Friday, December 31, 2010

Why Miss It?

"I'm glad Jesus wasn't a politician telling us what we wanted to hear or selling us the same old crap that never works. I am grateful for His honesty and truth. He invites us to take courage - to believe that the kingdom of God is the good news we've been waiting for and to realize that without a radical turning of the heart, we'll never be able to see what He is doing in our world and is inviting us to be part of.

So much of repentance is about dying to old things and inviting new life into the new things of the Spirit. Imago Dei had to ask the hard question: Do we actually want the revolution of Jesus to break into our life and our community? Frankly, we were worried about what we might lose.

I have told our stories to many church leaders. The weird thing is that most of them smile and get excited and go home inspired, but nothing changes because they try to do kingdom stuff without desire for the King. In short, they never repented. Repenting turns us away from our own poverty and toward God's best. His kingdom is here among us. It is moving and accessible. Why miss it?"

- This Beautiful Mess, Rick McKinley

Do we "want to"?

"One of the biggest challenges to following Jesus into His kingdom is not a lack of direction but a lack of desire. Most of us don't really want to do it.

When the Imago Dei community numbered only about twenty and we were still meeting in a borrowed basement, it became pretty apparent to me that this was our problem. We didn't "want to," and not because we didn't understand what God was calling us to either. What part of loving your enemies or embracing a child is confusing? We knew what to do, but we couldn't bring ourselves to act.

We realized that if we wanted to live out the kingdom, we would need to get our hearts before God. Only His Spirit can create spiritual desire. ... We needed God to change us."

- This Beautiful Mess, Rick McKinley, Pastor of Imago Dei

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Living Worship ~ Mark Labberton

"I offer a palette of observations to provide color and texture so we might come to perceive, name, and act more justly.  This is the change in you and me that the world awaits.  This is the new life towards which Christian worship relentlessly urges us to move.  Until our worship actually leads us to love differently in the world, our hearts have not changed.
I use worship to mean living the life God made for us - in other words, the most encompassing response of the whole of our lives to the whole of God made known in Jesus Christ.  Worship is sharing in the life that is God's life in and for the world.  Worship, then, will not refer to a particular form, musical or liturgical.  It refers to the life-encompassing act of waking up to God in Christ by the Spirit with our whole being, living in communion with others who are doing likewise, and letting it show in the midst of a world for which such wakeful worship is to be a daily taste of the kingdom of love and justice that is coming."

~ The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor:  Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus

"Fewer Services, More Service"

"I want to propose a slogan: "Fewer Services, More Service." Most churches focus a great deal of energy each week on creating a meaningful worship experience. I have no objection to that. ... Unfortunately, very little energy is put into helping members know one another well enough that they could tend to a culture of grace and truth in their midst.

But note that the service Jesus offered on the night he taught his disciples to love one another was a very mundane service to them. Jesus didn't invite them to a worship service. Nor did he create an opportunity for the disciples to service the disadvantaged of Jerusalem. Instead, Jesus washed their feet. ... Jesus said the world will know we are his disciples if we love one another by tending to each other's basic needs.

I wonder how many people in churches actually know the basic needs of their fellow church members. ... We rarely talk about how we could meet one another's basic needs. It doesn't often occur to Christians that this is what church is about."

- New Monasticism, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

I have to ask myself if I really know the basic needs of my own brothers and sisters. I must be more intentional about looking for opportunities to "see the need & meet the need" of my compadres.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Choice

"So when you and I hear staggering numbers (greater than a billion people live and die in desperate poverty, surviving on less than a dollar per day ~ twenty-six thousand children will die today due to starvation or preventable disease) and statistics (eighty percent of the world population lives on less than ten dollars per day) about the poor and needy among us and around the world, we have a choice.  We can switch the channels on our mega-TVs and continue our comfortable, untroubled, ordinary churchgoing lives as if the global poor don't exist.  We can let these numbers remain cold, distant and almost imaginary.  Or we can open our eyes and our lives to the realities that surround us and begin considering the faces that are represented by these numbers."  David Platt ~ Radical

"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me." (Mt 20:37-40 MSG)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Inspired Unity

All the believers were one in heart and mind. Acts 4:32

Sadly, with individual interests on the stage, Spirit-filled fellowships turn into institutions, with all the baggage institutions seem to require. Personal agendas and concerns begin to rival one another, and eventually fellowship is corrupted or even broken. The body of Christ becomes a collection of churchgoers, and instead of one heart and mind, there are many.
The early church was utopian, the kind of community that everyone craves and no one believes is even possible. Christian movements always begin with a sense of unity. The excitement and newness of a fresh work of God seems to subvert everyone's petty agendas, while awe forces observers to realize that something greater than their individual selves is taking center stage. The power of God gently and thoroughly overcomes the selfish individuality of men and women. When God does wonders, people live in wonder. And living in wonder puts us in the audience rather than on stage. Wonder and unity work well together.

-from The One Year Worship the KING Devotional (Chris Tiegreen)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

With Clarity of Purpose

"The more genuine and deeper our community becomes, the more will everything between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and His work become the one and only thing that is vital between us."

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May we continue to be led by the Holy Spirit into the places in the Kingdom He would direct and command us to go. May we be united in Him and fueled by the power that raised Jesus from the dead! May the love of Jesus compel us outward always, leaving self behind.

Keep Your Eyes Open For Jesus

This incident happened to Jonathan while in college working as a page for Senator Strom Thurmond.

"But in my rush to follow Jesus to the White House, I almost tripped over him one day on my way to lunch at Union Station. Just outside the doors of that great building, a man was crouched down, holding a styrofoam cup. He asked if I could spare some change, and I looked at him without saying a word. I remembered what I'd heard back in King about how poor folks in the city were lazy and begged money to buy drugs and booze. A country boy in the city, I was dressed in my Sunday best, doing everything I knew how to fit in. I didn't want to look naive. So I looked straight through the man and kept walking.

But about the time I stepped through those glass doors into Union Station, I recalled one of my memory verses from vacation Bible school. They were the words of Jesus, ringing in my head: "Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me" (Matt. 25:45 KJV). I knew that if those words were true, I had not only just ignored a fellow human being; I had completely missed the Lord I was trying to serve. I turned around and ran all the way back to my little dorm room on Capitol Hill, found one of the Billy Graham tracts my church had sent with me to the big city, wrapped a twenty-dollar bill around it, and returned to Union Station to deposit it in that man's styrofoam cup. It was the only thing I could think to do at the time. I just didn't want to miss Jesus."

- New Monasticism, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Back into the World...

Leonard Ravenhill (1907–1994), a British evangelist, once said, “The greatest miracle God can do today is take an unholy man out of an unholy world, make that man holy, then put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.”

Take the risk and "boldly go where no man has gone before" ~ make a difference (MAD) for eternity, sharing His GREAT love and allowing Father to receive all the glory!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Relational Deposit

The one minute script for Mark Gregston's "Parenting Today's Teens" has a wonderful message to parents.  With a few minor changes, it has even broader impact for all of us.  Here's how I read it:

Much is being said today about the economy and the need to save money, but let me ask this…what is your relational savings account looking like?

Having a solid relationship with others is like making deposits to a savings account. You add to it every time you give of your time, energy and wisdom. In the future your investment in people’s lives will compound in the form of responsibility, maturity, and mutual respect.

People who invest themselves in a relational savings plan have something to draw upon when tough times come. So think about that when you plan your week.  Find time to invest this week, one-on-one, in your relationships.

I'd like to make a deposit please...

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Joy of Giving (Advent Day 13)

Today's Advent reading is from the "Girlfriends in God" devotional ministry.
Written by Mary Southerland.

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NCV): "Each one should give as you have decided in your heart to give. You should not be sad when you give, and you should not give because you feel forced to give. God loves the person who gives happily."

One of my favorite authors, Richard Foster, writes, "Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed." God loves to see us give for no other reason than the joy of giving.

The true story is told of a self-made millionaire who had lived in New York City his entire life. Born and raised in a ghetto, he worked hard and achieved much. Anyone who knew this man would testify to the fact that he was generous--to a fault, some would say. One year, the man was disturbed by an attitude of selfishness and greed that seemed to pervade the Christmas holiday season and everyone around him. Not one to condemn, the millionaire decided that since he had been given so much, it was up to him to do his part in combating greed and came up with an unusual plan. Wearing a disguise, this man stuffed his pockets with $100 dollar bills and set out for a walk on the streets of New York City. When he saw someone in need, he whipped out one of the bills, pressed it into that person's hands and with a "Merry Christmas," made his way down the street. "It was the most wonderful part of my holiday season," the man reported, and he has been doing it ever since.

God is much more interested in our motive for giving than in the gift itself. If that motive is tainted with greed, the gift simply does not count. A powerful way to guard against greed is to choose joy over greed. Giving with joy is Kingdom giving! Before you give, ask yourself, "What's in it for me?" If the answer is "nothing," then go ahead and give the gift.

When our children were in middle school, we owned what I affectionately called a "Mini-Gym." It was a set of bar bells, a weight lifting bench and a few free weights. Both Jered and Danna loved their "gym" and used it almost every day. When Christmas rolled around, we learned that two of their good friends, Jeff and Jeremy, were not going to have much of a Christmas because their dad had lost his job. Jered came up with a plan. "Mom," he said, "Danna and I have talked about it. We think that Jeff and Jeremy would love to have the gym. But we don't want them to know we gave it to them, because they might be embarrassed. What do you think?" I thought I was in the presence of two joyful givers and quickly joined them in their plan.

A few days before Christmas, Jered and I took the gym apart and loaded it in our car while Danna found a huge red bow. Together, we made a sign that read, "Merry Christmas! We love you!" Danna blew up balloons while Jered dug out some Christmas lights. We enlisted the help of a neighbor who had a key to our friend's house and joined in the fun by agreeing to find out when the coast was clear, unlocking the back door and letting us in. At the designated time, off we went, laughing and singing Christmas carols. We parked down the street until the neighbor called, giggling, to let us know she was all set. Once we were inside, we raced to assemble the gym, post the sign, tie the balloons and tape the lights to the front door, leading our friends to their Christmas surprise on the back porch. We then high-tailed it home as if the FBI was hot on our trail! The neighbor reported that just minutes after the boys returned, she heard shouting and "whooping and hollering." The joy of that Christmas still lingers today. Greed doesn't hold a candle to joyful giving!

Greed is never satisfied and never at rest. There is always something more to be gained and someone else to outdo. Take sheep, for example. Sheep are dumb enough to eat until they are sick. They simply do not know when to stop. A heart that is filled with greed behaves the same way. I am afraid our heart motives are all too frequently self-serving when it comes to giving. Our pride is at stake, so we give to impress others. Perhaps, we give out of fear and guilt, hoping to buy God's forgiveness from our sin. People are watching, so we give in order to gain their approval. What is the solution? Giving! Giving is a powerfully effective deterrent to greed when we give for no other reason than the joy of giving.

Proverbs 11:24-25: "Some people give much but get back even more. Others don't give what they should and end up poor. Whoever gives to others will get richer; those who help others will themselves be helped."

I once read an article that described three types of givers. The first kind of giver is the "flint." To get anything out of a flint, you have to hammer it, and even then, you only get chips and sparks. A second kind of giver is the "sponge." You have to squeeze it and the more pressure you use, the more you will get. The third kind of giver is the honeycomb. It just overflows. What kind of giver are you? Experience the joy of Christmas when you experience the joy of giving. Merry Christmas!

Father, thank You for all You have given me. Help me to be the kind of giver that points people to You. I choose against my pride or any wrong motive for giving Christmas gifts this year. I choose to keep my eyes on You and my glance on the world. I love you! In Jesus' name, amen.

Now It's Your Turn

We make a living by what we get out of life, but we make a life by what we give and how we give it. Beecher wrote, "No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. The heart makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has." How do these words relate to your life this Christmas?

Take inventory of your "stuff." Make an actual list. Then set aside a time of prayer and solitude during which you give each one to God.

Consider giving an anonymous gift and recruit your family to help.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Let the Authentic Voice Lead the Way

"The world is waiting to hear an authentic voice, a voice from God - not an echo of what others are doing and saying, but an authentic voice."

- A W Tozer, Rut, Rot or Revival

Visibility for the Invisible

As I was reading through the November/December Outreach Magazine, I came across an interesting article about Mark Horvath, a previous homeless man, who is back on the streets letting homeless people tell their stories in an effort to raise awareness throughout the United States.  I went to the blog and was gripped by the numerous video stories and interviews he's done since 2008.  Just click on the title above to link there.  His goal is to allow what often goes unseen to become visible to the eyes and hearts of Americans and educate them about homelessness.  Mark talks about meeting Angela, who was dying under a bridge in Atlanta.  She was spending much of her time in church praying.  He asked the church group what they were doing for her and they told him they were bringing her sandwiches.  It was in that moment Mark realized that sandwiches were not enough!  What people like Angela need is housing and medical care; help getting off the streets!  The comment he ends this section with really hit me.."If you're only being their part-time buddy or taking them sandwiches under the bridge, it's only making you feel good."  Heart check...

Let the Spirit Lead

"What the church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more novel methods. She needs men whom the Holy Spirit can use - men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men ... He does not anoint plans, but men - men of prayer!

- E. M. Bounds

The Root Is Where It's At (or "Starship Enterprise")

"In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centered on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise."

- Richard C. Halverson, former chaplain of the U. S. Senate

Relational Tithe

Weird ?