Thursday, February 15, 2018

Response to the School Shooting in Florida

Like you, I am heartbroken over the news of another school shooting; this one in Florida and 17 people are dead, 14 injured and the shooter is a 19 year old former student with a history of troubling behavior. And, as usual, some are politicizing the tragedy to pressure politicians to change laws and come up with some way to stop this senseless violence.

Browsing Facebook this morning I saw a post from Daryl Fulp, a friend we met and served with in Guatemala this past Summer. We worked with Hope for Home Ministries which was founded by he and his family and serves the very least in Guatemala. They minister to the mentally and physically challenged and their families in Guatemala. Visit their website here to learn more about their amazing ministry.  

Daryl posted an incredible response to the tragedy in Florida:
To my brothers and sisters in Christ:
Like you, my heart is broken by the events in Florida today. And I want to remind us all of the truth that we should already know: There is no political cure. The crisis our nation faces is a crisis of the heart. And our only hope is the One who can transform hearts.
Let others argue over politics. Let others pursue dead end roads. And let us focus on the One True Cure that they all seek without realizing. Instead of arguing, let’s love. Instead of shaking angry fists, let’s reach out our hands to those with whom we disagree. Let us spread the Gospel instead of adding to the overwhelming noise that threatens to consume. And let us share Jesus as we live and speak. We have the only Hope within us. Let’s go spread Him around.
 Someone commented on his post and made reference to how Jesus would respond to such a situation. The gist of the response is that Jesus would take action to enact change. In his words, the responder said that Jesus would " be raising hell for situations like these. right? when it wasn’t right, he took action." Daryl then responded to the responder with, what I think is the most powerful statement on the real problem in our world to day - and it's not "the world" it's the church:
 Daryl Fulp: I am not sure what “raising hell“would accomplish? Do you mean getting angry? At whom? Angry at the government? Angry at a young man who was so broken by sin that he did something like this? While it is true that Jesus got angry at times and would speak hard words, those words were never directed at politics or those who were dead in their own sins. Jesus reserved his anger for those who used God’s name, but failed to represent Him correctly. So, if Jesus were on the earth right now as a man, I believe he would likely have some hard words. But I believe those words would be directed at his church. We have failed to live out his most important instructions. We have failed to love God. We have failed to love each other. And we have certainly failed to love those that we consider our “enemies.“ And we are failing horribly at the great commission. As the culture deteriorates, we love to look around at the decline and pretend it is not our fault. It is obviously those lousy politicians or those jerks on the other side of the aisle. And yet, we claim to have the secret of true hope, love, peace and fulfillment. We claim to have relationship with the only One who can truly transform, a heart. So, if we really believe that, we shouldn’t be blasting sinners, we should be loving them and reaching them. We should be their friends. They should be our golfing and hunting buddies. They should be a part of our Super Bowl parties and book clubs. We should be seeking out the lost and hurting and eating lunch with them. Instead of blasting those with whom we disagree we should be loving them and hanging out with them. And if they are the famous and powerful to whom we have no access, we should be praying for believers around them to do the same. The world needs salt and light now. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

"For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God's household." (1 Peter 4:17) Please, let us read and heed these powerful words from Daryl. If we, the Body of Christ,  are to resolve the real problem in the world today, we have to begin by looking in the mirror; we have to change and truly begin living out the gospel. Let it begin with me...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Everyone has a story - Sharing yours

 "... if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it." 1 Peter 3:15

On Sunday mornings we have been studying through Acts 13-28 in a series called "Always on Mission." We've been following the life of the apostle Paul, a man who fully lived his life on mission for the Lord. Yesterday, (Feb 12) we looked at Acts 22 where Paul gives tells his savlation story before an angry mob who wanted to execute him. He also gives his testimony in Acts 26 before Herod Agrippa and Festus.

When Paul tells his story, he follows a distinct pattern: what his life was like before he met Christ, how he encountered Christ, how Christ changed his life, and what Christ has been doing in his life recently. It is a great pattern to follow to learn how to share your testimony.

CRU Ministries (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) has a worksheet to help Christians develop their testimony. Take a few minutes to work through these questions so you can tell others what God has done in your life:

My Life Before Christ

  • What about my life before Christ will relate most to the non-Christians I know?
  • What did my life revolve around? Where did I get my security, identity or happiness from?  
  • How did those things begin to let me down?

How I Came to Christ

  • When was the first time I heard the gospel? What were my initial reactions?
  • When and why did my perspective begin to change toward Christ?
  • What were the final struggles that went through my mind just before I accepted Him? Why did I finally decide to accept Christ (or give Him complete control of my life)?

My Life After Coming to Christ

  • How is my life different now? List some specific changes in your character, attitude and perspective on life.
  • What motivates me now? What do I live for?
  • Even though my life still isn’t perfect, how does knowing Christ help me deal with that fact?

I would add What Christ is Doing in My Life Today as a conclusion to your testimony. Having a relationship with the Lord means we should be able to give evidence of that relationship in our day to day lives.

Take a few minutes to write out your story as if you were telling it to someone, and then pray for opportunities to share your story.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Parade of Nations

PyeongChang 2018

And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (NLT)

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10
Watching the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChange, South Korea and can't help but be moved by the pageantry of the ceremony. South Koreans have been preparing for the Olympics for over 2 1/2 years, and the opening ceremony sets the tone for the rest of the games. 
For me, the highlight of the opening ceremony is the Parade of Nations where the Olympic athletes from every nation and territory march into the Olympic stadium under their country's flag. Nearly 3,000 athletes from 92 nations will march in the Parade of Nations. The United States will have the largest contingent with 242 athletes, while several nations will be represented by only one athlete. This year's winter Olympics will be the largest in history in terms of the number of athletes. 
Watching the Parade of Nations, my mind went to the passage in Revelation where John writes about seeing a crowd too large to count, standing before the throne of God, praising the Lord. In that crowd are people from every nation tribe and tongue. It will be something glorious to behold, but a question that bothers me is, how many from each nation tribe and tongue? Surely there will be many North Americans, as we have been saturated with the gospel. But what about those nations and people groups that have little-to-no access to the gospel? According to the Joshua Project, out of the 7.48 billion people in the world, 3.14 billion are considered unreached, meaning there is little or no access to the gospel. Of the 16,956 known people groups, 7,035 are unreached. 
Jesus promises in Matthew 24:14, that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all nations, but there is a long way to go. In America, 268 million people identify as Christian; it's unrealistic, but what if every American who identified as a Christian, led one lost person to the Lord and discipled that person over a year, so that the new Christian could then lead another person to Christ, and disciple them? If that happened, the gospel would reach every person in the world in less than six years. 
Again, that is an unrealistic expectation, but what if we gave it a try in our church? What if the 50-60 adults and youth that attend Grace Point each week, led one person to Christ and discipled them for this year? Next year there would be 100-120 disciples of Christ, and the following year, 200-240. And as the number of disciples grow, we send them out to plant churches, or help revitalize dying churches by making disciples who make disciples. We may not be able to reach every nation, tribe and tongue ourselves, but we might be part of a great movement of God that would see the gospel preached throughout the world... and then the end would come, and we would be part of that great Parade of Nations worshiping before the throne of the God... and what a glorious day it will be!!!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Building the Church

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
     Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. Matthew 16:13-18 (NLT)

I’m sure this passage is familiar to all of us. Jesus gives His disciples a “pop-quiz” so to speak. The answer Peter gave was “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said, “You are blessed Peter because God has already reveled this to you, and on this rock (the confession of Peter) I will build my church.” Many scholars think that this is perhaps the first instance in the ministry of Jesus where He used the word “church” to describe what would remain of His ministry after He was removed from the scene. As I read this passage, there are a couple of things that jump out at me:

The Church was conceived in the heart of Jesus
The church is a remarkable institution. It is the Kingdom of God that exists within the larger context of this world. The Greek word that Jesus uses here referrers to a gathering of “called-out” people. The church is people that Jesus has called-out of their sin and into his kingdom, and whom He has called together as His body.
This entity we call the church didn’t come from the mind of men, it came from the mind of God. It was born in the heart of Jesus. And the church is here today because God himself intended it to be.
I sometimes hear people say, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” This may be theoretically true, but if you are a follower of Christ, why would you not want to be a part of what God is doing in this world? The church is the one institution in this world that God conceived of to do His work. The Bible says in Ephesians 5 “that, Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” Ephesians 3 tells us that God has chosen to show his power to principalities and powers through the church. And it also tells us that he receives glory through the church. Why would you not want to be a part of what Jesus conceived and brought forth from His heart?

The church is the work of Christ.
Notice Jesus said in that passage, “I will build MY church.” The church belongs to Jesus, and He is the chief builder of the church. Jesus was fully human, but He was also fully divine. The church is referred to as the Body of Christ. Would it not stand to reason then, that though the church is made up of human beings, it is also a divine organism? And Jesus, our Savior, is responsible to build it.
I can’t tell you what a relief that is to me. I’ve spent a number of frustrating years in ministry trying to “build the church.” It has taken me a long time to realize that it’s not my church to build.
A passenger jet was suffering through a severe thunderstorm. As the passengers were being bounced around by the turbulence, a young woman turned to a minister sitting next to her and with a nervous laugh asked, "Reverend, you’re a man of God, can’t you do something about this storm?" To which he replied, "Lady, I’m in sales, not management." That is good advice for us to remember. Managing this church is God’s business. Our business is to be the best advertisement for Jesus we can be.
The church belongs to Jesus, and it is to be built by Jesus. Our part is to do what Jesus calls us and equips us to do, and He will take care of the rest.