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?? Is the Church Asking the Right Quesion as It Tries to Share its Hope??

Featured imageDiscussion/Devotional Thought  of the Day

10  God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (TEV)

15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)

“If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?”  “why?  (1)

“The only preparation which multitudes seem to make for heaven is for its judgment bar,” (2)

Nearly 30 years ago, my pastor and I were trained in what was known as Evangelism Explosion. The goal of the ministry was to prepare people with a scripted message that they could share the Christian faith. Tens of thousands of pastors and people were trained in the method.  The scripts basic concept (as with most evangelism methods ) was to give peopel the assurance of eternal life in heaven, rather than eternal damnation/annihilation/punishment and the wrath of God.

In fact, last week someone asked those very questions to me via social media.

And this blog has been simmering ever since.  The key was the quote from my devotions this morning, which brought it home.  is our evangelistic work as believers primarily focused on making sure people get into heaven? Or is it about giving them the life, the peace, and the knowledge of God’s presence in this life, that is our hope for eternity?

If it is evangelism to prevent them from being sent to hell, there is strong motivation that would cause us to share God’s love with those we care for, with those we love. But that mission accomplished, is there the tight communion that you should see, is there the shared life, is there a willingness to stay together through thick and thin.  To be blunt, does create a life that struggles with sin, and strives to love others as Christ did?

If our questions and manuscripts lead people only to get past the St Peter and those who guard the gates of heaven, what are we really doing?  is conversion something that happens in a twinkling of an eye?  You were going to hell, woops now you are going to heaven?

Or is our hope, our expectation based on a promise that we have a hint, a glimpse of in this life, and that glimpse changes everything?  A promise that is repeated time and time in the scriptures.You will be my people, and I will be your God.”

isn’t that where our hope lies? In the fact that who weren’t once a people, are now a people?  Isn’t our hope seen in the promise that God will transform us and cause us to walk in ways that are incredible and blessed. (even though they might include suffering)

The evangelism explosion questions have their place, much of the material I still use to this day. Even so, the direction of our evangelism must be more than selling eternal fire insurance.  What our hope is based on is one promise, that is as true now as it will be then.  That gives us hope for this world, when it seems like it is falling apart, and yes  for eternity.

The hope that is found when we know that the Lord is with us, and will never abandon us.

May the questions you ask lead people to realize this.

(1)  paraphrase of the two questions from Evangelism Explosion used in many evangelism training seminars

(2)  Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper 1 Publcishing – the devotion for this day

“Daddy, even my stuffed animals?”

Devotional Thought of the Day:DSCF1394 - Copy

17  As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19  But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother. 20  “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21  Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. There is still one thing you haven’t done, he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. 22  At this the man’s face fell, and he went away very sad, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:17-22 (NLT)

11  When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:11 (NLT)

299      If there is sacrifice when you sow Love, you will also reap Love.

The other night my 7 year old son and I were doing our devotions and came to the reading above. It was a defining moment for him I think. As we talked about the rich young man, I asked my son what he would be asked to sell.

He thought for a moment, and tears began to fall from his eyes, as he included his beloved stuffed animals, his “friends”.

Three of them, “brown bear”, “blue bear” and “galoshes” have been with him since the day he was born.  Others he’s picked up along the way.  He even asked me to teach him microsoft access, so he could create his own database to record all of them, nearly 100 at this point in time.

They are his treasures, what makes him quite rich in his mind.  They are even more important to him than his electronics, for those are fun, these friends thought, provide great comfort, and a sense of peace.

But he quickly, even through the tears,  realized God was worth more to him than his stuffed friends.  Through the tears, and yet with a smile showing as well he said he would choose Jesus over his friends.   We talked about what idols are, and how things like riches got in the way of the rich young ruler’s relationship with God – given a choice he took them over walking with Jesus.

As a father, I couldn’t be more proud, and as a pastor the same thing is true, I am quite proud of a seven year old, who could process this concept, that the God who he cannot physically see is far more important that what He counts on in life.

I wonder about my own life, would I be as quick to decide to give up what hinders my life from God?  Would the people I pastor?  Can we find the strength to walk away, even with tears, and yet a smile breaking forth as we realize the glory that God has called us into, to be His kids?  Could we commit to giving up what brings us comfort and peace?  Can we give up the things that we run to when the world is too rough?

it is the lesson of Christ as well, who sacrificed for the love He had for us, and for the Father..To bring together that which was separated by sin. In the end, the satisfaction is far greater than any scar, any suffering, and sacrifice.

Can we learn a lesson from a seven year old, and treasure the Lord who sees us as His treasure?

Lord, have mercy upon us, and give us the faith of a child!

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1219-1220). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts… but not to individuals…

Devotional THought of the Day:

 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

4  There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. 5  There are different ways to serve the same Lord, 6  and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (CEV) 

422         If the Lord has given you some natural quality or skill, you should not just enjoy it yourself or show off about it; you should use it charitably in the service of your neighbour. And what better occasion than now will you find to serve, since you live with so many souls who share the same ideal as yourself?

Yesterday I wrote about our need as believers to grow, and the responsibility of the church, (and by this I mean not the institution, but all the peope of God) to encourage and develop each other.

But that is… a little misleading.  For while we work together, while we encourage each other, while we occaisonally confront each other, it isn’t our work.  It isn’t our strenth, our skills, we don’t get to take credit for it.

It is His work, we are, together, collectively, His masterpeice, His poetry, THat’s where the word poetry comes from  – poeima – His work, His masterpiece, the very work of God.  That is who we are, not passive people, but people working with our Father in His business – in recreating this world, taking that which is broken and battered by sin and the world, and bringing His healing, His love, his reconciliation, that’s our work.

Whereever God takes us, whether it’s working in the drive through at McDonald’s or managing a department of a univerity  Whether it’s being the low man on the totem pole or being the President. It’s His placement, When we talk about HIs gifts, and the fact that He gives gifts to us, but it is not a gift to us… the gift is us to each other. We are His creation, His masterpice, but we are given to Him , and too each other.

That’s a challenge, because as gifts, we must do things, we work together, with the gifts we have become, strengthening each other, loving each other, serving each other.  That’s who we are. Not passive, not employed at at other thing… but to serve God by serving each other.

That’s what we are abot – that’s why we have gifts..

.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1889-1892). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dissatisfied? Discontent? Frustrated? Try losing yourself!

Devotional Thought of the day:

 24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?   Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT)

“Let us learn to obey, let us learn to serve. There is no better leadership than wanting to give yourself freely, to be useful to others. When we feel pride swell up within us, making us think we are supermen, the time has come to say “no.” Our only triumph will be the triumph of humility. In this way we will identify ourselves with Christ on the cross—not unwillingly or restlessly or sullenly, but joyfully. For the joy which comes from forgetting ourselves is the best proof of love.”  (1)

“Every heart needs to be set free from posessions that hold it so tight,  ‘Cause freedom’s not found in the things that we own, It’s the power to do what is right!  Jesus, our only posession, giving becomes our delight!  We can’t imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind” (2)

If you look at facebook any given day, you will find a lot of dissatisfaction.  People aren’t satisfied with government, with their jobs, with their family situations (spouses, children, in-laws) , with religious leaders, with those who serve them at the store or the restaurant,  and yes we are dissatisfied  with ourselves.

We live in an age of discontent, and we struggle to find that with which we are content, we chase after it, and the harder we chase, the more it speeds up – and we begin to lose ground even more, and peace and contentment becomes simply part of a dream we lose hope in ever finding.

Instead of aggressively pursuing life, instead of seeing it as a contest to win, let’s take a breath, and see if our strategy is sound.  (Breath in, breath out slowly…. repeat 10 times….)

I meant it – 9 more to go….

Now go back up to the top and read the  Bible quote – and the quotes from St. Josemaria and Michael Card, and see the answer to our inability to be satisfied, and to find contentment.

It is not in finding ourselves – or improving our position, or finding the perfect spouse, job or community.

It’s found in Christ-likeness – in giving up yourself for others, in serving (remember ministry is the word for serving in the Bible) in loving those who are around you.  Especially in loving those who others do not – whether it is because they are overlooked – or they are considered adversaries.  For that is what Christ has done for us. That is how He loves us – by serving us, by being there to clean up that which we’ve messed up, The incredible way He has taken us into Himself, into His love.

Obeying Christ isn’t a matter of law – a matter of obey or perish, it is a matter of the gospel, of our salvation, of being blessed.   Of finding freedom from all of that which breeds discontentment.  Of leaving the things that oppress us behind.  It is a matter of our baptism – of finding ourselves cleansed and made hole.   It’s not an option either, anymore than breathing is an option – it is how we are to live – it is how we do live.  For anything else – is simply not living… it is existing in bondage to something – fear, anxieity, guilt, desire, covetousness – they all oppress us, they all steal life.

Our answer is to let God show us His love, and being humbled, to take up our cross, to be last, to serve those around us, and in doing so, without even trying, we find contentment, peace, and in loving, we find His deep love…

Lord, Have Mercy on Us

Copia desde la Crucifixion dibujada hacia 1540...

Copia desde la Crucifixion dibujada hacia 1540 por Miguel Angel Buonarroti para Vittoria Colonna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 811-815). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Card, Michael  “Things we leave behind”  From the album Poiema

The Secret to Loving and Serving Others

Devotional thought for the day:

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’, he said, ‘what I have done to you? 13 You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. 14 If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”   John 13:12-15 (NJB) (

Consider listening to this song –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I47c29GvFY while reading this blog

The church has been designed to be a community, a place where people have learned to lay aside their wants and desires, and serve others, to nurture others, to imitate Christ’s life, and the blunt clear lessons like the one in John 13 – where he washes the cracked, dry, smelling feet of men who hadn’t learned yet to love, to be in a relationship – not just with their Lord, but with each other.  THe lesson is harsh, and convicting, how often are we willing to get down on our knees, and deal with the muck those we are called to love have walked through?

It cannot be done, not in our own strength at least.  Their burdens are too heavy, their pains too deep, the crap in their lives can, indeed cause us to turn away, spiritually and physically nauseated, disgusted.  Or we wonder why, as Michael Card sings, we have to do this day after day, after day…..

So where do we find the strength to obey?  Where do we find the power to live lives in this holy manner?

A catholic priest once wrote:
“When you start out each day to work by Christ’s side and to look after all those souls who seek him, remember that there is only one way of doing it: we must turn to the Lord. Only in prayer, and through prayer, do we learn to serve others!” (1)

That’s the answer – through prayer – through intimate conversation, through communion/fellowship – through letting Christ wash our feet,through letting him, remove our burdens, through letting Him still – clean up those parts of our lives that have gotten dry, broken, blistered, smelly….. through letting Him be God.  It is the only way, as St. Josemarie told us, to find the strength to serve, to be there for people, to bring healing and love to their lives.  We don’t have the strength

We have to let Jesus do that to us….cleanse us, heal us…

and then, the Holy Spirit will work through us to do the same for others.

And oh the joy, oh the inexpressible joy that comes from seeing others cleansed, and counted holy and righteous.

It sends you right back in prayer, to the throne of God, to praise and glorify Him!

Lord, show us Your mercy… even as You work through us to bring that mercy to those we serve around us!

 

 

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 474-476). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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