’s protest and accusations against the church for its corruption, selling of Indulgences, and emphasis on salvation and grace by works was correct and the need for reform.   However, in the Protestant Reformation, as in most reformations, the pendulum swung from one extreme, past center and to another extreme.

In their reforms and attempt to differentiate themselves from the Catholic Church they went to far.  They correctly stated that salvation is by grace and not works.  They returned Scripture as the over riding authority over the church.  However they continued in their differentiation.  They saw the use of art, sculptures and the icons in the Catholic church, and discouraged their use.  The Catholic church participated in the Lord’s Supper weekly, the reformers changed this to monthly or quarterly in a year.  They looked at the Catholic requirement for repentance and confession and a persons absolution of sins through a penance of works, and removed the importance of repentance, and in the case of the United Methodist Church I am clergy in, relegated it to a service in the Book of Worship that is rarely if ever opened to in a church service or encouraged.

 

We, the church basically abandoned the arts and other ways to to teach and share the gospel to one form.  The written word, and reading. 

 

This stain glass window in The Duomo in Milan tells the whole story of the life of Christ.  Many people were illiterate in the church and in these panes of glass a person could comprehend the stories of Jesus’ life.

The stain glass panels that circle the church Saint Chapellle tell the complete story of the Old Testament.  Each panel is a different book of the OT and you read each panel left to right starting from the bottom up to see the chronological order of illustration for each book.

 

Almost all the stain glass windows that face the East are scenes taken from the Book of Revelation by John.  So as people in the church face East, looking for the return of Christ, they look through Biblical images of his return and the new heaven and earth.

IMG_2154.JPG

I believe the church needs to once again encourage, support and be the source of innovation, inspiration, promotion and commissioning of the arts.  Ninety percent plus of all churches use the same form of teaching and having people experience the Gospel.  They get in a class, pick a book of the Bible or subject to study, give people a work book to go along with it, and flip pages week to week.  However, if this is the only option offered by the church, you basically cut off all those like my wife, that reading from a text is not their style of learning, from growing in their understanding of the Gospel. 

I play guitar and try to sing.  When I pick up my guitar and I sing worship songs it comes from a place that spoken prayers don’t penetrate.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit are alive and active in and around us in the world today and it is through the arts of painting, music, dance and song the we join in with and illustrate the image of God around us.  The church needs to return to its source, a God of creation and the creativity that is at the DNA of who we are called to be.

Question: How do you and in what ways or forms do you best experience God?   How creative are you in sharing the Gospel with others besides telling them, “You just need to get into the Word.”

My ODC family,  I pray today the God of creation will unleash his creativity upon you today that you will step out onto the canvas of today he has given you and paint his portrait, that you will step onto the stage of today he has given you and dance and sing, and that you will take hold of the resources he has given you and sculpt an image of his glory to share with those around you.  Please pray the same for me.  God bless you my friends!!!

 

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What then did you go out to see?

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What then did you go out to see?

Good morning,

I am back from my trip with my family and beginning my daily blog again.  On our trip to Great Brittan, France and Italy I visited and spent time in several cathedrals and famous churches.  St. Paul and Westminster Abbey in London; Bath Abby in Bath; Notre Dame, Sacre Coure, and St. Chappelle in Paris; and the Doumo and Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. I am a church planter of Simple Church models and missional communities, creating discipleship environments in mangers.  These great churches would be at the complete opposite on a simple church in a manger.  Manger vs. Cathedral.  So as I begin my daily blog again I am going to write about my reflections from my time spent in these churches.

  When you walk into these churches they instill in you a sense of awe, and belief in God, or at least definitely a sense of awe, and belief in architecture.  As I walked into a church, take Notre Dame for example that started its construction in the 11th century and was completed in the 13th century, I tried to image not walking into it as a 21st century tourist who has seen everything, but walking into it for the first time it as a peasant of the 13th century.  I would have lived in a small simple house with no electricity, TV, or running water.  My life knowledge and experience would be of a 1mile circumference from my home. I would be uneducated and unread.

Walking up to Notre Dame would be like walking up in the shadow of a holy mountain.  Its gargoyles that surround its walls would be staring down at me and the fear of God would envelope me.  And when I gained enough courage to walk into it through it massive doors ordained with carving of saints and apostles I would have an overwhelming experience beyond belief:  The vaulted ceilings that seem to reach the heavens.  The gold gilded altar, the sculptures and artwork.  The towering stain glass windows that fill the space with colors and light that I have never seen before, like light from heaven itself.  Then there is a massive pipe organ in the back of Notre Dame that when played fills the grand space of stone with a reverberation like thunder that echoes into my very soul.  When the choir joined in it would be like the heavenly host that announced Jesus’ birth.  Next the priest, altar boys, and other members would parade down the isle in their gilded and embroidered vestments such as I have never seen before. The procession would be lifting up crosses, The Bible, and other church standards.  The service would then take place in Latin ritualistically with thurifers sending up clouds of incense that would fill my sense of smell, bells ringing synchronized to the liturgy, and clergy chanting.  As a 13 century peasant, I would have walked out of Notre Dame like Moses walking down from Mount Sinai, my face a glow from the overwhelming experience to my senses, convinced I had been in the very presence of God.  Convinced of the power and authority of the church as God’s representative on earth.

Fast forward 800 years back to the present, to us of the 21st century.  Jesus asked those in the church who went to see John the Baptist, “What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see?” (Matthew 11:9)

I reflected on Jesus question as a leader attempting to form true missional communities, What am I hoping people will see?  You today who are in the church, on Sunday mornings when you head out to your church, “What then do you go out to see?”  When you walk out of your “Notre Dame” following your service, what effect, what is the experience are you walking out with?  When was the last time you walked out with “your face glowing” and a sense of awe that you are assured you had been in the presence of God?

My ODC family, I pray in your reflections and prayers on this the Holy Spirit will reveal and clarify in you, “What then are you going out to see?” Please pray the same for me.  God bless you my friends!

Gary Liederbach

One Direction Community- Lead Follower

Please share your reflections and experiences in the comment box below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Intimacy Evangelism

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Intimacy Evangelism

Good morning, Lord Jesus. You are my Savior and Strength, my Comforter and Counselor, my Father and Friend, my All in All -- God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  ...

 

"As You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, may they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. The glory that You have given Me I have given them, so that they may be one, as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that those also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:21-24).

 

There's a oneness of intimacy that I desire because You've created me to desire it. There's a longing for trusting relationship that burns in my bones because it burns in Your heart. You created me for a relationship of love, just as You created me in Your image, because You are Love and it's the nature of love to be lived out in the intimacy of relationship (1 John 4:16).

 

Lord Jesus, You knew and You know that depth of intimacy with our Father, as both Son of Man and Son of God, both on earth and in heaven. And it's the longing of Your heart -- just as we hear in the yearning of Your prayer when You walked this earth as a model of intimacy with God for us -- that we would have that depth of intimacy as well.

 

We often read Your prayer "that (we) may be one" as a cry and a call for the oneness of unity among the church of Jesus Christ, among all believers from every tongue and tribe and nation throughout the world and throughout every generation. And no doubt, that is Your heart. But I also believe that the heart of Your prayer is a cry and a call for oneness of intimacy between our God and our hearts -- "that (we) may be one" with our Father, just as You were one with our Father (John 17:22).

 

This kind of intimacy with our Father can only come through our intimacy with You. As Your Word explains, in the expression Your prayer, "I in them and You in Me, that they may become completely one" (John 17:23). It's when we experience that depth of intimacy, in the communion of our relationship with You -- God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit -- that "the world may know" that God the Father sent Jesus, the Son, to love us just as the Father loves the Son (John 17:23). 

 

In this sense, seeking to live our lives in intimacy with You is the most powerful means of evangelism we have to reach the hurting and the lost with Your message of healing and hope in the power of Your love. As You said, "I in them and You in Me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me" (John 17:23). You have "so loved the world" that You came into our world as Son of Man and Son of God to show us the life we can live forever in the eternal intimacy of a deeply personal relationship of love with You (John 3:16). As You said, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3). 

 

I've heard of "street evangelism" and "relationship evangelism." Maybe this is an expression of "intimacy evangelism." But for the sake of those who are lost, as well as for the sake of those who have been found, may we all come to know You and Your love for us more deeply, more intimately every day. That's my prayer. And I believe that was Your prayer to our Father for me. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

 

 

My ODC family,  May you experience the depth of intimacy of the same love the Father has for Jesus, knowing He has that same love for you, in Jesus' name! Through your experience of "becoming completely one" in Him, my your world around you come to know that the Father has sent His Son to love and to save every one of them. Please pray the same for me. God bless you, my friends! 

 

Gary Liederbach

One Direction Community- Lead Follower

 

UPDATE:  I am flying out of the country today and I will return to the U.S. on August 6th.  I do not know the availability I will have while I am gone to post daily messages until I return.  Much love!

 

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Spiritual Key to Life

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Spiritual Key to Life

Good morning, Lord Jesus. Take me by the heart and lead me in the way that leads to life in You today. 

"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law--indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you" (Romans 8:5-9).

Come, Holy Spirit. You've "set (me) free from the law of sin and death" (v. 8:2). You've set me free to choose "life and peace," to choose to set my mind on the things of the Spirit and not the things of the flesh (v. 8:6). To embrace the grace and power of Your Spirit at work within me is the spiritual key to life and peace. "For it is God who works in (me) both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

I have the freedom to choose sin and death or life and peace. You set before us all "life and death, blessings and curses" with Your free invitation to "choose life so that (we) may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19).  I have the freedom to obey the desires of my flesh or seek to obey the will of God. And in the freedom I have, I choose to seek You today, to set my mind on the things of Your Spirit, on the ways of Your Spirit. As I do, You fill me with Your Spirit and lead me in the ways that lead to Your blessings of life and peace (Ephesians 5:18).

Apart from You, I can do nothing (John 15:5). Apart from You, nothing eternally good dwells in me -- "for I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right but I cannot do it" (Romans 7:18). But I'm not apart from You. I never have to try to will what is right or do what is right in my own strength and the sheer will power of my own flesh. In the power of Your grace, I can call upon Your name; I can welcome You into my heart; I can embrace Your Spirit to fill me up and empower my will to willingly choose to live each day in the ways of Your Spirit rather than the ways of my flesh. And by the power of the grace of God, that's what I "choose this day" (Joshua 24:15). In the freedom I have and by the power of Your Spirit, I choose to "set (my) mind on the things of the Spirit" (Romans 8:5). In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

My ODC family,  I pray you will embrace the spiritual key to life and peace, that you will set Your mind on the things of the Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit of the Living God to empower you both to will what is right and to do what is right, pleasing our God by to choosing to live this day in His life and peace, in Jesus' name. Please pray the same for me. God bless you, my friends!

 

 

 

 

 

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What is your Identity?

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What is your Identity?

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock…the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior…” 2 Samuel 22:3.

This past Friday I was at our weekly nightly prayer and worship gatheringcalled “The Gathering” we hold in Huntsville.  One of the persons praying used the word Yeshuah for the name of Jesus.  Yeshuah is the Hebrew word for “salvation” which means savior, deliverer, avenger. It is also the Hebrew name for Jesus. It was one of David’s favorite words to describe the LORD in the Psalms, which may have been why God said that he was a man after His own heart! Listen how he uses this word in a few of his songs; “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Psalm 25:5. And finally, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12.

David found his identity and greatest strengths in the presence of the LORD. A thousand years before Jesus Christ, David sang about Him, looking forward and hoping in the day of His coming. The question is, do you? So many see their identity in the pain of condemnation and ridicule from others who know nothing but pain and blame. Hurt people, hurt people, even those closest to them. The image they see in the mirror is one of guilt and shame. All they can do is pass it on to others. But you have a choice as to which mirror you will look into for your identity. God has given you His word so that you can see what He sees. And He sees you in His Son, Jesus Christ; and so can you, if you are willing to look.

Today as you begin another work week, look into the word of God and behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. You were created after His likeness. This is who God has called you to be like. He is your true identity and in Him you are loved, changed, and highly favored; with a future and great hope! Today you can sing like David, The Lord is my light and my salvation; Jesus Christ!

In Jesus’ name I pray amen!

My ODC family, I pray this morning as you begin your day in front of a mirror readying yourself for work, the gym, or what ever is on your agenda, you will see and claim your identity as a son or daughter of the Lord God, an heir to the throne with Christ, and a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit.  Please pray the same for me.  God bless you my friends!!

Gary Liederbach

Please share your "reflections" with us in the comments box below. 

 

 

 

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"Obama is a Muslim.  He will burn in hell (John 14:6)  :)!

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"Obama is a Muslim. He will burn in hell (John 14:6) :)!

I was sitting at the WH yesterday morning talking with some of the regular customers.  I told them how my family and I are leaving next week to spend over two weeks in Europe.  One man told me to be careful, you see on the news all the time of the terrorist attacks. The discussion at the bar then turned to ISIS, Islam and Muslims. The conviction, passion and joy with which these Christians talked about God damning Muslims to burn in hell troubled me. I countered back biblically and theologically, but I was out numbered, and the heated debate I found myself in was not one I was going to win, or change any hearts of those with whom I was engaging.  Huntsville with Redstone arsenal and all the military contractors and suppliers is a city over the top with American patriotism.  I walked out thinking, there still is allot of work left to be done for the kingdom of God!

It reminded me of the way I felt over a year and a half ago when I saw the bumper sticker on one side of the vehicle in front of me which stated, 'Obama is a Muslim. He will burn in hell" :) (John 14:6).  Complete with smiley face and all!  On the other side of the car was an ICTHUS fish!   It compelled me when I got home to sit for several hours and write out my retort to the bumpersticker and person driving the vehicle. (ya, I am passionate and wierd that way!) Attached is that post again, as it applies exactly to this situation this morning.

“Obama is a Muslim. He will burn in hell J (John 14:6)” bumper sticker


Through prayer and a set of circumstances only God could arrange, I got to meet one of my neighbors who is a Muslim. We are beginning to form a relationship that I hope will grow. I have also become friends with Bayram, who converted to Christianity from Islam. Maybe this is why what I saw today affected me so much that I had to sit down, waste a couple hours, and theologically vent in writing to get it out of my system.

On my way to Teri’s to get my haircut, there was a car in front of me that had a several bumper stickers on it. One said, “ I’d rather be waterboarding terrorists” Another said, “The only good Arab is a dead Arab.” The one that saddened me the most was this one, “Obama is a Muslim, He will burn in hell! (John 14:6) . (smiley face and all). This verse John 14:6, is the one most quoted by those who enjoy the thought of their enemies (typically the Muslims and the Democrats) burning in hell, in which Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If I may, I would like to clear the air on this issue, but not by removing from it the stench of hell, as trend would have it. I actually believe that hell is real. I don’t claim to understand it or God’s motivations for it, but I can’t say that I have a problem with it having read the Gospels. I myself have two children, beautiful daughters, and my passion for them has the capacity for fury. If one of them were murdered, I couldn’t imagine containing that fury. That is why I can understand a literal hell more than I can understand limitless grace. So I’m thankful that God is not like me. But say, by some miracle, I chose to offer my one of my daughter’s death as pardon to her executors in exchange for their gratitude, and they persisted to mock my treasure as garbage, proclaiming, “To hell with her! To hell with forgiveness! To hell with you!” In that case, I would, with all the wrath within me, unflinchingly press them into a white-hot furnace and restlessly spend all eternity feeding it coals. Again, I am not like God, nor he like me, but I can at least say that I would be rather suspect of some god so needy and sheepish that he would welcome everyone at an infinitely wide gate to his kingdom, even those who spit on him as they entered. So it’s not that I think hell isn’t real, like some. On the contrary, I think that there are as many creative ways as there are creative truths that will take you there. In fact, I think the gate to hell is wide enough to accommodate the Christian with even the biggest ego. Those who refuse his way are just as far from receiving his life as those who refuse his truth. Those Christians, who like a husband who understands the truth that he is married, but lives out his marriage in a way that is adulterous and has multiple affairs and lusts after multiple women. Christians that understand the truth of the Gospel, but live out their salvation in an adulterous way having lusting and having multiple affairs with greed, materialism, pride, consumerism, and comfort.

Christians who quote John 14:6 out of context almost invariably do so in order to indicate who is going to hell, and almost just as invariably do so with delight. But Christians who delight in the damnation of the lost are in the same boat as Christians who reject the damnation of the lost. It is a lost boat. The life of Christ is indeed unavailable apart from the truth of Christ, but so too is his life unavailable apart from his way. Those who claim his truth are bound to his way, just as those who claim his way are bound to his truth. God did not write the truth in the clouds. He proclaimed it along an unwavering path on this earth until he was red in the face, red in the hands, red in the back, red all the way down from his crown to the dribbling drops from his toes. So those who proclaim it to try to paint others red are rendering themselves twice the sons of hell as the damned.

All are damned.  Jesus died for all. Not all will be saved. Salvation comes in a human sized package, not a globe sized blanket. God did not cuddle the world into his loving arms. His arms revealed a much more violent, passionate, particular love. It is a love whose truth must be received and whose way reflected by its recipients, who proclaim its particularity by loving the world in the same particular way, a dramatically persuasive way. The truth without the way is hypocrisy. Just one smirk over even one for whom those arms were nailed reveals a heart that is liable to be thrust into the pit. If you see a wandering sheep struggling to find its way, then it's time to get into character: climb up to the highest hill and hang yourself as a signpost, like a dead snake on a stick, until that sheep sees God’s way in you and believes it to be the only way. That is cross bearing. But don't for a second think that the Gospel was a silent film, as do those who fight against orthodoxy in the name of orthopraxy. The Good News is not good unless it points to something better than you. The so-called "incarnational gospel" proves to be both deaf and dumb if it thinks that incarnated things should stop speaking. It was, after all, the Word, not the way, that was made flesh. It proves also to be arrogant, because it assumes that its love is as holy as Christ and as humble as his cross, as though there is nothing higher to point to. So the one who proclaims a voiceless, referentless Gospel needs to make sure he or she is powerful enough to save those who hear it. The way with out the truth is humanism. If you let that sheep wander up to your demonstration and never confess it as mere parody, if you act as though any old shepherd will do, as though all shepherds have loved the same, saved the same, bled the same, as though there is nothing unique, nothing worthy of any special praise, as though God loves with other shepherds' arms, then you better hope that those other shepherds can save you as well.

Christian heartlessness and Christian spinelessness are two symptoms of the same problem. It is the problem of pride, which either tries to raise itself up or bring God down, so that we are either as good as God and therefore God accepts us, or as bad as a devil that God is too indifferent to damn. Whichever god pride creates, they both end up looking like the devil. Why is it the tendency for us to assume, despite our view of ourselves, that we have an inherent attractive force on God; that he is near to us in our self-righteousness and near to us in our unrighteousness? We concede a measure of oppositeness, but in the way magnets are opposite, so if God is high and lofty, we are pulled near; if God is low and humble, he is helplessessly pulled to our side, an incarnated pat on the back.

God is holy and humble, lofty and low, and we are not attracted to that. God forced contact with his creation and the only attraction that was revealed was the attraction of some iron nails that had his hands in the their crosshairs from before he hit the ground (Mt. 2). God revealed his attraction to us and we revealed our repulsion to him. We are opposite in the way magnets are not. The image of God hated God because he would not let it be more than mere image. A mirror that reveals a different face has to be fixed. God stared his image in the eye to reveal how distorted it had become. So to fix the distortion, the mirror was shattered. Better to gouge out God’s eye than let him cast you into hell. Besides, the reflection of the Son was too hard to look at, something like the reflection of the sun. His image had to darken him up. So it scribbled feverishly with the broken glass. With swords and spears it panted and prodded and gritted its teeth until finally some reprieve from the glare—overcast (Mt. 27; Mk. 15; Lk. 23). The light came into the world, but it was darkness that the world sought (Jn. 3:19). So God became dark, dark red so the world could behold his glory without being consumed by it. With the final touches and his final breath, the masterpiece was complete. They stepped back to behold their divine portrait only to discover a mosaic of human effort. The picture they painted of God turned out to be a picture of human condemnation.

God didn’t save you in Christ because he loved you, as though God’s love can be located outside of his saving act. “God has demonstrated his love for us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God’s love is not unsubstantial and hollow like human love. Love is as concrete as red is a color. Love has limitations and not all colors are red. But the limitation of God’s love is the source, not the amount. It is a ray come down to the world, not a line running through the world. Its point of origin is the Son. Those who turn away from the Son will forever live in their own shadow. Many choose the shadow way by denying the truth of Christ. He will not force their hand to accept him. But many choose the shadow way by denying the way of Christ. And they will not force his hand to accept them.

I don’t pretend to know anything concrete about the referent to that word “hell”so carelessly tossed around by some Christians and so carelessly tossed out by others. But I do know that it has a referent. And there is enough description surrounding it to indicate that whatever hell is, it is a big problem. I also know that I am not God, so how I may handle this problem is irrelevant. God handled it by sending his Son to be killed by and for the world. He only requires the gratitude due, which, if genuine, will produce a commitment to the truth and a commitment to the way. Only to the grateful will the life be granted. As one old preacher once said, “This is God’s universe and God does things his way. You may have a better way, but you don’t have a universe.” So the next time you proclaim John 14:6, make sure your mouth and your body; the truth you profess and the way you live are in sync with your bumper sticker. And if they are not, sit down and shut up until you become grateful. Do the world a favor and just be still until you know that you are not God.

Please share your reflections and comments below.

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Seek Him!

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Seek Him!

Good morning, Lord Jesus. Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart…

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Lord, I seek You with my eyes and with my heart. I seek You with passion and with faith. I seek You to find You and embrace You, to hold on to You and be held by You. I seek You first and throughout the moments of my day. And you reward me with a deep sense of Your Presence, with the confident assurance You'll never let go. As someone has said, "I'm safe and secure in Your no-slip grip."

Blessed are those who seek You with all their heart for they will be the ones who find You (Jeremiah 29:13). You said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8, NKJ). You are the God who gives good things to those who ask and seek and knock (v. 7:11). You are the God who always gives Your very Spirit to all who will humbly and passionately pursue You in spirit and truth (Luke 11:13). And so I set my sights to seek You by faith more passionately each day than the day before - as best as I can and all by Your grace.

Heart of my own heart whatever befall,

Still be thou my vision oh ruler of all!

In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

My ODC family,  may you set your sights to pursue our God with passion and faith, more every day. May you find Him and embrace Him and never let go of Him. Please pray the same for me. God bless you, my friends!

 

 

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He's My F*cking Pastor!

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He's My F*cking Pastor!

My morning office is the Waffle House. About 3 months ago I went into the Waffle House (WH) and I sat down in a chair at the “low bar,” the bar you can sit at that is at normal chair height.  I did not notice the used coffee cup that was on the bar in the back next to the menu rack in front of the chair I sat in.  It belonged to a man I will call Chuck., who happened to have gone outside to smoke a morning cigarette.  Chuck is a man who comes frequently to the WH.  He is a “rough” and crude man in his late 50’s.  He cusses allot and gives the waitresses and customers a hard time and is sharp with them when he is “in that mood.”  Chuck walked back into the WH, saw me sitting in “his chair,”  walked up to me and said coldly “Hey mother F*%ker you are in my seat!”  I turned to him and before I could say a word the two waitresses who were standing there almost jumped over the bar and verbally attacked Chuck.  One said, “Now you listen here you mother F&%ker this man here is a f*#king man of God and if you ever talk to him like that again I will kick your f*cking @ss!!“ The other waitress jumped in, “ Ya you d#ck, he is my f*cking pastor! What the f@ck is wrong with you.!”  Show some f@cking repect!  The waitresses high fived each other and one said to the other. “Sword of the spirit b#tch!”  And Chuck turned and walked out.

I sat there and processed what had just happened!  First, the waitresses have never come to an ODC gathering, though I have invited them many times.  And I never told the waitresses I was their pastor.  But because of my coming into the WH four or five mornings a week and talking, listening, and praying with them it appears that is how they saw me.  The other day the waitresses were talking about how life seemed to be attacking them.  I took out my phone and I read  to them from Ephesians 6 about the armor of God and explained it to them.   And the one waitresses shouting “Sword of the spirit b#tch” shows they were listening and retaining what I told them, I just need to work a little more on their application of that verse! 

Fast forward to a month ago.  I was walking in the WH and Chuck was outside in the front smoking.  I said good morning to him as I was walking by and Chuck kind of quietly and nicely (especially for Chuck!) asked if I had a moment.  I told him sure and stopped by him.  He said quietly as he looked at the ground, “I know you are kind of a religious guy and it’s not that big of a deal but I was wondering if you would pray for me for something. “I said, “Sure what’s up?” And he went on to say that the Doctors think he may have prostrate cancer and he had a test today to confirm it.  I said, “of course,” but before I could say anything else he opened up and told me a story for about 10 minutes.  The short summary of it was that he used to go to church a long time ago and was kind of close to God.  Then he was drafted to Vietnam to fight in the war.  He said he did some things there he was not proud of, things God could not forgive him for.  He said in attacks on villages he shot and killed enemy soldiers who were just kids, also women, and elderly.  He saw children killed and witnessed and participated in other atrocities of war.    He stopped praying after the war and has never gone back to church since he came back to the states.  When I asked to pray with him there he said no, he had to leave, but for me to pray as you feel God will listen.

As he walked away my heart both mourned for him and was convicted for me.  I had joined in with others at the WH at times commenting on Chuck and his behavior.  However, the reason Chuck was an angry, and hurtful man is he was filled with guilt that separated him from God. Guilt from things he did he thought were not forgivable.  And I thought I know and preach that God can forgive anything,  I have never put him to “the test” of his forgiveness like Chuck has to.  If I was the one looking down an M-16 and watching bullets splatter bodies of kids and women from my gun and trigger I was pulling,  the event might make me an even bigger, hateful, guilt filled ass than Chuck.  It reminded me that people are never the enemy.

Fast forward to yesterday morning.   I was in the WH at the bar talking with customers and the waitresses when Chuck walked in.  He walked over to a side bar he never sits in by himself and sat down. No cussing, no loud comments to people as he came inthe restaurant.   He looked devastated.  One of the waitresses said they heard his son had died the previous night.  My spirit told me to go sit in the chair next to him and I did.  I said good morning to him and he said hey, and his eyes began to fill with tears.  I told him I had heard that his son had died and if it was true, and if so I was so sorry.  We talked again for 20 minutes. Summary, he told me his son who was 31 years old and some of his friends, Chuck, and Chucks wife, (his son’s mother) were out on the front porch talking.  His son told his friends how he had bought a new pistol.  They asked to see it.  He went into his truck and got it out, removed the clip, and thought the gun was empty.  It was not.  He came back to the porch and in handing the gun to his friend when somehow it went off and the bullet hit is son in the head fromless then 2 feet away.  They rushed him to the hospital but he died a few hours after he arrived.  Chuck said he and his wife witnessed it.  He could not get the sight out of his mind.  It reminded him of the war.  He had to come home from the hospital and clean his son’s blood, hair, and other parts from the side of his house and porch.  Tears were flowing down his face.  He asked me if this was God’s punishment for the kids he killed in Vietnam.  I said of course not and we talked awhile.  His son had a wife and two kids 8 and 10 years old.

After we finished, I went home and my wife and I took the chicken I had grilled for dinner, along with sides, bread and a dessert, and I put it in a box and took it up to the WH.  I also wrote a note to the family stating I was praying for them and askingto let me know if I could help in anyway with my phone number on it and put it in the box as well.  I pulled into the WH just in time as Chuck was walking to his car to leave.  I parked, got the box and gave it to him.  Chuck teared up again as he took it.  He said I did not have to, but I insisted, told him I was praying for him, and I left.

Fast forward to today.  I received a call today from Chuck.  He thanked me for the food.  He then said he and his family do not have any money.  They are getting the cheapest cremation they can, and just going to do a remembrance service at their home.   Their family does not attend a church, they do not know many church people, let alone preachers, and he asked if I would be willing to come to their house and share from the Bible and some words over their son and their family.  I told him I would be honored to.

“I have been going to the WH regularly for over 3 years now.  Sometimes I wondered if I needed to continue going.  Only one or two people, employees or customers, have ever came to an ODC gathering. S o if you go by traditional church metrics, mytime investment has not led to “church” growth or increased “numbers in the pews.”   It has not resulted in one penny going into our offertory plate or pastor support.  Yet God reminded me of my prayer I say to him every morning, which is, “God, please send me today the ones that no one else wants.”  No one wanted Chuck, even I found it hard to be around him.  But God through just being faithful has given me an amazing opportunity; to be welcomed into his house; a house, a circle of family and friends that no other pastor has ever been invited into, and share the love of God with them.  And that is my hearts desire, not to see them as an “evangelists projector opportunity” but a family in pain that simply needs the love of God, and to love them.  I pray I may honor this.

My ODC family, I pray today you will be led by the Holy Spirit not to seek and enter into some structured ministry with people, but just simply enter into life and the lives of people.  That in your daily set schedule you will allow and come to expect, even long for interruptions from two things: God and people.   Please pray the same for me.  God bless you my friends! 

Gary Liederbach

Lead Follower: ODC

 

Partner in Our Ministry!

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Priests, Prophets and Kings

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Priests, Prophets and Kings

I am still spending time in 1Peter this morning

Good morning, Lord Jesus. Take me by the heart and lead me by the hand on the adventure You have for me today. 

"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).

You've chosen us and called us. You equip us and encourage us. You save us and send us as the people of God to proclaim the goodness and mercy of God. We are priests and prophets and kings in Christ, a royal priesthood proclaiming Christ. "To Him who loves us and freed us from our sins by His blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever!" (Revelation 1:5-6)  "Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation," You "have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9-10, NKJV).

In alignment with Your heart and submission to Your will, abiding in Christ as Christ abides in us, we humbly and faithfully embrace our identity and fulfill our destiny as the body of Christ, filled with the Spirit of Christ, continuing the ministry of Christ here in this world (1 Corinthians 12:27). "As He is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17).

You are our Priest and Prophet and King. So in Christ, as the body of Christ, we are Your priests and prophets and kings -- "ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:20). As priests, we pray; as prophets, we proclaim; as kings, we reign -- all in submission to Your will and Your way, all through Your Spirit and by Your grace, with the measure of authority You've entrusted to us as Your people, Your body, and Your church (Matthew 16:19). Your kingdom comes and Your will is done, here on earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 5:10). 

We do our part, as best as we can and all by Your grace, to live into the fullness of all You have already done by Your part (John 19:30). And all in Your time and all in Your way, we look forward to the day we hear "loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'" (Revelation 11:15 ). In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

My ODC family, I pray you live into the fullness of your identity and destiny in Christ every day, as best as you can and all by God's grace, in Jesus' name. Please pray the same for me. God bless you, my friends!

Please share your reflections and prayers with us in the comment box.

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 Turn "How" to "Who"

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Turn "How" to "Who"

Good morning, Lord Jesus. My heart is open to hear Your heart, as I begin my day embraced by my Father's love, centered in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and filled the Holy Spirit of the living God.  

"Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' The angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the Child to be born will be holy; He will be called Son of God" (Luke 1:34-35).

Mary asked "How?" But the angel answered her "How?" with "Who."  The Holy Spirit would come upon her and empower her to fulfill her destiny as the mother of the Son of God. As the angel Gabriel assured her, "Nothing will be impossible with God" (v. 37).

Then believing by faith in her heart Who it was that chose her and Who it was that would empower her, she was able to say in obedience and trust, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (v. 38). All her questions of "How?" were suddenly consumed in Your assurance of "Who."

Just as You chose Mary, You've chosen me. Just as You empowered Mary, You will empower me. As the children of God in Christ, "(we) are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that (we) may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called (us) out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:6). You "chose us in Christ before the foundations of the world to be holy and blameless before (You) in love. (You) destined us for adoption as (Your) children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of (Your) will, to the praise of (Your) glorious grace that (You) freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.... In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to (Your) purpose Who accomplishes all things according to (Your) counsel and will.... (We) were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit... to the praise of (Your) glory" (Ephesians 1:4-13).

Like Mary, may Your Holy Spirit come upon me today. May the power of the Most High overshadow me. And may I faithfully embrace my chosen identity and fulfill my chosen destiny to the praise of Your glory. Take every one of my "How?s" and turn my faith to "Who" - the One Who will be faithful to bring to completion every good work You have begun in me (Philippians 1:6). Like Mary, let me say in my heart each day, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to Your word" (Luke 1:38). In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

My ODC family,  May the Holy Spirit come upon you and the power of the Most High overshadow you to know your identity and fulfill your destiny to the praise of God's glory through your life today, in Jesus' name. Please pray the same for me. God bless you, my friends! 

Please share your reflections and prayers in the comment box below.

 

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Communion With the Spirit

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Communion With the Spirit

Good morning, Lord Jesus. Put Your thoughts in my mind and Your desires in my heart. Make me more like You today.  

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you" (2 Corinthians 13:13).

Lord, out of Your grace and Your love, help me learn to live more deeply in the communion of Your Spirit. Help me truly trust You to be alive and at work within me, to guide me and empower me in the ways that lead to life throughout the moments of my day. "For it is God who is at work in (me), enabling (me) both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

So come, Holy Spirit. You are welcome in this place; You are welcome within me. Come commune with me, come fellowship with me. Come be at work within me to will what is right and to do what is right, by the power of Your grace and Your love at work within me, O Lord, my God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

My ODC family, I pray you will deeply surrender and abide in the communion of the Holy Spirit through the grace and love of God, allowing the Lord to empower You from the inside out to will what is right and to do what is right, in Jesus' name. Please pray the same for me. God bless you, my friends!



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