Arm-to-Arm

I am sure you’ve seen the story from a couple of weeks back where a bunch of strangers on a crowded Florida beach joined together to form a human chain to reach and save some people who were drowning. It was a dramatic story that went viral, with a video and photos spreading around the world and shown on all the major news outlets. The chain included some local folks from the Birmingham area.
It all happened July 8 at Panama City Beach. A family of nine people got swept out by the undercurrents and began desperately crying for help. At first, people in the water and near the beach thought there may have been sharks, and moved out of the water. Then, when they realized it was a riptide situation, and knowing they didn’t have much time, a few innovative beachgoers sprang into action.
“We didn’t have a rope, we didn’t have anything,” said one of the rescuers, appearing on Good Morning America along with members of the family they rescued. “So the only thing that could come to my mind was arm-to-arm. I’m yelling, ‘Guys! Grab arms! Grab wrists! We’ve gotta make a long enough path to get them!’ “
The human chain grew to about 80 people and stretched out over 100 yards, according to the Panama City News Herald.”
“Y’all were my angels that day,” one of those rescued told their rescuers on Good Morning America. “Y’all were my angels that day that saved my family. Without y’all, we wouldn’t be here.”
Arm-to-arm. What an incredible picture of teamwork, of partnership, of individuals joining together with others to do what they could not do by themselves, to reach places they couldn’t reach alone. And what a picture of the ministry of the church.
We are in the business of saving those who are perishing. It’s not our job to judge why they got themselves into the mess they are in, but to save them from their desperate situation. We cannot do it alone, and were never intended to. It is the ministry of the church, together, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to reach our friends and neighbors and family members with the life-saving gospel and disciple them into spiritual maturity. In doing so, we get more arms who become links in the human chain to reach others.
So the invitation is, lock arms with us, and let’s be instruments of salvation for a world that is about to be dragged under, crying out for help. Let us pray, go, love, serve and share the good news of the gospel, together, and allow the Lord to use us to reach families in need of salvation, in our neighborhoods and around the world.

Directions for the Lost

In the early morning hours of Christmas day, 2004, a 22-year old man robbed a Chevron station in Poulsbo, Washington, then led police on a high-speed chase. After cleaning out the cash register, the robber and a passenger took off in a red Honda and soon cops from four towns were in pursuit. The caravan zoomed at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour through the winding roads of western Puget Sound, where the twists and turns can leave even locals disoriented.
After a while the fugitives managed to lose their pursuers in the darkness but they had no idea where they were. That’s when the robber pulled his getaway car into a Chevron station to ask for directions to Seattle, unaware that it was the very same establishment he’d just robbed. Police caught up to the Honda soon afterward.
Sometimes you get lost, and need some direction. As we discussed in last Sunday’s message, ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden when God asked a hiding Adam, “Where are you”? mankind has been lost. Sin brings us guilt, fear, shame and blame, separates us from God, and ultimately makes us lost. But fortunately the good news of the gospel–even back in Genesis 3–is about us getting found by the One who comes looking for us. Jesus Himself said that He came to seek and to save those who are lost.
So too, that’s the “business” we are in at The Church at Shelby Crossings, making sure that the lost are found. Those of us who were lost, and have been found, need to where we are, and why we’re here. That gives us purpose as found ones, and that mission is what drives us as a church.
I heard a story about a little boy in a small town who was waiting on his mother to come out of a store. As he waited, he was approached by a man who asked, “Son, can you tell me where the post office is?”
The little boy replied, “Sure, just go straight down the street a couple of blocks and turn to your right.”

The man thanked the boy kindly and said, “I’m the new preacher in town and I’d like for you to come to church on Sunday. I’ll show you how to get to heaven.”

The little boy replied with a chuckle, “Awww, come on, mister. You don’t even know the way to the post office!”

The world is watching to see if we really know the way, and they are in desperate need of someone to give them the right directions. Who among your circle of friends and family need you to point them to Jesus, in whom and by whom they can be found? Prayerfully and humbly Introduce them to the eternal hope and peace they will find only in Christ.
What a blessing it is to be living “on mission” with each of you. I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

Intentional Remembering

Two middle-aged couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?”
“Outstanding,” Fred replied. “They taught us all of the latest psychological techniques, like visualization, association, and so on. It was great. I haven’t had a problem since.”
“Sounds like something I could use. What was the name of the clinic?”
Fred went blank. He thought and thought but couldn’t remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?”
“You mean a rose?”
“Yes, that’s it.”
He turned to his wife, “Rose…what was the name of that memory clinic?”
We all need something–or someone–to remind us not to forget to remember. The Scriptures are full of calls to do just that, to practice remembering the works of God. Grab a Bible concordance (or log on to BibleGateway.com) and look up all of the references using that word “remember.”  Or, conversely, the warnings not to forget. You’ll see a regular pattern of a biblical call to remember.
The children of Israel regularly rehearsed the stories of God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt to remind them of His faithfulness and to grow their faith. They practiced remembering. In the New Testament, there is no clearer call to remembering than the inauguration of the Lord’s Supper where Jesus called His disciples to “do this in remembrance of Me.”
And so, we remember. But our intentional remembering is not just recalling good times, but actively commemorating the Lord’s acts of redemption, and purposefully recognizing His work.  Looking back and seeing God’s fingerprints on our lives encourages us as we walk through difficult times, and helps to grow our faith as we face the future.
I will say, however, that it is not healthy, spiritually speaking, to live life always looking back (“Remember Lot’s wife.”  Luke 17:32)  But it is good to stop sometimes to recall and reflect on what God has done–in Biblical times, throughout history, in our church and in our lives. I hope you’ll do that this week.
I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.