I realized today how quick I am to judge other people I think have nasty, bad habits.  I saw someone smoking as he walked past me on the sidewalk, and my first thought was:  "Why would you do that to yourself?!"  (You know: cancer, yellow teeth, smell, and all the other ill effects of cigarette smoke!)

We do this all the time, don't we?!  Judge other people.  Because they smoke.  Because they weigh too much.  Because they have tattoos.  Because they didn't signal before they turned in front of us.  Because they have an accent.  Because they mixed a blue shirt with brown pants.  Whatever!

Why are we so quick to judge?!  Are we that hard up for affirmation that we have to put someone else downto feel superior ... so we can feel better about ourselves?  Because, really?  Am I ANY better?  It's not smoking, but I have my own bad habits that have their own negative consequences.  Until a few months ago, I drank way too much Mt. Dew.  (And only by the grace of God am I past spending all the money and pumping my body with all the caffeine and sugar and acids and other junk you get when you 'Do the Dew.')  I still have this bad habit of checking my phone every time I hear an email come in ... even if that's while my wife is talking to me.  (And I have to ask her to repeat what she just said because I was too rude to focus on her the whole time in the first place.)  And I have so many other habits that range from annoying to rude to disruptive.

The point is sort of along the lines of Jesus' question:  "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3).  Why do I so quickly jump to judgment of others and their habits ... and give myself a pass, rationalizing that I'm just human afterall?

Whenever I'm tempted to place myself above someone else, I remember Paul's words of 1 Corinthians 15:  "But by the grace of God I am what I am."  I am simply the worst of all sinners ... and if not for Jesus, I would be nothing.  Thank you, God, for making me something special, only in Him!!


On Sunday, May 1st I was privileged to be part of an army of 800 volunteers who stepped out of the regular routine of church and served in over 60 locations around our community.  What we called "Impact! Sunday."  It was amazing!  We had people visiting residents of two nursing homes and the Wisconsin Veterans Home.  We had volunteers--adults and kids!--picking up sticks and trash in four city parks, the local nature preserve and community gardens.  We had people cleaning the sidewalks in downtown Appleton.  We had volunteers sorting donations and doing other "odd jobs" for Bethesda Thrift Stores and Harbor House, the local domestic abuse shelter.  We had families cleaning outside three of our local public school buildings, others spreading mulch and staining playground equipment for local child care centers that serve low income families, and children and adults with developmental disabilities.  We had teams of volunteers serving meals, not just on Sunday but all week, at the homeless shelter.  We had 30 volunteers packing care kits for World Vision, which will be shipped to Africa to serve 500 people infected with HIV and AIDS.  And we had 19 teams of people who were all over town raking and cleaning at the homes of residents who are elderly and/or disabled.  It was a truly inspiring day!  Eighty percent of our average weekend worshippers ... EIGHTY PERCENT! ... serving on one day!
We learned a lot about the heart of God's people through this event.  1) People of God KNOW what God is calling us to do:  die to ourselves in order to live for others.  We are called to give and bless and care.  Sometimes, however, we don't know where to begin.  2) Living the "incarnational life" -- getting our hands dirty in the lives of people in our community -- is rewarding ... even if it's not easy.  3) If everyone gives a little, no one person is overwhelmed, but the whole body makes a significant impact!  4) "Impact!" need not be just a one-day church event.  It is the LIFESTYLE of every follower of Jesus.  We are an influence on our families, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our community ... and even on strangers.  We've heard lots of stories this week of families changed by serving ... of strangers touched by the outpouring of giving ... of people asking to know more about this Jesus who gives us such overflowing love that we would share it with others.
I've been asked to share our "Impact! Sunday" materials with others.  "Can we have your resources so that OUR church can do this too?"  Uh ... ... I'm not sure how to give anyone our material.  It's not a packaged program.  There's just the time-intensive work of getting to know the community, getting out of the office to meet the leaders of support agencies and leaders of the community ... knowing the NEEDS in your particular community.  And then it's inspiring people with a vision for being Jesus-in-the-flesh for people and giving them permission to go.
This was a movement of God.  I have no doubt about that.  The Spirit has moved and roused His people to go and serve. How exciting is that?!