Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Time to pray

Time is a non-replenishing resource. We get the same amount everyday, but, we don't get to "roll over" minutes to the next day. Making the most of each day is a constant effort. We are going to have the same amount of time this week, but, the holiday gives us less for the "everyday" stuff. I believe this gives us an opportunity to reflect on the time we give to prayer.
You may be thinking, "Just what I need another thing to add to my already overloaded day."  Jesus addressed our overloaded day in Matthew 11:28-30:
 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
To understand the power of this promise a little background is needed.
Following the delivery of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus went on a whirlwind tour healing, challenging and teaching (Matthew 8-9) which left him exhausted and pleading with his followers to pray for more workers in the harvest field. Right after this in chapter ten he sent out the twelve two by two to do what he had been doing, "declaring the coming of the kingdom." So we get to chapter 11 and we find him addressing key issues (is he really the messiah and how was his people to be led by such men as the pharisees). That led him to our text above. So, here is my take on what he was trying to say.
After the prayer for workers he sent the apostles out to be workers. On their return they had a much better idea of the everyday, one on one ministry needed to do the work of evangels so when he then addressed the bigger issues of messiahship and leadership change needed for the success of the evangels they must have paused and thought, "What a minute, this is much bigger than I originally thought." This wasn't about being the faithful followers of a Rabbi but being the hands and feet of the Rabbi. This was not about knowledge but about action. They must have been tired - maybe as tired as Jesus when he sent them out and so Jesus meets them where they are. "Learn of me." He did not say learn of my ministry but learn of me.
Today the path to learning of Jesus is found in our Bible reading and prayer life. The Sunday experience and the Growth Groups embed it - but if we are not constantly in prayer and meditation then the work of evangelism seems to add just one more item to our already filled to-do list. But when we spend time with God he makes is possible for us to do what we have to do so we will have the time and energy to do what we must do. Tell others about Jesus. We really don't have enough time not to pray.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Two Songs - One Message

About three weeks ago Gene Mallett, who succumbed to a two year fight with multiple myeloma last week, asked me to sit and talk with him about his memorial service. When I asked him what songs he wanted at the service he immediately said, "God Tell it on the Mountain and...well...Go Tell it on the Mountain." A couple weeks later while talking with Sheila I learned he had requested a second song as well, "We Shall Overcome." Sounds like a great sermon to me.
Jesus began his Apostles ministry in his second year by sending them out two by two. "Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give" (Matthew 10:6-8). Luke records this in Chapter Nine and then follows that with another sending, "After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves'" (Luke 10:1-3).
Many scholars believe the seventy were the disciples of the apostles who were getting their first taste of "going." Even before Jesus was lifted up on the cross he wanted his followers to know the importance of always proclaiming the kingdom of God. That command he obeyed each day he was on earth and he drummed it into his followers. Before he left he gave the final commission to go and make more disciples who will go and make more disciples.
If the apostles thought the task of discipling the world was too big they never said so. Like the words of the second song they believed Jesus and his church would snatch the lost from the grasp of this fallen world. As Peter proclaimed, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Paul underlined the promise of that second song by quoting from Isaiah 45:23, "‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God" (Romans 14:11-12)"
For Gene the waiting is over but he knew too many of his friends and family needed to here the call of God from the mountain so they too could finally overcome the chains of this fallen world.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We be the church attractional & missional

I am grateful to Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson (Comeback Churches) for their great look at churches wanting to turnaround so they are not stagnant or dying. They are true “churchmen” because they believe the mission of God is to be carried out by the church of God. Here are just a few reasons why the church matters.
The church is the only institution God built and promised to bless, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). It is so precious Christ died for it as we just heard last Sunday, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). I know it is popular to talk about Jesus dying for each of us individually, but, scripture is clear that His death for our sins would be palliative without a communion of believers ready to continue His work of grace.
The church is the proclaimer and protector of divine truth. Paul reminds Timothy to take care of the church even if Paul is not around to help him, “…if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). We are to act like the church because the church is where people learn to act like God followers. Paul tells us that Christ instituted the various gifts of the Spirit so the Body of Christ could work like a well oiled machine keeping itself always ready to point people to God because, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
The order of action was Christ – Mission – Apostles/Church. The order today is Church – Gifts – Mission. We exist and our gifts are given so people can have the opportunity to hang out and be encouraged to draw closer to God.
That is why it is so important for us, La Habra Christian Church, to focus outward. Titus wrote, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people (Titus 2:11).” Our reason for existence at 1400 Bella Vista is so we can become the church attracting as well as the church missional. We draw close to each other so we can go and tell our friends, family, co-workers, and fellow students about this gospel message given to all once and for all.