Do We Dare Pray This Way?

I was reading an article in the latest edition of Leadership Journal.  It quotes Jim Cymbala, Pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle and author of several books.  He says:

"The number one sin of the church in America is that its pastors and leaders are not on their knees crying out to God,  'Bring us the drug-addicted, bring us the prostitutes, bring us the destitute, bring us the gang leaders, bring us those with AIDS, bring us the people nobody else wants, whom only you can heal, and let us love them in your name until they are whole.' "

Jesus ministered to difficult, messy, troubled, challenging people.  He died for the church that we, as the church, might do the same.  I must admit, I do not pray that kind of prayer as often as I should. Let's face it, for most churches, it is much easier to have "cleaned-up" people join us than to deal with the mess we find in people's lives because of sin when it comes knocking at our door needing something.  If we're honest, we were all messes at one point because of sin.  The longer we are Christians, the easier it is to forget how sin-stained our lives really were, easier to forget that we were in the same place then that those in need of the power of the blood of Christ to cleanse are in now. 

Lord, please help us never to forget that, and Lord, please give us an endless supply of grace, mercy, compassion, patience and love so that the love of Jesus may flow out of us and impact needy lives around us.

Caring Enough to Look

I was watching a new show on the USA network last night, "In Plain Sight".  It’s a show whose main character is a US Marshall that works with people that end up in the Witness Protection Program.  The show was ok, but the main character shared a quote that caught my attention.  I’m not sure if the quote was from someone famous, or just written into to the show for her character, but here it is:

"We all live in hiding.  In one way or another each of us conceals pieces of ourselves from the rest of the world.  Some people hide because their lives depend on it.  Others because they don’t like being seen.  And then there are other special cases…the ones who hide because, because, because…they just want somebody to care enough to look for them"

At how many levels and in how many ways is that statement true in the Christian life?  Hiding is one of the first things that Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.  "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"  (Genesis 3:8-9, NIV).  Man’s instinct was to hide, God’s was to go look for them.

So many of the people Jesus encountered were "in hiding".  The woman at the well was hiding by coming to draw water at noon rather than sunset because of the embarrassment of her life.  The woman in Luke 8 that touched the border of Jesus’ garment to be healed from her 12 year flow of blood, cam trembling and falling down before Jesus because she "…saw that she was not hidden…" (Luke 8:40, NKJV).  I even get the sense that Zaccheus in Luke 19 was in hiding.  His status as being rich and a tax collector left him with few friends, and left the crowd complaining that Jesus had "…gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner". (Luke 19:7, NKJV).  I don’t think it is any coincidence that Jesus said at the end of this encounter that "…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10, NKJV, emphasis mine).

This is the reason that outreach, contact, visitation is so important within the life of any church.  We need fellowship, we need connection.  That is what people are looking for.  People just want someone to care enough to look for them.  Churches die and shrivel up when we stop calling members and guests if we try a couple times and they don’t respond.  People hide for a reason.  They are embarrassed because of their sin.  They are hurt and are waiting for someone to find them so they can talk about it.  They are scared they will be rejected by someone when they try to reach out and connect.  Churches can be so unforgiving sometimes.  In many of them, if someone doesn’t dress the right way, or say the right thing, or act the right way,  they will be shunned, ridiculed, made fun of, talked about behind their backs when they are still in the building.  Or we’ll at least make our disdain silently obvious.  A set of rolling eyeballs or a snarly face or a certain tone of voice speaks volumes.

Consider the lyrics of the song "If We Are the Body" by Casting Crowns;

It’s crowded in worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls’ teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

CHORUS
But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances tells him that his chances
Are better out on the road

CHORUS
But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the Body of Christ

Chorus (2x)
If we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus is the way

We need to ask, "Do we care enough to look?"  How much time does it really take to make a phone call, or write a card, or send an email, to make a visit?  Imagine how much good we could do in an hour that we’ve wasted doing something that will make no eternal difference.

Are We Willing?

I was touched this week as I read of the passing of Irena Sendler, a Polish Holocoust hero that smuggled more than 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto during WW2.  Polish Holocaust hero dies at age 98.

In the article, it describes the great lengths that she went through, at risk to her own life, having been tortured in a prison camp, all to save precious lives of children she didn’t know so they would have a chance to live eternally.

At its heart, it sounds like the task we are called to as Christians, exerting our time, effort, and energy to give the chance for God to work to save the lives of precious people we may not know so they might have a chance to live.  We spend our energy and time on everything else, ANYTHING else, other than that.

How have we lost sight of the fact that this is THE TASK to which we are called to by Jesus?  We are called to know Him, love Him with all our heart, love our neighbors as ourselves,  and make disciples of all nations.

We never will make disciples of all nations by sitting in our houses and our churches waiting for the lost to come to us and ask about Jesus.  We are called to go.  Everything that troubles us, frustrates us, discourages us, becomes secondary when we realize we are saved by the blood of Jesus and we have the best news in the world to tell others.  We simply just don’t do it.  We may feel like we don’t know how, may feel like we can’t, but if we’ll just trust the Holy Spirit a little, He will guide our words, our thoughts, our actions.  He will give us the boldness to overcome our apprehensions and tell someone that Jesus saves. 

We needn’t wonder why our churches don’t grow, and more importantly why the Kingdom of God doesn’t grow.  It doesn’t grow because we don’t go.  As I have heard others say, we have become the sittin’ saints and the frozen chosen.

My denomination, Southern Baptists, have seen a steady decrease in baptisms for decades.  We have lost our fire, lost our zeal, lost our determination to see lost people go to heaven.  Are we, individually, doing everything we can, to share with others?  Can we find an hour or two in our week that we are currently waisting watching some stupid TV show, to get out and share some good news with a lost and hurting soul? 

Does Anything Really Move Us These Days?

It will soon be another story of a disaster come and gone, lost amidst the coverage of the election, stories on soaring gas prices and reports on the housing crisis.  Over the weekend, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was hit by a cyclone that has, as of this time,  killed 4000 people and left almost as many missing.  The latest reports estimate that as many as 10,000 may have died.

The pictures are eerily similar to so many other natural disasters, some which occurred in our country no less than a week ago.  They show homes destroyed, trees uprooted, lives overturned.

Lost in all of the suffering in Myanmar is a sobering truth…souls died without Christ.  Myanmar is primarily Buddhist (nearly 90%) and at best has only 2% of the population that are Christian.  If we do the math, it means that only 200 of the estimated 10,000 people who died were likely to have died with Jesus as their Lord and Savior, leaving 9800 people that died now spending eternity apart from God forever.  Does this reality move us?  Does it lead us to shed a tear?  Do we even give it a second thought?  God loves the people who died in Myanmar every bit as much as He loves us and He is grieving that they are separated from Him for eternity.

Perhaps it is the constant birage of news that overwhelms us. or the exposure to tragedy and death on TV shows that numbs us, but it seems that more people are upset, saddened and outraged that a race horse died at the Kentucky Derby than 10,000 people who were created in the image of the living God.

"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;  And they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, Amen." (Revelation 7:9-12, NASB)

It is God’s desire that people from every nation, including the precious people of Myanmar, worship around His throne for eternity.  Yet so many around the world are lost in darkness without Christ.  Lord, make our prayer:

"Set my soul afire Lord, for Thy Holy Word, Burn it deep within me, let Thy voice be heard
Millions grope in darkness in this day and hour, I will be a witness, 
fill me with Thy pow’r

Set my soul afire Lord, set my soul afire.
         
Make my life a witness of Thy saving pow’r. Millions grope in darkness, waiting for Thy Word.

Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire!"

Does anything really move us these days?

 

Does Snickers Really Satisfy?

I read a blog entry today that made me think.  The title was "On Mud Pies and Chewing Gum".  From what I can tell, the author of the blog was from a liberal, feminist background.  I clicked on the link in the midst of reading another article.  Her point is valid, and something we need to consider as believers.  Her basic point was, why do we have children in the world eating mud pies at the same time we have a candy company buying out a gum company for $23 billion (yes, billion) dollars?  She says, "it’s kind of sickening, people spending billions on such crap that they
don’t need to consume at all, while people are dying of starvation and
malnutrition."

I can’t help but agree.   I am guilty as charged that my snack attacks waste money and food that can be used to help be a part, allbeit small, of helping hungry people have a basic meal.

What are we willing to do without so others may have?  Sacrificing in that manner seemed to be the model of the New Testament church.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any
of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had" (Acts 4:32, NIV).

Imagine the resources that would be freed up if we simply did without one snack item a day and committed the money to feeding the poor.  Let’s see, the math is as follows..a dollar a day, times 365 days a year, equals 365 dollars a year per person.  If each of the 8 million members that attend a Sunday service in my denomination (Southern Baptist) did that, the total amount would be 2,920,000,000.  2 BILLION, 920 MILLION dollars.  It may not cure hunger, but it certainly would put a dent in it.

Just something to think the next time we eat that Mars bar…