The pursuit of justice!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Isaiah 40-43
“He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.” (Isaiah 42:4)
God’s passion and purpose is to restore justice in the world.
Justice is not not legal fairness, it means ‘everything right in the world.’
The word for ‘justice’ is the same word for ‘righteousness’.
Everything right includes justice and mercy, equality, security and freedom.
The world in Isaiah’s day was a day of violence, suffering, immorality.
God’s people were struggling to hang on to hope; faith seemed futile.
Isaiah reminds them that God is always pursuing justice and rightness.
He repeats God’s promise: the messiah will come to put things right (Isaiah 42:1-4).
Jesus is that messiah, and He lives the righteous life we all long for.
Jesus has beaten satan, sin, injustice, un-rightness.
He invites us to stand with Him in His victory over these things.
We have a choice; feed the un-rightness, or stand with Jesus against it.
As Jesus followers, we can join with Jesus in not giving up.
Help the poor, needy, oppressed, sick, etc., for this is where Jesus is!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I see in You the life of justice and goodness we were made for, and long for. Help me to persevere like You in my pursuit of justice and goodness, knowing that You have won the battle!

To be shrewd for God!

“Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves.” (Luke 16:9)
God created us to be very smart, creative and industrious.
It has often struck me how skilled sinners can be for nefarious reasons.
Why don’t we put those skills to use for eternal purposes?
Jesus ackowledges of ‘people of this world’ are very clever and skilled.
He is challenging His followers to use these skills for eternal purposes.
“Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
Jesus means holy shrewdness, not deceptive, manipulative shrewdness.
Use your time, gifts, education, resources, etc. to draw people to God.
Make friends through kindness, generosity, grace, patience, etc.
One day they will thank you for how you graced them.
He describes people blessed this way as our welcoming committee in glory!
Jesus followers are graced to shine like people of light in this dark world.
Am I using my blessings to bless others, so they can experience Jesus?
Am I being a wise, shrewd, creative, industrious steward for eternity?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to evaluate how I use my time, my treasures and talents. Help me to be shrewd, creative, industrious for eternal purposes!

How to be a friendly church?

I’ve been thinking about whether guests would consider our church a friendly church. Often times members are quick to say that their church is friendly, but would visitors feel the same way? A friendly greeter at the door may or may not help (Walmart has these too). A time of mutual greeting may or may not help too (does it every move beyond a hollow greeting and handshake)? Are the people friendly-natured? Is there a friendly atmosphere or energy in the church? Do people look you in the eye as a visitor and engage you in a conversation? Do they actually seem to be interested, or are they just performing their part? Do people seem genuinely glad to be there, and glad that you are there too?

I found an article online by S. Joseph Kidder that raised some thoughts about being a friendly church. Some of them are printed below.

How about you, what makes a friendly church to you? (share your comments)
Do you contribute to the friendliness factor in your church?

1. Give guests the best attitude.
Visitors to your church need to notice a prevailing friendly attitude. Most will make up their minds about your church within 30 seconds of entering the front door. Continue reading ‘How to be a friendly church?’ »

The other prodigal son!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 15:25-32
“I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.” (Luke 15:29)
This chapter begins with the muttering of the religious leaders.
Jesus is intentionally speaking to them through this older son.
The older son represents the ‘already saved’ who’ve forgotten God’s grace.
How many christians feel that following Jesus is a duty, not a delight.
They perform their duties, but not with the heart of joy or gratitude.
They make it hard for others ‘less holy’ to be welcomed in the church.
They insist new believers should become ‘slaves’ like them, doing their duty.
This kind of christianity is not a joy, it is a burden.
This parable should probably better be called ‘the prodigal sons’.
Out of both sons, which one ended up closer to the father?
I’ve seen this, that converted sinners often make the most dynamic believers.
They know what grace means, they know that their belonging is 100% a gift.
How aware am I of God’s grace, that I am no better than other prodigals?
Is my work for God more duty than delight, a going through the motions?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I’ve been ‘home’ all my life, but not always at home with You in my heart. Help me not take Your loving grace for granted, and to delight in working with You!

Attending church less often!?

I recently read a post by Carey Nieuwhof on declining church attendance: 10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Church Less Often. Although attendance is not the goal or mission of our church, it is an important part of who we are and what we do as a church.

The reasons he suggests below are facts, whether we like or agree with them or not. The reasons suggested are his, the comments that follow are my summary.

1. Greater affluence
More people have more disposable money, and more options. Travel options, technology options, options for their kids.

2. Higher focus on kids’ activities
A growing number of kids are playing sports. And a growing number of kids are playing on teams that require travel. Many of those sports happen on weekends. Continue reading ‘Attending church less often!?’ »

Coming to my senses!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 15:11-24
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘I will go back to my father…'” (Luke 15:17-18)
Jesus often used the word ‘repent’ when He spoke to people.
The original word ‘repent’ means to reconsider and change your direction.
Like someone in a destructive relationship finally deciding to leave.
In this parable this young man comes to his senses… rethinks, repents!
He wakes up, it dawns on him that his life does not make sense the way it is.
His mind considers his situation, and he sees how foolish he is.
Does this kind of ‘repenting’ relate to me – do I need to come to my senses?
Life without the Father slowly unravels, and leads into more misery.
We strike out on our own, we go our own way – hows that working for us?
The high levels of medication and drugs seem to suggest not so good.
So many of us are living and eating like pigs; we need to rethink, repent!
We were not made for pig life, and our God wants so much more for us.
He is eager for us to come to our senses, and eager to welcome us home.
Is there something in your life that is ruining you, that you need to rethink?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, several small things and one bigger thing come to mind. I sense they’re unhealthy, holding me back, bringing me down. Help me come to my senses, so I can experience Your loving help too.

He’s pursuing us!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 15:8-10
“Doesn’t she… search carefully until she finds it?” (Luke 15:8)
There are billions of people in the world, and many don’t know Him.
Is God just waiting for people to come to Him?
Do you have a loved one that is not seeking God?
Does God refuse to do anything for them until they make the first move?
The whole story of the bible is of a God that is seeking us!
“The Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9)
Ultimately God steps into our sin-messed world to find and save us.
He knows we are sinners, He knows the mess we’ve made of our lives.
He has not stopped pursuing us, and will not while life still lasts.
How God seeks is different for each person, but it is always enough.
Through their relationships, experiences, thoughts, crises, God is there.
He continues to whisper that question in love, ‘where are you?’
For our part, we can start looking, paying attention to our daily experiences.
Was that call, that near miss, that random thought, etc. God calling me?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You still seek me. You are still working in my life to strengthen my closeness to You. Help me to trust that You are doing the same for others, including this I know who are drifting from You!

Making the Lord my refuge!

“He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:2)
This is a wisdom psalm, it describes in ideal terms God’s way of life.
This is how the world was designed, but sadly sin has messed that up.
Sin has made harm and disaster normal, far from the ideal God intended.
But it is still true; only God can save us from harm and disaster.
Through Jesus God has trampled Satan, our serpent-lion enemy (v.13).
With Jesus, I can go through my day trusting in God’s ultimate protection.
When I start my day with the Lord, I am positioning myself in Him.
As I go through my day, He remains my refuge, my helper, my guide.
When my day is done, I know He will be there, welcoming me into His rest.
This does not mean bad things do not happen, or that I will not suffer.
Like Jesus, life in this world is difficult – but He has overcome the world!
Resting in the Lord is ongoing discipline, one that needs constant renewal.
Satan likes to take our eyes away from Jesus, and onto our circumstances.
Do you make it a point to center yourself in the Lord everyday?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I choose to live my life in You – with You, like You, for You. Help me to keep this focus, especially when harm or disaster come my way.

Leadership in the early church (6)

1) The early church worked out their leadership based on the mission and method of Jesus.
2) The elders were the pastors in the early church.
3) The elders managed the tasks they were responsible for through delegation.
4)The elders delegated ministry to all disciples, also known as servants (diakonos, deacons).
5) The elders both provided and delegated the task of pastoral care.

6) All of the ‘elders’ (leaders) and ‘deacons’ (workers) were ordained (commissioned) with prayer and the laying on of hands.
The word ‘ordination’ is a big word for many churches. It carries a sense of ‘something special’ or ‘something other’ for the person that is ordained. Although my tradition does not see ordination as a sacrament, it sometimes feels like some people do see it as special power conferred only to a select group of special people in the church.

In the OT prophets (1 Kings 19:16), priests (Exodus 40:15) and kings (1 Kings 1:34) were anointed, sometimes with consecrated oil (Exodus 30:22-33). This would have been their ‘ordination’, ‘official appointment’ or ‘commissioning’. They were marked as ‘the Lord’s anointed’, the ones chosen by God to serve His purpose in their assigned task. The messiah (anointed in Hebrew = mashiach, in Greek = christos) was the Lord’s anointed, chosen to fulfill His ultimate redemption purpose. Continue reading ‘Leadership in the early church (6)’ »

Blessed to be a blessing!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Isaiah 36-39
“There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (Isaiah 39:8)
Hezekiah starts off humble and dependent on God for life.
He prays for Jerusalem’s protection, and for his health to be restored.
But when Babylon’s envoys come, he is boastful and proud.
When God warns of coming judgment, he is content that he won’t see it.
God gave Hezekiah new life, but he became selfish in that new life.
How are we as Jesus followers responding to the new life God has given us?
Are we content to know that we are saved, and living for ourselves?
Are we wrapped up in our blessings, and forgetting the God that blessed us?
Are we sharing His blessings with others, or using them for our own pleasure?
As Jesus followers, we cannot simply rest content that we are saved.
God has saved us for a purpose, that He might use us to help others.
Hezekiah shows us what happens when christians become worldly.
We forget why God saved us, and forfeit the very blessings we cling to.
We are here for a purpose, blessed for a purpose… how will I respond?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You have blessed me with so much. Help me not to be like Hezekiah, only interested in my own comfort and salvation. Make me a blessing with the blessings You have given me.