We’re looking for ways to connect Sunday school with the rest of the week, home/family, etc. So I’ve started a project that will be take-home based on the CPH lesson each week. I’ll probably do it through the rest of … Continue reading →
A little background: When the church first started, it met with a lot of opposition. It was a pre-churched culture, where people didn’t know what Christianity was about and had never heard of some Hebrew preacher named Jesus of Nazareth. … Continue reading →
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They will come, and you will see them. They will ask questions like, “Where do I pay?” and they won’t know where to sit. They’ll scout the place out before bringing their kids. They’ll look around constantly to make sure they’re doing what everyone else is doing. They’ll check what you’re wearing to figure out whether they’re overdressed or underdressed. And they’ll be terrified. But they’ll also find themselves in awe and wonder of a God who can love them, a Supreme Being greater than the universe that wants to be in a relationship with them, and a pure and just God Who at the same time forgives all sin.
They’re the unchurched, but they won’t come unless they have a compelling reason to. And they have lots of compelling reasons not to. Now, you may be tempted to think, “But they just should!” But that makes church sound like Metamucil: It’s not pleasant, but it’ll clear the bad stuff out of you!
Missional living is about showing people that faith defines who you are instead of being something you do. And it’s more than being nice: it’s living sacrificially. “These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8, GWV) Some pastors call it, “Living the Six,” or living out your faith the other six days of the week like you do Sunday morning. And what happens when we do that?
In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, GWV)
As Christians, we live in such a way that it will lead people to praise God. Think about that as you plan your day, your week, your life. “How can I live that people will be so amazed by the love I show that it will move them to praise God for me?” That’s a tall order, isn’t it? Yet that’s the kind of life Jesus calls us, His disciples, to live. He calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. What does that look like? St. Paul spells it out for us in a familiar passage often read at weddings (then forgotten before the reception!).
Read this passage, and think about your spouse. (If you’re not married, think about a family member or good friend.)
I may speak in the languages of humans and of angels. But if I don’t have love, I am a loud gong or a clashing cymbal. I may have the gift to speak what God has revealed, and I may understand all mysteries and have all knowledge. I may even have enough faith to move mountains. But if I don’t have love, I am nothing. I may even give away all that I have and give up my body to be burned. But if I don’t have love, none of these things will help me. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep track of wrongs. It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7, GWV)
How greatly have you failed in this kind of love?
Now read it again, but think about the people in our community who don’t know Jesus. Seriously, read it again. Have you been loving to your community? No? Jesus forgives you. He didn’t just come to model that love, but to live that love and die that love for you as well as for those who don’t even know that.
But read it one more time, and as you read each sentence, pray, “God, show me how to love that way, the way You loved me.” Memorize it. Tape it to your car’s dashboard. Attach it to your computer monitor or your TV or bathroom mirror. Set it on your dinner table. Paste it in an email and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org so it keeps getting sent back to you every day. And read it, praying again and again that God show you how to live that kind of love.
When we read about Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, we don’t bat an eye, because our feet, at worst, have sweaty lint on them. To get an idea of the kind of life Jesus was demonstrating, contemplate volunteering (i.e. no paycheck) to change adult diapers in the local Alzheimer’s unit. Every day. Third shift.
If God hasn’t called you into charitable elderly care, in what ways is He calling you to live like that? Because when you do, people who don’t know Jesus will come to know you. And they will wonder what makes you tick, why you’d live your life in a way that may seem admirable, but just doesn’t make sense. And when they hear about Jesus, they’ll realize that the Almighty God did exactly that for them, all the way to the cross and back. And they’ll change their Sunday morning plans.
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Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
When things don’t seem to go our way, whether in our jobs, our family, our finances, or our church, it’s easy to get discouraged. We try to get ahead, and so often, as we try to move forward, we find ourselves on a conveyor belt pulling us back. It’s all we can do just to remain stationary, and when we manage just to keep up, we can feel pretty good about ourselves.
In his book, Direct Hit, Paul Borden says, “Being content with an impotent, declining congregation that is ignored by the community is evil.”
Those are strong words, but they’re true. Right here in North Ridgeville, 20,000 people don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior, and many of those who do treat Him more like a casual acquaintance instead of the lover of our souls He really is. God has placed us here to reach out to them with His love to foster new and renewed relationships with Christ Himself and with His bride, the church.
But if we’re doing the best we can and still not moving forward, how do we change that? The answer is simple: get off the conveyor belt.
Have you ever, while driving, seen a bird in front of your car, and when trying to get away from the car, it flies straight ahead instead of going up or to the side? I just want to yell, “You’re a bird! You have wings! Go up!”
We’re the church! We have the Holy Spirit! Go up!
How do we do that? First of all, pray. Pray some more. Pray for God’s direction, for clarity of vision so we can see the path that lies before us. Pray for faith to walk down that path. No, pray for faith to run down that path. When God parted the sea for Israel to escape Egypt, it took faith to walk between those two walls of water, knowing at any moment, the wind could stop, and the walls would crash down on them. But really, that couldn’t happen. They were being held up by God, and God would never destroy His people as they walked by faith. Pray for the assurance that He will lay His path before us as well. And when He lays that path before us, pray that God give us swiftness and sureness of foot, that we move forward boldly, but all the while remain on His path, not our own.
Image by david_shankbone via Flickr
Glenn Beck told his listeners to check their church websites for the words, “Social Justice,” and if they find them, to run away. Well, for the first time, they now appear on our site, as of this post, the words n…
It’s that time of year again, a time to celebrate peace on earth and, if necessary, shove it down your neighbor’s throat. While this year’s controversies seem fewer than previous years’, the question of “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” vs “whatever holiday you Wannakuh” continue. What’s a Christian to do?
First of all, this is a question of Christian liberty. The simplest answer is, “Whatever you want,” and the answer may be that simple. The Bible doesn’t dictate how to respond to a cashier in a store except with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15) Sadly, we’re sometimes so adamant about making sure people keep “Christ in Christmas” that “Merry Christmas” becomes a battle cry instead of a joyous greeting. You can’t demand that anyone acknowledge or observe a particular holiday any more than you can demand that someone believe that, in Jesus Christ, the infinite God became a human baby.
It seems that we’re more concerned about shopping centers proclaiming Christ than our own lives. Instead of getting angry when the store clerk says, “Happy Holidays,” you have several options:
- Say, “Thanks. You, too.” (You do celebrate the pagan holiday of the New Year, too, right?)
- Say, “Thanks, and merry Christmas to you,” with a smile on your face.
- Say, “Thanks. I’m sure the extra work for you can make it not so happy, but I hope you can find joy in the midst of it.” (Compassion—pretty novel, right?)
- Beat them to it, but not as a race. As they ring up your order, say something like, “Sometimes, it’s hard to see how all this was intended to point to God becoming a baby to save mankind.”
Whatever you say, say it with joy. God has become man, and since the world crucified Him the first time, we shouldn’t be surprised if they do it again and again, but that’s why He came. Whatever the world happens to say to you, thank God that the same stores that don’t allow their employees to say, “Merry Christmas,” often have, “Oh, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord,” piped over their speakers in the store. Enjoy the irony, and take a moment to pray for those who work and shop in that store, that as they wrap their gifts, they come to know the One who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger to save them.
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As part of my personal devotions, I listen to other pastors’ sermons, since listening to my own seems a bit redundant. Yesterday, I was listening to a brilliant sermon by Pastor Joe Burnham of Denver, and I’d like to share some of his insights on evangelism.
He separates people into two categories, those with a church background and those without. Using the illustration of a Dot-to-Dot activity, those who have spent some time in a Christian church have the dots, the basics of the faith, but if they don’t understand the Gospel, they need us to help them connect the dots. Usually, they have the dots of the Law, but without connecting them to see that Jesus has fulfilled the Law on our behalf, they can’t see the actual picture God has given us.
Others, like the men in Acts 17:16-34, have little or no experience or education in the Christian faith, so they need us to start with the very basics and actually draw the dots before we connect them. But first, we need to be on the same page, and this is done by finding a point of commonality. What do we have in common with that person, and more specifically, like Paul’s “Unknown God” example, what do our beliefs have in common with theirs? Once we have some common ground, we have a place to start.
Think about your friends who are not connected with a church community regularly. Do they have the dots that just need to be connected? If not, what common beliefs do you share? How can you start there to help them understand the truth God has revealed to us?
Since Pastor Joe explains it so much better than I do, I invite you to listen to his entire sermon for a more detailed explanation. He has given me permission to include it with this post.
Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, and the more I think about it, as despicable as most pirates may be, perhaps we can learn something from them.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve heard a lot of comments that people hope my presence here will somehow bring people back who’ve somehow slipped through the cracks, especially the younger (under 40) generations whom statistically we see less of at any given …Continue reading →