Responding to Natural Disaster as an Organization


Years ago I served on the local city council when a major tornado destroyed our downtown. As an elected official, with the title of mayor pro-tem, I got a first hand look at disaster response. One thing I learned in the process is that disaster may strike quickly, but recovery takes extended time. In addition to physical damage, the town suffered emotional damage that had to heal.

This week our town is again suffering; this time from a major flooding disaster. As a pastor, I now serve in a completely different role. Even with experience with a major disaster, however, it’s been another learning week for us as a church.

The biggest question has been what we are to do while we wait to respond to this tragedy. Grace Community Church is a doing church. We have serving our community in our DNA. Our people have been anxious to do something tangible. In cooperation with local officials, however, we have been encouraged to wait. In the early stages of this disaster, it was determined that mass numbers of people are not the greatest need. With the layout of our community divided by two rivers, transportation has been at a standstill. The safety of people, stabilizing the road system, and assessing needs of the community is where local officials are focusing attention.  We now have teams in motion.  Check back HERE daily to see what’s needed next.

When the time is right, we can easily mobilize people. We’ve proven that previously and we do it weekly during our Sunday services and annually with our Operation Serve community service project. When we ask our people to serve, they show up ready to plug in where needed.

The current answer we have landed on is not to quit everything we do waiting until our community needs us. In the months to come the community will still need a strong church organization, so we must continue to develop and grow as an organization. There are ongoing ministries and practices that we must not quit doing.

At the same time, we must be sensitive to what has happened. We decided to begin collecting names of people who are ready to serve and collect projects that are ready to be completed. (You can join our list HERE.) Some of our people have already offered assistance through agencies like the Red Cross. There will be immediate things we can do and when they are discovered, we are ready. We will be respond as we are called upon, but we don’t want to hinder the work of local officials.

My advice from experience is that when a disaster comes into the life of an organization, don’t stop everything because of it, but it should and will alter some of what you do in the future as you respond to the situation.

Has your church or organization experienced disaster? How did you respond?

Men and Women Need Accountability in Marriage

I am tired of watching marriages fall apart.  One thing that breaks my heart is when two wonderful people allow temptation to overtake them and fall into sin, such as adultery or pornography.  I wish I could say it was rare, but it happens every day.   I have seen and believe that marriages can be fully restored from these times and even become model marriages after them, but the goal should be to keep either spouse from reaching this point.

While this is not a fool proof answer, one of the leading struggles I know of for men and women is when there is no one is involved or interested enough in their private affairs to challenge them as he or she starts to stray.  Most affairs, for example, don’t start in one day. They occur over time as a person’s guard is let down and they ease into the temptations that exist for all of us.

Here’s the bottom line of this post:

Men need to be accountable to a few other men and women need to be accountable to a few other women. They need someone with the freedom to speak truth into his or her life and challenge them in love when there are concerns.  As much as my wife tries and desires to understand me, she’ll never fully understand the heart and mind of a man; just as I will never fully understand her heart and mind.  This is true of every marriage.  (It’s also why more women responded negatively to THIS POST about how I protect my marriage.)

I have often heard it theorized that King David may have never given into the temptation with Bathsheba if he had still had the close relationship with Jonathan in his life.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly would not have hurt.

Men and women that don’t see this as an issue are only fooling themselves.  Quit playing games with your marriage and pretending you are stronger than you are.  “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Do you have accountability built into your life?  If not, do you dismiss the need, are you afraid to invite it, or have you not found the person to hold you accountable?

John R. Edmondson, Sr. (Legacy of a Dad)

dad

In April, 2010, my father peacefully passed from this earth into the presence of His Savior. His battle with cancer got the best of him and He gave up his fight and entered his eternal rest. I’m thankful he no longer has unbearable pain.

My dad would readily admit that he has made many mistakes in his life. We could pretend those days never happened, but the fact is that his alcoholism caused many scars in his life and in the lives of those he loved. He spent many years trying to overcome those days.

Because of his faith in the person of Jesus Christ, my dad finished his earthly life as a new man. He had been sober for many years and he and my mother were very happily married. He loved his children and wanted nothing more than to be with them. His grandchildren just think of him as Pa Pa, with no personal knowledge of years gone by. My father was active in church, loved to share Scripture with others, and would help anyone who needed a hand. At the funeral, I was overwhelmed hearing what a “good man” my father was from so many people.MSometimes we don’t know a person’s impact until they are gone. (That seems sad, but it’s true.)

Perhaps that is what the writer of Ecclesiastes meant in Chapter 7, verse 1, which says, “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.” I have learned from watching my dad’s life that finishing is better than starting and that finishing well by loving God and others is the end goal of life. My father was truly prepared to die.

When I meet with people who have made mistakes in life in my role as a pastor, I am always less concerned with where they have been or what they have done wrong. I am always more concerned with where they want to go in life and how dedicated they are to get there.  My dad is an example of someone that wanted to end well. I believe his legacy will continue to prove he achieved his goal.

Love you dad! Thanks for paving a good path for others to follow. Give Jesus a hug for me!

Are you prepared to die? Do you have a personal relationship with the person of Jesus Christ?

Guest Post: Nate Edmondson on Trusting God

My youngest son Nate is in Chicago and we are bringing him home once again this weekend for a funeral.  This time for the funeral of my father. I thought his thoughts were worth sharing today:

I have a paper due tomorrow morning at 8, so I should probably be working on that… but there’s not too many things I dislike more than writing those.

This year has by far been the most difficult year of my life. I’ve had to go home 3 times for 3 different funerals, one of which for a very close friend. Mixing all of those emotions with the emotions of being homesick in general has been interesting. At the beginning of my first semester I sensed God trying to teach me to trust in Him with every aspect of my life, and unfortunately I’ve continued trusting myself instead of Him.

I think learning to trust God completely is the most important thing that any Christian could do. Imagine what would happen if every believer truly started living by faith in every arena of life.

It’s hard. I really suck at it. Instead of spending time with Him I sit on facebook and write blog posts..

Trust God. What does that mean exactly… I don’t know. But I know God’s real and has a real plan. The goal if figuring out how to stop holding on to my life and surrender it to God, but again, I don’t really know what that means or looks like.

It’s amazing how unstructured this post is…

Can you identify with Nate? 

Is trusting God completely a process for you as well?

What is the number one distraction in your life from fully trusting the God who loves you more than you could ever imagine?

How to Be in Continual Prayer, Without Babbling

I have been asked numerous times about a seeming contradiction in the Bible. Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, wrote that we are to “pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6), “pray continually”, (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and “be in constant prayer” (Romans 12:12).  Paul seems to have believed that something in us could live in a state of continual prayer and that we should keep talking repeatedly to God.

Here’s where the seeming contradiction comes in the Bible to some people.  In Matthew 6:7-8 Jesus says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Jesus almost appears to be telling the reader NOT to pray continually.

The verses do not contradict each other.  We must consider these verses in the context of the entirety of Scripture. Throughout the Bible we realize that God is always more concerned about the heart of a matter than He is actions we take (1 Samuel 16:7), so it helps if we examine this subject with that understanding.

When Jesus said not to babble in prayer, because God already knows our needs, He was speaking to people who tried to impress others with their flowery words.  That is not what Paul is suggesting to us in his writings.

Paul’s encouragement for continual prayer, in action at least, is obviously not even possible. Some people have a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time.  Expecting people to pray while they do anything else is a challenge. Paul is not referring to an action as much as he is an attitude. He’s encouraging our heart to be in a continual spirit of prayer; a constant journey of seeking our Father’s will and communing with our Heavenly Daddy.

This is made possible with the help of God’s Spirit, who “intercedes for us”. If our heart is firmly set on Christ, we can be “continually praying”.   If we go to the marketplace, Christ goes with us in prayer. If we are driving a car, Christ is with us in prayer. If we read a book to our children, if Christ is in our heart, we can be in an attitude of prayer, because God’s Spirit intercedes for our spirit.

Put your heart and mind firmly on Christ today and you will continue to live in a spirit of prayer.

Do you have any specific prayer requests? Leave them here.  I’m finding my readers really do pray for others.

Don’t Quit Your God-Given Vision Before It’s Time

There is a sobering story in Numbers 32:1-5

The tribe of Reuben wanted to bail on the rest of the Israelites.  Read the story for yourself.

  • They wanted to take the easy way out…
  • They wanted to rest on their current success…
  • The journey ahead seemed too much for them…

Perhaps that’s your story today.  The journey has gotten much harder than you expected and the days ahead seem unbearable.  Some days you would just rather quit trying.

  • Are you tired of pushing forward?
  • Are you burned out…satisfied…comfortable…afraid…confused?
  • Are you ready to quit?

If you know the job you’ve been called to do isn’t finished yet…

Don’t quit…

Find the courage, recharge your batteries, raise up some other leaders…

…But whatever it takes…move forward…

Is that your story?  Are you tempted to give up? Leave a comment and others and I will pray for you…

What Does It Mean To Be Adopted By God?

What does it mean to be adopted into the family of God?  I believe learning this principle about our God relationship could change the way we live our entire life…

If you attend Grace Community Church and/or you follow our podcasts, you may need to listen to this message before you hear tomorrow’s message on prayer.  I think they should go together as essential truths of our faith.

Watch this message I recently delivered at Grace Community Church

Test Drive A Volunteer Opportunity

Wow! I love this idea. I need to clarify I had nothing to do with it and didn’t know about it until I read it on one of our staff member’s blog, but I’m so proud of our team! As you know, our church is growing rapidly. We are averaging over a 30% increase every week over this same time last year. With more new people comes more needs for volunteers.

Have you ever wanted to test out a volunteer position? Well this is your week at Grace Community Church. Join the fantastic people in Grace Acres or Cross Street this Sunday for a free “test drive” to see if you like it. Here’s the cool part…you will.

Benefits:
1. Lots of love
2. Meet new people
3. Feel appreciated
4. Serve God

You can’t beat that deal. See Katrina or Adam this Sunday and take a test drive.

Now we need to get the other ministry areas to play copycat!

What creative ways has your church recruited volunteers?

A Day In The Life Of A Pastor

Today was one of the hardest days in ministry that I’ve had in many months, yet it was a confirming day at the same time. Let me explain.

I emailed our staff Sunday night that this was an impossible week for me schedule wise. It is my last week of classes for my second master’s degree (YEA!), I am speaking at a conference this weekend, and I’m preaching Sunday, in addition to a full schedule of meetings. I was feeling overwhelmed before I started and wanted them to have advance warning that I would be stretched. (I’m not that much fun to be around during those times…some days.) This morning, after learning of my fifth crisis of the week and it being only Tuesday morning, I sent the staff another email. I had tried too hard to plan my schedule for the week and God had other plans. I needed their prayers.

That’s also when the confirmation occurred to me. This is what I’ve been called to do. I spent 20 plus years in business running from a call to vocational ministry, but today is an example of why I believe God placed a call on my life. I have, for whatever reason, the ability to help people wade through the crisis times of life. I have an ability to bring calm to some storms. As hard as those times are…as much as I’d love to run from them some days, this is what and who God called me to be.

This week is not over yet, and I’m hoping for some rest from the storms to prepare my heart for the next wave of trauma, but I’m also confident I’m doing what God has called me to do.

Here’s an important question I think God would have me ask at this point:

Are you doing what God has called you to do?

(I obviously can’t and wouldn’t share any specifics, but would you be willing to pray for some very hard situations right now?)

God Gets Glory, Because He Knows More Than You Do

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Proverbs 25:2 NIV

I wonder about the Queen of Sheba who went to visit King Solomon. She had heard of his great wisdom and when she arrived, she realized that Solomon was far wiser than she had even imagined. I wonder if she was more popular when she went home, because she had been to see the “wise one”. That’s what leaders do, isn’t it? They search out wisdom. They try to find answers. They seek knowledge.

When I served in an elected government position, the old saying was that “knowledge is power”, and it’s true. The fact that I knew something sometimes made others want me around. (Too bad that doesn’t happen anymore.) Kings search out information because it builds them up and gives them more fame.

God knows everything. Nothing can escape God’s ability to understand. Do you have a problem? He has the answer. Do you need a solution? He has it. Is there a trial to deep for you to comprehend? He’s already got the remedy mapped out for you. Is there something you don’t understand? He does!

Doesn’t it make God special that we don’t understand all things? God gets glory because He is God. I know that sounds simple, but it’s so true. God is bigger, better, and wiser than anyone or anything you can imagine. That makes Him special. It gives Him glory. All the glory He receives is all because He is God!

Can you trust a God like that today? Could the solution to your problems today be more of trusting in His abilities than in trying to find all the answers?