Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Does This Bother You?

The USA today is made up of Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and INDIVIDUALISM. I was talking to my friend, Jim Hocking who heads the ministry ICDI earlier in the week. ICDI's ministry is to drill wells in Africa for water in locations where people do not have access to clean water (BTW - it is a great ministry to invest a few dollars regularly!). Jim told me that when he brings his African friends here to the USA one of their questions is why do Americans drive cars alone! They cannot imagine why people would not be sharing rides, going out of their way to drop off friends or want to spend time with others while driving.
This individualism spills out of materialism and into our faith. We like to choose when we want to be the church (or go to a church to get together), how deeply we want to be involved or which areas of the Bible we want to obey. This individualism begins to creep into how we live. When it does unhealth is sure to follow.
There are many passages in the New Testament that urge us to live in a way that honors our relationship with Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 is like many others in the New Testament epistles (letters), "Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God...that you excel still more." How we live or walk out our faith is important to Jesus.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:8 Paul writes these words, "...for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord." Somehow Paul's faith and life was impacted positively when those he loved followed Jesus on Jesus' terms and not their own convenient terms. Is it possible to stand firm in the Lord and live with another person intimately before you are married? Is drinking too much alcohol a way to show that you are standing firm in the Lord? Can we stand firm in the Lord and spend our money all on ourselves and not be generous and follow the heart of God with our resources? When we don't take the time to spend with Jesus in His Word, worship and prayer does that equal standing firm in Jesus?
It is NOT rare today for people who claim to love Jesus and follow Him with their lives to live together before marriage. It is NOT rare today for believers to justify the grace given to them to drink more alcohol than they ought. It is NOT rare today for those who go to church services weekly to buy the latest gadget, car or clothing and yet don't seriously consider what it means to be generous with the resources God has blessed them with. It is NOT rare for people agree with messages about living for Jesus on Sunday morning and yet do not pick up their Bibles to read, study and apply its' truths on a regular basis. These truths bother me. Do they bother you?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Harvest Report

If you have read my blogs for very long, you must know I am very interested in seeing people come into relationship with Jesus. It is my passion to help believers to understand that they are 100% successful, 100% of the time that they choose to share Jesus with people. In my opinion, the lack of a strong harvest in the West is due, in part, to a lack of seed sowing on the part of believers. We know the Scriptures teach us that in order to experience an abundant harvest, we must begin with abundant sowing (2 Cor. 9:6, Mark 4:1-20).
This past week, I have heard several stories of folks coming to Jesus. In Southern California, a church who has cobwebs in their baptismal (from a lack of use) is going to baptize 5 new believers this next week. That is because a few in that congregation has chosen to sow the seed of truth (Mark 4:14) into the lives of many. A house church leader recently met a friend through a mutual friend who wanted to talk about his failing marriage. Through a series of conversations (some at very inconvenient times), the man with the marriage problem repented, came to Christ and is now praying and preparing for his wife and children to come to Jesus. A large baptism is about to happen for those folks as well. I also heard a story by a friend who used to be a boy scout troop leader who reconnected with an old boy scout that was in his troop through Facebook. After some long conversations about life and the challenges the younger man had in his marriage, Jesus came into the conversation. During that conversation on the phone, the man received Jesus in his life. In a Facebook entry right after this event, the man wrote, "
"Today I asked for God to come into my life, surprisingly I feel that a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I asked him to help with my families current situation, and some personal problems that I'm struggling with being away from my family and all. I can't explain how much better I feel."
I also heard from an Indian friend of mine who lives in New Delhi. He told me that while he was on vacation he and his family invited about 35 family members over for a meal, conversation and to talk about Jesus. At least one family of those who attended the get together were Hindu. After a good meal, conversation and a message from the Bible, seven people raised their hand indicating they wanted to receive Jesus as their savior. One of the Hindu women were included in this group of seven!
All of these stories are results of many people planting the seeds of truth into the lives of people in desperate need of Jesus. There must be an abundant sowing before we can enjoy an abundant harvest. So let me encourage you today to be casting many seeds of the Gospel of Jesus into the lives of people all around you. Ask Jesus to guide you in how and to whom He would have you share. Watch and see the growth of these seeds. They will grow, not because of you, but because of Jesus (1 Cor. 3:6).
Just a few minute ago, while I was ordering some lunch at a local hangout, a young waitress whom I have been praying for came up to me, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me, "How can I pray for you today." That is a question that I have been asking her. Soon, this young woman will be in the Kingdom of God...that is my prayer today.
Take courage because Jesus goes with us wherever we go! Get out there and cast some seeds!
If you have a HARVEST report, post a quick snippet of what is happening in your neck of God's world!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Holy Discontent

Several years ago, Wendy's fast food chain created a one of the most memorable marketing slogans ever when the elderly lady looked at her hamburger and sharply stated, "Where's the beef?" When one orders a burger with large hamburger buns, an equal sized hamburger patty should accompany it. When it doesn't, we know something is wrong. Wendy's supplied what was missing and put big burgers on big buns and the company saw a growth spurt in sales.
Today, many churches offer relevant preaching, theatre seating, hot worship bands and fast paced video clips to send our adrenal glands into overdrive. All of this is like a big bun with a small hamburger patty and causes many to say, "Where's the beef?" Or maybe better, "Where's Jesus?". To quote Len Sweet, the church has a strong case of JDD, Jesus Deficit Disorder! We need Jesus to be the central and only focus in our churches. Without Jesus, there is no church from a Biblical perspective. When there is JDD, we know something is wrong.
I currently have what I am calling a Holy Discontent in my soul because of this Jesus Deficit Disorder. I want the bride of Jesus (every believer) to be strong, healthy and reproductive. I desire for every believer to be in a strong and growing obedient relationship with Jesus, doing things His way, not their own way. I desire to see believers be sacrificial with their faith, with their stuff and with their hearts to all people. I desire for those who claim to be Christ followers to have an urgency to be reaching out to those not yet following Christ. This is the example that Jesus gave us to follow.
Jesus said "Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19). We are not to follow pastors or denominations or our own whims, we are to be following Jesus and His teachings and His Word. This requires us to be personally responsible for our faith and not push that responsibility off to a pastor or other spiritual leader. As we do this, we grow and deepen in our relationship with Jesus, we can each hear His voice and follow His lead and that will lead us to be strong, healthy and reproductive.
When Jesus walked this earth, He had an urgency about Him and His purpose to get His good news out to everyone. You can see it in his response to Zaccheus climbing a tree to get a look at Jesus. Jesus saw him in that tree and said, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house" (Luke 19:5). Jesus had an urgency about Him here. He wanted Zaccheus to 'hurry and come down'. Jesus said that He "must stay" at Zaccheus' house that very day. Jesus was full of urgency to share life with people. Today, I see people with more of an urgency to take from the church than to share Jesus with others. This has left me with a Holy Discontent.
Christ who is our Life!
Living a Jesus filled urgent life by believers cannot happen by simply mustering up enough faith or committment to imitate Christ's urgency or passion. This never works. We must understand and rely upon Christ's indwelling Presence in our beings (John 15). We cannot do things for Christ by simply imitating His ways, we should allow Christ to flow and move through us, that is were the real life is! I am learning to stop pushing people to imitate Jesus and instead pointing them to lean into the breast of Jesus who indwells them and listen to His voice. Once one hears from Him they should choose to obey Him and let the indwelling Spirit guide them by His power. That will bring a Holy Contentment I think.
What do you think?