Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Looking back

"Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble; and he delivered them from their distress."--Psalm 107.6
It seems I have been taught by many people in my life not to look back. In our culture, we tend to be a "look forward" people. This isn't all bad. It's good to look forward to special times of celebration: a graduation, marriage, the birth of a newborn, even another birthday. It's good not to dwell on the past in a negative way. It's good not to focus on past hurts and pain. It's good to forgive and forget.
But sometimes, as followers of Christ, it's also good to look back on the times when we have been delivered by God, the times when God has meet us at the point of our need and shown his power, love, and grace. That's what the psalmist is talking about in the Scripture above. In Psalm 107, he recounts many different people who were suffering various trials, "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble; and he delivered them from their distress."
Why not take a few moments today and remember what God has done for you? Recount his blessings and the times that God has delivered you from trouble and hard times.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The harvest is plentiful

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."--Matthew 9.37
It seems that our whole culture is built on a mentality of scarcity. We are constantly told by experts, commercials, friends, employers, and many others that there is simply not enough to go around. This strikes me as odd, given that America is one of the wealthiest nations on earth. (I am not diminishing the real struggles that many people are having in America today with lost jobs, anxiousness about our jobs, and losses in the stock market.) But it seems even when we have work, money, and all the possessions anyone could hope to have, we still feel like we don't have enough.
This really becomes a problem when we think about the mission Jesus has given us to "make disciples of Jesus Christ." We get so used to thinking that there's not enough to go around, that we can be tempted to think that there's not enough people around to keep the universal Church of Jesus Christ going. But notice that in this one verse, Jesus makes it absolutely clear that the "harvest is plentiful." In other words, there's more than enough people out there who have not heard the good news about Jesus or at least are not active members of the church, to fill our churches to overflowing. The only deficiency is in the number of workers to go out and bring these folks (the harvest) in.
How might Jesus use you TODAY to reach others in his name and bring in the harvest?

Thursday, July 8, 2010


"But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"--Romans 10.14-15
In his book, "Life of the Beloved," Henri Nouwen writes, "Think of yourself as being sent into the world . . . a way of seeing yourself that is possible if you believe that you were loved before the world began . . . a perception of yourself that calls for a true leap of faith."
Sometimes, it is hard for us to believe that we have truly been sent as God's messengers in the world. Sometimes, we are tempted to believe that the only thing we are sent in this world to do is to survive. (Many of the voices we hear in our culture seem to tell us that). When we fall into that kind of thinking, it is no wonder that we struggle with our sense of calling to share Christ's love with the world.
But, as Nouwen writes, when we see ourselves as God sees us, His beloved children, then we can begin to see ourselves as God's mission and message of love to the world. Know that you are beloved today, chosen of God. He chose you before the world was made. He was stirring in the deep recesses of your soul while you were being knit together in your mother's womb. You are beloved! You are chosen! Now, as beloved and chosen, share God's love!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scarcity and Abundance

Ephesians 3.20-21: "Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

“There’s simply not enough to go around.” Have you ever heard that statement? Or “We just don’t have enough ____________ to do this or that!" (you fill in the blank: money, time, resources, people, talent, land, etc.)
We live in financially uncertain times. Many have lost jobs or are anxious about losing jobs. Many have lost all their retirement savings. Those who have investments have seen them lose 25%, 500% or worse. Certainly, we have reason for concern.
The folks in the early church would understand our anxiety. In the time of the early church in Israel, people were crippled by taxes (imposed by a foreign government) that ate away their ability to provide for their families. Usually, if you were born poor, that’s where you stayed for your whole life. If your father or mother was a slave, you would be a slave for the rest of your life.
Add to that the persecution that early Christians faced all over the world. Many were fired from their jobs simply because they were Christians. Many had their families threatened. Many lost their homes because of persecution. And some paid for their Christian faith with their very lives at the point of a sword, hanging from a cross, or at the teeth of lions in the arena.
And yet, Paul, the writer of the Scripture above and leader in the early church, writes about ABUNDANCE! How in the world could he write about abundance in a time when money, resources, people, even the security of one’s life was so scarce? Again, he writes, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine . . .”
Now, of course, this “him” Paul is speaking of is God Almighty. The God we serve is never short of cash, resources, talents, people, land, or anything. Our God is a God of abundance! And notice that the Scripture says that God can always do “ABUNDANTLY FAR MORE THAN WE CAN ASK OR IMAGINE.” How? By the power of the Holy Spirit!
Now, does this Scripture mean that somehow God magically creates all the money, resources, talents, and people we need to fulfill the mission he has charged us with as a church? Does it mean that these things will somehow fall from the sky? I don’t think so, although God certainly has the power to do that if he wanted to do so.
What it means is that God will provide when we open ourselves to be part of God’s mission to the world. As we open our lives, our resources, our pocket books, our time, our talents, to fulfilling God’s mission to FOLLOW JESUS, MAKE DISCIPLES, AND TRANSFORM THE WORLD, then God will provide "abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine.” God provides the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us to accomplish his will in the world. So, we must be willing to commit ourselves to do his will, his work, his mission.
We must guard against a SCARCITY MENTALITY which says that there is never enough to get by, whether that scarcity thinking tells us there is not enough money, not enough people, not enough talents, not enough whatever. We must trust God if we are to faithfully carry out his mission. If we tell ourselves that there is not enough to go around, then that is really doubting God and saying that God cannot get it done, that God cannot provide.
The key is this: If we commit ourselves, our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness (as our membership vows challenge us to do), then there will be ABUNDANTLY FAR MORE THAN WE CAN ASK OR IMAGINE to complete the mission God has given us. But if we hold back, if we do not commit our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, or our witness, then the mission will suffer. The choice is ours.
On God’s side, there is no question that he can and will provide the power for us to accomplish far more through the church than we can ask or imagine. The only question for us is if we will cooperate with God’s power or try to work against it.
If we fulfill our membership vows to support Christ’s Church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness, then God will give us the power to fulfill His Mission for the church to FOLLOW JESUS, MAKE DISCIPLES, AND TRANSFORM THE WORLD!