Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 27, 2014 - Along the way ...

Faith is a struggle because it is a battle between what we can see with our eyes and what we can see with our hearts.   Far from the absence of doubt it is a choice to believe in spite of doubt.  It is a choice to see what no one else sees and then act and live accordingly.  This is what it means to walk by faith.

But walking by faith is particularly challenging when we live in a broken world.

Last weekend we heard the accounts of the horrible tragedy of a young man who convinced himself he would never be loved and so decided that he would take love away from many others.   Elliot Rodger made an awful choice and it cost not only his own life but the lives of many others as well.
Elliot's actions were a result of his inability to see beyond what was right in front of his face, and sometimes we also make bad choices (hopefully not to the extent that Elliot did) because we refuse to see beyond as well.

Learning to see what no one else sees requires time spent in God's presence.  It is worship that enables us to see what no one else can see.  Worship makes tangible the truth about who God is and helps us live with expectation concerning what God is doing all around us every day.  

And as we learn in worship to see what no one else sees we also hear the call to live differently; to live with expectation and to live with hope that God is still in control and He will yet make this world new once again.   Walking by faith is a daily choice and it is the choice to believe God in spite of what we see that makes all the difference in the world.

So what does that look like for you?   How do you live with expectation and hope by seeing what no one else sees and acting/living accordingly?   I am interested to hear your thoughts and I invite you to share them here as we journey together along the way ...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 20, 2014 - Along the way ...

We talk a lot about "missional living" in the church today.   But what is missional living?  I believe missional living is bringing Jesus to people so that God can bring them to Christ.

This weekend I was struck by the vision for missional living as I have defined it given by the apostle Paul in his 2nd (or perhaps 3rd) letter to the church in Corinth.   2 Corinthians 4 captures the essence of true missional living by laying out the results of the reality Paul presents in chapter 3 verse 18, "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate (reflect) the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (NIV 2011)

(Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-18)

Twice Paul says, "we do not lose heart" (v. 1 and v. 16).  Paul will not lose heart because he knows that although the ministry has been given by God's mercy, the work still belongs to God.  God is the one who brings people to Christ, and God never fails.

In addition, Paul renounces "secret and shameful ways" does not "use deception" nor does he "distort the word of God".  On the contrary, he sets "forth the truth plainly" commending himself "to everyone's conscience in the sight of God."  In other words, Paul is Paul.   He is who he is in Christ and he makes that plain to others through the relationships he shares with them.  He is not afraid.  He does not need to resort to "bait and switch" tactics (finding ways to get people in the door so that you can hit them with the gospel).  He does not need to manipulate conversations.   He is who he is in Christ and he knows that is enough.

Finally, Paul remembers that since the work belongs to God, he may not always see the fruit of that work.  "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  God's work is eternal, so although we may not see it today we know that God is working and what He builds will last for eternity.

So what I must keep in mind, and perhaps each of you as well, is that missional living is about becoming more and more like Jesus by the Holy Spirit's power.   If we focus on what God is doing in us; how He is forming our character to be more like Jesus, and shaping us to share His heart; then as we interact naturally with the people around us (our family, friends, and neighbors) we will bring Jesus to them.  And as we bring Jesus to people, we trust God will bring them to Christ.

These are just some preliminary thoughts about 2 Corinthians 4.   If you have something you would like to add, please feel free to share your own thoughts as we journey together along the way ...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

May 13, 2014 - Along the way ...

This past weekend I was struck by the anonymity of many of the heroes listed in the Bible.   In particular there is an unnamed "young girl", a captive from Israel in 2 Kings 5:2.  This young girl sets aside her anger,  and any animosity she might feel toward her captor to share the good news that there is a prophet in Israel who can heal her master of leprosy.

Her simple act of love and grace sets off a chain reaction that ultimately reveals God to Naaman and gives Jesus an example to share with the misunderstanding crowds in Nazareth (Luke 4:27).  Her choice changed history and resulted in a story that would bring God glory many times over!

So this made me think.  What about you and I?  We are God's children, and there is no greater name we could be given.  The history books may never record our names.  You and I will likely never go down in history, but the truth is that our actions and choices can.  Why?  Because God can use our actions and our choices to bring Himself glory!

Just imagine, the choice you make today to show God's love to someone in need, could be the beginning of a beautiful story that will bring God glory for years to come!

Last week I heard the simple story of a lady who made a choice one day to show love to someone in need, and that simple choice resulted in a God-glorifying story that is still being written today.

This young lady (in her middle 30's) was a woman on her way to the top of one of the most prestigious news producers in New York City and the world!  One day she encountered a young man on the street.  He asked, "Excuse me, Ma'am.  Do you have some change?  I'm hungry."  The young man was 11 years old.  At first she said, "No", but she could not shake the words, "I'm hungry."  So she turned back and offered to take the young man for a meal.  That meal turned into a weekly occurrence, and eventually led to a complete transformation in that young man's life!

Now I don't know that our stories will be that dramatic, but I do that the opportunity to show God's love to others presents itself every day.  If we can have eyes to see and ears to hear, and if we will choose to respond, we will be amazed at what God will do to bring Himself glory through us!

So what about you?  Have you been part of an incredible God story?  If so, I invite you to share it.
If not, what might God be asking you to do today as we journey together along the way? ...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

May 7, 2014 - Along the way ...

Today I am utterly amazed.  Following the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the Bible records an amazing blessing spoken by the risen Jesus to His disciples.

(Read John 20:19-23)

"Peace be with you".  

It was a common greeting used by Jews.  It is a wish for complete well-being (peace) in mind, body, and soul; peace with others and with God.  Yet when the risen Jesus speaks that same greeting it takes on entirely new meaning.  There is peace because Jesus is alive!

"As the Father has sent me so I am sending you".

How did the Father send Jesus?   Jesus Himself described his own calling in Luke 4:18-19 when he read from the scroll of Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2) and declared that those words had been fulfilled in their hearing.  If Jesus was sent with the Spirit of the Lord to proclaim good news, freedom, and the year of the Lord's favor, then I imagine Jesus has the same in mind for us.

"Receive the Holy Spirit".

These are the most amazing words in all of Scripture.  The Holy Spirit is the gift Jesus gives to all who believe.   The Holy Spirit is the same Spirit of the LORD that was on Jesus.  It is the same Spirit that enabled God to raise Jesus from the dead, and that same Spirit now lives in us!  We are empowered to take up Jesus' calling with the same power Jesus Himself received.  Amazing!

"If you forgive ... If you do not forgive ..."

These words are a little more difficult to understand.  We are not given the authority to forgive or not forgive whoever we choose, whenever we choose.  Rather we are given authority to proclaim God's forgiveness available in Jesus for those who believe.  Forgiveness and reconciliation (peace with God) comes through faith in Jesus, and unless we tell about it, people will not know the truth.

In short, this is quite the calling!  Even so, we have been given the Holy Spirit, so we can be sent by Jesus as Jesus was sent by His Father.  Amazing!

So what about you?  What do you find amazing (here or elsewhere)?  I invite you to share your thoughts as we journey together along the way ...