Thursday, September 24, 2009

A New Church Doing Ministry the Old Way

I was working at The Circle in Renville when someone stopped by to tell me of a new church; it is in a Midwest regional center. The new church is reaching out to its community in an old fashioned way. They actually go into the community and minister. The church meets for about twenty minutes on Sunday morning. They pray, sing a couple of songs, have a short message and then everyone goes into the community and ministers for 3 hours. Trash is picked up, lawns mowed, houses painted, the elderly are visited, meals cooked and frozen for the week, shoes polished, bathrooms cleaned, jails visited, the homeless shelter cleaned. The list is endless.

The church rents a small facility (no large building maintenance budget to worry about). Most of the donations go to the work they are doing and yes, the church is growing.

I shared what I heard with a small town Midwestern businessman who attends a large Lutheran church. He said, “This sounds like a church I’d like to go to.”

The church meets one time during the month to learn the essentials of the Christian faith. They meet for three hours during the week not on Sunday. Sunday is the day to do collective group ministry.

Jesus told us to go and makeMatthew 28:19—“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

He also told us to go to back roads and country lanes in Luke 14: 23 ("Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.”)

What we have done is tell the hurting “you come to us.” You come to us on our terms and our turf during our hours. Jesus told us to go even if it’s across the street.

This new church has gone into the world. They are in but not of the world (Romans 12:1-2: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” They obeyed Christ. Any wonder why they are growing?

May the blessing of Christ go with them. The Holy Spirit fill and strengthen them. May they be protected from the evil one in every way and the God of the harvest will and has done His work.

Remember, our job is to share the truth. God Himself, through the blood of Christ saves them…

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dear Friends

Over the last few months I have felt a strong leading in my writing and preaching to urge people to wake up and be prepared for suffering and trials. I have also found many pastors and elders who are under the same conviction. Something is going on in rural Minnesota.

What’s going on? I hope the early stages of revival. The first sign of revival is the confession of sin from believers, the church. I am beginning to see that and I am encouraged. At the same time some dear brothers and sisters in the Lord are facing new trials or the ones they have faced have increased with intensity.

Do you remember why do we have trials? It strengthens our faith for the days ahead. Listen to what it says in 1 Peter 1:6-7: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” God is doing His work refining believers, getting us ready for battle.

I was visiting with a Christian friend whose business partner is very ill; they have been business partners for a long time. The man said, “I have had to face the reality that he might not be coming back.” He added, “It is not like he is on vacation and will return.” Through this trial, this man realized his business partner was and is his best friend. They are brothers in the Lord and more. We prayed together for the healing of his “closer than a brother” business partner. It woke me up to the fact how we take those close to us for granted.

I just got off the phone with a friend who is a tenant. She lost her husband about a month ago after a long battle with heart problems. She looks/sounds relieved but grief has a way of taking the sparkle out of our eyes. All this reminds me, how deeply we need one another in spite of our petty differences. We need to encourage and build up. We need to listen, laugh and love. Yes, in the same breath it’s as simple and as complicated as that. We need to demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ in a hurting world. Let’s care for one another and love one another like the world has never known.

The distinguishing mark of a Christian is this—how we love one another. “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:22-23.
And as Jesus commands us in John 13:34-35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Let us all love on to God’s Glory.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Steamed or Esteemed

“Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the Lord. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2

Are you hot under the collar today? Are you a little “steamed up” over the frustrations of everyday life? If so, take a moment and consider what is required to be “esteemed” by God. This is a remarkable scripture verse, a “bottom line” verse if such verses do exist.

God says “This is the one”; notice God’s attention to detail; His detail to each “one” of us. God notices, cares, loves and forgives each “one” of us if we come to Christ in Spirit and truth.

What does esteemed mean? It means to have a very favorable opinion of someone. Someone who is esteemed is one who is worthy of being thought of. Notice, God takes time to think of people, to stop and consider them in the midst of a myriad of things in this universe. Psalm 8:3-4 says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"

What does humble mean? Humble in its good sense means being modest without wrongful pride in oneself or accomplishments. It means we must be modest in spirit not proud or haughty. We are to be common in spirit and respectful to all. Quite a high standard I would say.

What does contrite mean? The definition is: Broken in spirit by a sense of guilt; showing deep regret and sorrow; penitent. We are to be patient and mild in disposition.

A humble and contrite spirit God esteems. In light of the meaning of these words, I have much to do and to improve upon. Serious consideration of these things can bring upon us a spirit of hopelessness. In truth, we can never measure up. That is why we need Christ! Jesus took God’s entire wrath intended for us upon himself freeing us from an eternity of pain and suffering. This is good news.

What does it mean to tremble? It is to shake and be afraid; afraid of what? In James 2:19 it says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” The demons know their eternal fate and tremble or shudder. For us, we have the same destiny if we know not Christ. The mere thought of this should make us tremble or shudder. Do you ever stop to think about such things or are you too busy or distracted or afraid?

Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over sin and death. Yes, let’s be patient, humble and contrite in our disposition willing to live each day covered in the blood of Christ, clothed in His Spirit, living on in hope and not despair.

Oh Jesus, give us humble and contrite spirits always appreciative of God’s grace and forgiveness. Lord, may we tremble in awe. Trudge on Christian; trudge on to God’s glory.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Our World Today—A weekend of Questions about the future

It started Friday night with two calls from younger people concerned about the political and economic situation in America. The weekend ended with a discussion with a Hutchinson area businessman asking the same questions while I was filling gas. On Monday morning I opened my email at work to find an email from a business colleague asking “what kind of world will my children grow up in?” It’s obvious to me that more people are concerned about the situation in our country and the future than ever before, and we should be concerned.

In light of this fact, it should be a great opportunity for the church to respond. We, as believers, should respond as individuals and as a group. The church, you and me, need to step up and meet this head on. May I share some observations?

The world does not like having Christians expressing opinions or actually doing something constructive. If we stand up, we will pay a price for standing for our faith. The Christian and the church have been marginalized; the world feels we must sit on the sidelines and be quiet. Be aware, if you make a public stand, opposition to you may come from some of those closest to us namely, family, friends and fellow church members.

What is the problem? It is the complete moral and spiritual breakdown of our culture. Our problem is not Democrat or Republican. It is a moral problem; a spiritual problem. We want solutions to our problems but we’re looking to man to bring relief, not God.

In America today, we don’t want to hear the truth; we want to feel good. We want to be assured that everything is ok and will be ok. We want the pain killers first; we really don’t want to solve the problem. The problem is us, not the politicians, the preachers and/or teachers. The time has come where we must stop blaming other convenient scapegoats.

Elijah the prophet ministered in times of great drought in Israel. Under God’s guidance and sovereign hand, God directed Elijah to announce to wicked King Ahab that Israel would suffer a drought until God told Elijah to lift it. In 1 Kings 18:1 it says “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land."

The prophet Obadiah told Elijah to present himself to wicked King Ahab. King Ahab charged Elijah as the trouble maker. Elijah responds in 1 Kings 18: 16-18: "So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?" "I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the LORD's commands and have followed the Baals.”

We never like being told that we are the problem, Christian or not. We want our problems solved politically not spiritually. Bottom line is this—we do not like Jesus’ demands placed upon of life. We are proud of the fact that we go to church. Yes, many of us do but we leave it there, sad to say. As Christians we are to be the light on the hill; we haven’t been. Many of us will sit prideful in our collective and personal misery, admiring God at a distance saying God must never demand anything of me. We are a proud, immoral people and pride comes before the fall and than we wonder why we have problems as a nation.
Remember this, God will and can use anybody to advance His kingdom. Full time professionals and common ordinary men and women like us. Acts 4: 12-14 says: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.” Notice the qualifier—“they had been with Jesus.” Jesus brings offense and America and our little rural communities don’t like it either. “Don’t stick your finger in my face” is the last refuge of a scoundrel getting his feathers ruffled.

At the same time we see the things we’ve trusted crumbling around us. For some of us that day is a ways off, or so we think. We have lived in affluence and relative security and political stability, but we see cracks in the foundation moving to become gaps in the foundation and in some cases, open fissures. We are hearing predictions of the government going broke, hyper-inflation on the way, potential terrorist attacks; we see our personal freedom being threatened. In reality, we are afraid of the future. We may have to rein in our uninvolved, selfish, me-centered life style whether we like it or not; all this chips away at our pride.

Our pride is this, “I am the captain of my own ship and get the hell out of my way. Listen brothers and sisters, we breathe without thinking, our hearts beat without any effort from us. Yes, we may be captains of our own ship but in a moment we could be found face down, dead, upon the main deck. We need to remember this in the last of these heady days.

If history is an indicator, an arrogant, prideful self absorbed nation will not last and neither will a complacent self-absorbed church. We hear the hoof beats in the distance, see the dust on the horizon, but will we heed the warning? I don’t think so because we don’t want to see.

Are you ready to suffer? I hope we won’t have to but we deserve God’s harsh hand but I am praying for the grace of Jesus to invade each one of our lives. May God be merciful to us. Remember this, God alone holds the future.

Come quickly Lord Jesus, come. Amen