Thursday, August 30, 2012

Every Week, Every Month, Every Year

When I was in college, I went on a mission trip to Mexico during Spring Break.  A group of us visited an impoverished suburb of Tijuana and helped build a small home for a family.  It was a life-changing week.

I hadn’t experienced that type of poverty before.  I can remember sitting on top of the house we were working on, overlooking miles of scrap metal, plastic, and cardboard homes.  I was struck by the challenges of life there.  I remember thinking, “I’m here for Spring Break.  These folks live here every week, every month, every year.”

The poor often live in communities like that because they don’t have a choice.  Economic realities in developing nations insist that large numbers of people live on very little.  But, there are also people living there, every week, every month, every year who do have a choice.  They have the means to live in “better” neighborhoods, but choose to live in a slum, hosting groups like ours, building houses for the poor.

Those kind of folks are a rare breed and they aren’t only in Mexico.  Faithful people all over the world set aside lives of privilege in order to minister in some of the world’s toughest situations.  They go in the love of Christ to announce that Jesus is Lord.  We call them missionaries.

Missionaries aren’t only noble because they often set aside privilege for the sake of spreading the Gospel.  Missionaries are also noble because they remind all Christians that the call to missions can’t be relegated to Spring Break.  All of us are called to set aside comforts in order to advance God’s kingdom, wherever we are.  Jesus calls all of us to a life of service and evangelism.

As you go through the coming week, remember those missionaries who sacrifice much for the Gospel.  Pray for them.  Give money in support of their work.  Then, let their faithful service inspire you to be a missionary in your world – every week, every month, every year.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Because I Said So

When I was growing up, I asked all kinds of questions.  One of my favorite questions was this: “Why?”  Responding to my favorite question, my Dad had a favorite answer: “Because I said so.”

Early on, I accepted my Dad’s answer without question.  When my Dad answered, “Because I said so,” I obeyed.  I did what my Dad told me to do because I thought His will was good in and of itself.  I looked up to my Dad so much I thought the things he wanted were naturally right and good.  

Christians do all kinds of things in order to follow Jesus’ will.  We care about the poor, worship Jesus together, and pray in order to follow Jesus’ instruction.  When we are asked why, a great answer is this: “Because Jesus said so.”

Because the Son of God told us to do His will, we do it.  There is no other reason.  We don’t care for the poor for our own benefit.  We don’t worship for a feeling we get.  We do those things to honor Jesus.  We love Him and revere Him in such a way that His will seems naturally right and good.  We follow Jesus’ will for Jesus’ sake.

As you go through the coming week, follow Jesus’ will because He said so.  Let every aspect of your day be lived for Him.  We will find fulfillment and growth and joy in doing those things, but it isn’t why we do it.  We do His will because He is so good.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Freedom From, Freedom For

Freedom is getting a lot of attention.  With the presidential election fast approaching, politicians are falling all over themselves trying to prove they can give Americans freedom. They tell us that freedom makes America great and they are the ones to protect it.  They insist their ticket is the only way to preserve our God given freedom.

The word freedom gets thrown around the political arena so much, in so many ways, I almost forget what it means.  A common definition of freedom is this: liberation from all constraint.  Another is this: the ability to be self-determining.  In short, freedom is a person’s ability to do whatever (s)he wants.

Jesus promises freedom too.  But, the freedom Jesus promises is a little different.  Jesus promises to set His people free for a purpose.  Jesus liberates Christians from the constraints of sin and death so they can fulfill His will.

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul writes,  “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.”  Paul suggests that Christ set Him free for a purpose larger than doing whatever he wants.  Jesus set Paul free from sin and death so that Paul could be free for preaching the gospel.

As you go through the coming week, ask yourself what you have been set free for.  If you have confessed your sin and called on Jesus for salvation, you are free.  The world will tell you to use that freedom to do whatever you want.  Christ insists we use our freedom for His cause.  So let me encourage you to freely seek Christ’s purposes for the coming week.  It may not win you an election, but it is the best way to truly enjoy your God given freedom.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

Kids and God's Kingdom

Faith Center hosted our annual Vacation Bible School at Willow Springs Apartments this past week.  It was great.  All kinds of kids from our church and neighborhood showed up to learn about Jesus.

On the second night, I watched as the event got started.  Kids who didn’t know each other shyly made their way to their seat.  They were reserved and reluctant to talk with other kids as they waited for VBS to begin.  But, when the program fired up and worship leaders encouraged them to sing songs to Jesus, the kids jumped right in.  They celebrated without hesitation, following fun hand motions.  It was neat to watch. 

I was struck by how quickly those kids responded.  That isn’t how we respond in Sunday morning services.  In adult worship services, we are a little more reserved.  I mean…our reputations are at stake.  We don’t want to be too enthusiastic about Jesus.  We might get labeled a religious nut.  We don’t want to respond too quickly.  We might appear desperate.  As a result, we button down the celebration. 

In the Gospel of Luke, people brought children to Jesus so that he could bless them.  Jesus’ disciples didn’t like it and reprimanded the Lord.  In response, Jesus invited the kids anyway, using them as an example of devotion to God.  Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

As you worship this morning, sing, shout, clap your hands, and stomp your feet for Jesus.  Do not hesitate to celebrate the Lord.  The smallest people in the building are giving us a great example and we should take it seriously.  Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.