Could It Be This Simple…?

I watched a number of short video clips on Yahoo! News this evening about a product called Plumpynut.  Plumpynut is a paste made from peanut butter, powdererd milk, powdered sugar, vitamins and minerals that contains the equivalent of a glass of milk and a multivitamin in each serving.  It is being used extensively in the country of Niger to give to children that are suffering from malnutrition.  The video clips describe some amazing results in keeping children from dying and preventing them from being hospitalized for malnutrition.  it costs a dollar a day for 2 serving per day of Plumpynut.

I am not one that normally becomes a cheerleader for some "solution" like this without a fair bit of skepticism, but this product seems almost too good to be true.  A dollar a day for a simple product that needs no refrigeration or mixing that can be easily produced and shipped to get to the worlds’ most fragile children so they can be spared the ravished of malnutrition.  Am I missing something here?

Why is our government not investing more money from the resources we send to aid the hungry and malnourished around the world?  And why isn’t the church finding a way to connect with Christian relief organizations to help produce and distribute this product and help offer life, both physical and spiritual.  This is when the church needs to step to the plate and find a way to be on the leading edge of getting ministries in place that can distribute this and have a chance to offer it in the name of Jesus.

Please check out the stories at the link and post some feedback.

Plumpynut Story

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Can We Not Tarry…?

What has happened to the mid-week prayer meeting, or special prayer groups, or extended time in prayer during worship?  How is it that most churches can have more people attend business meeting than prayer meeting?  Are decisions (too often unprayed over) about budgets, committees, and buildings more important to tend to than praying about new churches, lost individuals, and ministry opportunities?

Jesus lamented that His disciples could not stay awake long enough to tarry with Him for even one hour.  His concern was that they were going to fall into temptation (Mt 26:40).

If we don’t pray, we run the risk of entering into temptation.  Perhaps the greatest temptation is believing we can do anything of substance without going to God in prayer, or believing that we won’t fall asleep on watch for Jesus, or believing that we won’t deny Him give the right set of circumstances, or believing that we have to have God provide for us before we head a direction He is telling us to go, instead of heading His direction and trusting that He will provide in the midst of our obedience, as we go.  This sounds like trying to determine whether to walk by faith or by sight. (2 Cor. 5:7).  Walking by sight gets us nowhere quick.

I wonder what the early church would have looked like if they had walked by sight, waiting for all the obstacles to disappear before they went forward in obedience to the Great Commission?  Prayer was THE difference in the early church.  It is no different today, if we will simply invest ourselves in it.

Is It Really OK?

I saw a TV commercial that really made me think twice.  The ad was for the Discover Card, and the dialogue was:

"We’re a nation of consumers, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  The trouble is, there’s so much cool stuff, it’s easy to get carried away.  But what if more credit card companies were like the Discover Card…"

This commercial speaks to the heart of so much of what has gone wrong with our nation, and what we struggle with as Christians living in our society today.

It’s true, we ARE a nation of consumers, but the truth is there IS something wrong with it.  We spend so much on things we don’t need, while many others around our nation and our world struggle to survive while we determine which of 30 breakfast cereals to get at the store, or what style of I-POD we NEED to listen to.

I have struggled with this.  Our society is so fixed on needing more, wanting more, that there is no sense of contentment with what we have.   Our sense of want and need has become perverted in such a way that we have lost our ability to determine the difference.

I believe the church struggles with that as well.   There are so many things we think we NEED in order to be successful in reaching people, when all we really need is God, the power of the Holy Spirit, the person of Jesus.  How did the New Testament church do it when they didn’t have all of the things we deem necessary to impact the world, such as buildings, programs, websites, equipment.  Are these helpful?  Of course they are, but when we get to the point where we need any of them more than we need the Living God, we are doomed for failure, no matter how gifted we might be.

What do we really need?  We need to depend on God and God alone.  I have always been impressed and humbled by the life of George Mueller.  His total dependence on God to house, feed and clothe orphans in England in the 1830’s and beyond, with only letting his need be made known to God.  He trusted God to provide for every need with him telling no one but God.  What an amazing measure of faith and a dynamic, powerful, intense prayer life that kind of faith took.  He showed that when God is all we need, He will give us all that we want.  Our problem is that we say we need and want God, but don’t have the gumption, faith, perseverance to stay with God until the end, and we want to start with what we think we need and then add God to the mix.  It doesn’t work that way.  Scripture says "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4, NKJV).  He obviously knows what we need, much better than we do.

It’s not really OK that we are a nation of consumers, because it leads us to treat God as if he is something we can "consume" in a nice little daily Bible reading and prayer, and then get our free refill tomorrow.  it has turned Christians into consumers of church, and we end up asking the wrong question.  The question isn’t "What programs does this church offer to meet my needs?", but "How can I serve God in this place?  It turns us away from being a consumer into a servant.

So, no, it’s not really OK that we are a nation of consumers, for God is not a commodity to be consumed.  if anything, we are to be consumed by the totalness of all that God is.   When we are, many things start to become clear.

Awesome Never Gets Old

I caught the tail end of a commercial for a local attraction, Atlantis Marine World.  The slogan at the end was "Awesome Never Gets Old".

Oh, if that were true and we really believed that as Christians, so much would be different.  God is awesome in so many ways each and every day, and we have relegated that awesomeness to the land of the routine and mundane.  Do we  sing the chorus "Our God Is An Awesome God" and actually believe it?

At the root of not believing God is awesome is not fearing Him anymore.  The root word in Hebrew for awesome comes from the word "to fear".  It also means to revere.  When we have such a low view of God, Him and His works become commonplace and don’t inspire anything in us anymore, let alone fear, reverence, and a sense of awesomeness.

The Psalmist had a sense of the awesomeness of God.  Psalm 8 and His description of considering the heavens and the moon and the stars, and the reminder that He is majestic.

Psalm 66, where he writes:

"Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!" (Ps 66:3, NIV).

"Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf" (Ps 66:5, NIV).

I believe that some of the revival we seek and long for will be found when we exalt God again, back to His position of majesty and awesomeness.  Much as Isaiah did when he saw God high and lifted up, when we see Him that way, we’ll fall before Him and recognize our sinfulness, and when we are cleansed, we’ll be ready to volunteer to do whatever God asks of us.

Overwhelmed by the Lostness…

Do you ever have times when you are just utterly overwhelmed by the lostness that surrounds us?  I had one of those moments this evening.  I was at the grocery store and was waiting in line to check out and just stopped to watch the people as they went through their routines at the store…gathering items, waiting at checkout…dozens of people walking past in just a few minutes.  I was very heavy of heart, realizing that most of those people were lost and did not know Jesus, and were bound for an eternity without the Lord unless they heard the Good News about Jesus.

We make many assumptions about the lost that stifle our zeal to share the Gospel.  We often assume they may not be interested, or that they might respond negatively.  Our lips are often shut in fear or complacency or apathy.  How can I do this?  How can we do this?

As I walked to the parking lot, the lyrics of Steve Green’s song "People Need the Lord" flooded my heart.

Everyday they pass me by,
I can see it in their eyes.
Empty people filled with care,
Headed who knows where?

On they go through private pain,
Living fear to fear.
Laughter hides their silent cries,
Only Jesus hears.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
When will we realize, people need the Lord?

We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right.
What could be too great a cost
For sharing Life with one who's lost?

Through His love our hearts can feel
All the grief they bear.
They must hear the Words of Life
Only we can share.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
When will we realize that we must give our lives,
For peo-ple need the Lord.

People need the Lord.

The problem is not that we get overwhelmed by the lostness, but that we don’t get overwhelmed enough by it.  It is an easily fleeting feeling that too often vanishes like a vapor in the wind.  Oh, that our hearts would be so burdened and overwhelmed by the lostness that it would forever change how we live our lives.

The Church’s E.D. Problem

It seems that each year in my denomination (Southern Baptist) we lament the fact that we remain stagnant in the number of people we baptize during the course of the year.  That number has remained flat lined for the better part of a a decade or more.  We develop new methods of telling the old, old story.

The simple conclusion I’ve come to is that we are suffering from E.D….Evangelism Dysfunction.  We don’t do enough of it, we don’t plan for it, we don’t believe that the message of "Jesus Saves" is important enough for the world to hear.

We come up with all kinds of convenient reasons and excuses for not going as the Great Commission tells us to.  It’s too hot, too cold, too late, too early, too far, too close…the list goes on.

At the heart of it though, I don’t believe the church really has an E.D. problem.  Not telling others about the One who saved our souls is merely a symptom of bigger problems.  Our hearts have grown cold.  They need revival, pure and simple.  When our hearts are warm, we won’t be content to let people spend eternity apart from Jesus.  We’ll say something, ANYTHING, so they have a chance to hear.  More important, they will SEE the life of Jesus flowing out so richly, they will be drawn to Jesus in us.  There is no better witness than the joy of Jesus in us.

Oh, if it were only so easy to take a pill to solve our E.D. problem.  However, the solution is spelled out by God all throughout Scripture.  Pray, repent, sell out to Jesus, get rid of all that distracts and entangles us in this world, don’t compromise, open your mouth, let your light shine before men, strive to know nothing but Christ crucified, die to self.

Are we willing to pay the price to see the world saved?  If we were, most of our churches wouldn’t be stagnant or shrinking in size, and our baptisms, which are supposed to reflect lost souls saved, would be skyrocketing through the roof.