Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).

"Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love. How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded" (2 John 3-4).

"Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the brothers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth" (3 John 2-4).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pastor fired for not evangelizing: faithfulness with "To Do" lists

At a local Bible study last night, one attendee shared a prayer request for his former church. During his time on the church board, they hired a new pastor, who served several years. According to this man, the pastor “promised to evangelize and do all kinds of other ministry stuff. But he hadn’t done any of it.” So recently, that pastor was fired.
If the pastor was truly let go for not evangelizing, the congregation probably should have been fired too. According to Bill Bright, a Campus Crusade for Christ survey of professing Christians found that “a bare 2 percent regularly share their faith in Christ.”
How many professing believers would agree that Christ’s great commission to “make disciples of all nations” was given to all Christians? And yet, how few actually talk with unbelievers about Jesus on a regular basis?
What renders so many mute? Are we crippled by fear of rejection? Are we concerned what people think of us more than what our Heavenly Father thinks? Do we crave the pleasures of this fallen world more than His affection? It’s time for a heart check: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15).
We’ve zeroed in on one area of disobedience, but let’s apply this principle more broadly too. How many times do we promise to act and then don’t follow through? We may set the bar high to feel accomplished, but we never actually accomplish much of anything. We make to do lists and set goals, but we develop selective amnesia and never look back at them. We fear feeling like failures when we fall short. If we never try, we think we’ve escaped failure’s grasp. So, procrastination becomes a new roommate. Does fear of failure hinder you? Haven’t we experienced enough hope deferred and dreams that die? Do you have a sick heart (Prov. 13:12)?
This is a call to be faithful. Examine yourself and ask, “LORD, why is this fear in me?” We need to deal with fear like any other sin: to declare war on it, to memorize Scriptures about it, to take steps to overcome it, to ask others in our community of believers to pray with us and encourage us through. Loved and trusted people can help us accomplish the goals the Holy Spirit has laid on our hearts. When we’re witnessing, we can go out with others. Jesus sent His disciples out two by two to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons (Mk. 6:7-12; Lk. 10:1-20).
On top of that, let’s take initiative that says, “When I write down this goal, I’ll start on it today.” Take at least one little step immediately that moves you toward the finish line. In my free time, when I’m not purposefully resting—which must also be budgeted into my schedule—I’ll be working on one of my goals. Do something eternally meaningful. Prioritize goals based on how valuable they are for your life and ministry. Then, start on the most important, and work to the least. You may never get to the action items on the bottom of your list, and that’s okay. They’re on the bottom for a reason.
When you catch yourself doing something mindless that doesn’t glorify Jesus, provide for your rest, build into the lives of others, or accomplish some of the goals that He’s called you to, get up and stop it. Ditch it. Change. Grow. Let’s be a people that put our hands to the plow and refuse to look back, lest we be found unfit for service in the Kingdom (Lk. 9:62).
Pause for a moment: what has Jesus called you to do? Are you doing it? If you have difficulty hearing His voice, could it be because you’ve neglected what He’s said to you in the past?
It shouldn’t take a mountaintop experience or a natural disaster for us to evangelize and be obedient to Jesus, living holy lives that follow in His footsteps (1 Jn. 2:6). What if our regular prayer time with Him was enough to motivate and put a fire beneath us to preach the Gospel and be who we’ve been called to be, as His children and new creations in Christ?
Then the daily prayer time that’s been on our mental to do list since we got saved would finally become a habit. And the Bible reading plan we’ve had shoved in a drawer for years might be put to use.
Are you part of the congregation that would get fired for not evangelizing? Let’s receive the fire and love of the Holy Spirit to go tell others about Jesus. Even when people reject us, let’s love them still and rejoice, for great is our reward in Heaven (Mt. 5:12; Lk. 6:23). It’s by obeying His commands that we show Jesus we love Him (Jn. 14:21). By deeply loving one another, we show the world we love Him too (Jn. 13:35). We don’t act out of dead obligation, but because we’re doing great exploits as the Living Lord Jesus empowers us (Dan. 11:32). Maybe then, we’ll finally be able to check something off our to do lists.

Also posted on Thrive80:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Losing teeth, gaining wisdom

I sit here writing this morning with a dull ache in my mouth. When sharp pain woke me a couple hours before my alarm, I figured it was an early wake up call to write. I had an unexpected surgical procedure two days ago that I’m feeling this morning.
I’d been having tooth pain for a few months. Finally this week, discomfort made it difficult to chew on the left side of my mouth. I visited a dentist who specialized in wisdom teeth consultations and made an appointment this past Tuesday. The doctor recommended I have all four wisdom teeth removed, as my mouth didn’t have space for them. No room in the proverbial inn. He explained his calendar was booked till August.
A hygienist peeked into the room, smiled, and said, “Well, Doctor, you did have one cancellation tomorrow morning at 9.” A way had been made, and I was penciled in to have my four teeth extracted.
My mind was racing, and I asked as many questions as I could, before agreeing to make the appointment. I like to research. I like to understand. I like to ask questions. The dentist and hygienist answered as best they could. How long would recovery take? What would I be able to eat? Because the whole thing happened so quickly, there were several questions I didn’t think to ask until it was too late.  My mouth was quickly propped open with a piece of rubber and gloved hands were sticking metal utensils into it. Of course, new questions arose once I’d been stuffed full of gauze, and I had four less teeth.
The night before the surgery, I was scared. My fear was uncovered by getting my wisdom teeth out, but more broadly it was fear of the future and fear of the unknown. What would the pain be like? What complications could arise? What side effects could the medications cause?
My lack of knowledge was the fuel for my fear. I didn’t know what the procedure would be like. I hadn’t experienced it before. I wasn’t told very much, and I didn’t have time to do substantial research. I even wondered at one point if I might contract an infection that could prove to be fatal. The dentist had a strong Jamaican accent. I wondered what would happen if I couldn’t understand his instructions during the surgery.
Knowledge dispels fear. I had imagined the pain would be much worse than it actually was. The most discomfort of the procedure came from the pricks of the initial Novocaine shots. I squeezed the chair’s armrests firmly, and the worst was soon behind me. During the actual extractions, I didn’t feel much of anything.
Fear is false evidence appearing real. When the truth was brought to bear in my situation, my fear was dispelled and I renewed my trust in Jesus. Beforehand, people shared Scripture with me: “God has not given you a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.” Driving to the dentist, my mom said, “The Lord is your Helper whom shall you fear? What can man do to you?” I thought silently, “He can rip my teeth out!”
When I experienced the truth of the situation and my perspective became realistic, my fear was crippled. People wrestle with fears of rejection, failure, abandonment, and both physical and emotional death. My fear of the future extended beyond my wisdom teeth extractions. It was at heart a fear of rejection.
I thought I would be unable to talk for several days after the extractions. This fear of being unheard was strongest of all. I was intensely unwillingly to give up my voice. I imagined no one would listen to me. Being willing to surrender my tongue was both humbling and healing. I wouldn’t be able to defend myself, and I didn’t need to. The day of the surgery, after two hours of stuffing my mouth with gauze, I was not only talking but also singing praise to my Lord Jesus. Family members went the extra mile to help me.
I just graduated from Moody, and I got two jobs. I’ll be writing with New Life Community Church and working in the kitchen at a restaurant downtown. Again, the devil tries to paralyze me with fear of what people think. I’ve been asked things like: “Oh, you got a B.A. in communication and pastoral ministry to work in the kitchen?”
I don’t know what my future holds. But I do know the One who holds me. Though the details of my future are unknown, and people may outright reject me. I am known, and I am forever accepted by my Father and my Savior, who will never let me go (1 Cor. 13:12; Jn. 10:28-29). God wrapped Himself in human flesh in the Person of Jesus to free us from bondage to the fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15). Knowing His truth, makes one free – free indeed (Jn. 8:32, 36).

Also posted on Thrive80: