Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No one, anywhere, under any circumstances, is beyond the reach of the Gospel.

If the conversion of Saul teaches us anything, it is that “no one, anywhere, under any circumstances, is beyond the reach of the Gospel.” That’s what we learned last Sunday as we looked at the unlikely conversion of Saul, and it’s what I had to remember today when I went to get my hair cut. Truth is, I think the haircut is a bit expensive, but it’s a small price to pay for the privilege to share Christ.

Every time I go to the barber, we have a great conversation. He tells me what’s going on in his life and I tell him what’s going on in mine. Much of the stuff going on in his life is not easy. Some of it is his fault and some of it isn’t, but in the end I think it’s God trying to get his attention. Just like Saul, God is breaking into his life subtly and suddenly prodding him to believe and receive Christ as his Savior.

In reality, Saul was anything but deserving of being saved. After all, he was almost solely responsible for the persecution of the early church, yet, God loved him so much that He showed up suddenly in his life, blinding him with a bright light, vv. 3-4.

3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

That is often the way it works. Suddenly and without warning, God steps onto the scene and gets our attention. Maybe it's the sobering words of a doctor who says, “your biopsy isn’t good.” Or the unexpected news that one of your children has been in an accident. Amazingly, the jolt awakens our senses, and we suddenly remember that we are not in control, . . . no matter how wealthy, how educated or how accomplished we are.

For more than three decades Saul controlled his own life. He did everything he wanted to do; went everywhere he wanted to go; told people everything he wanted to tell them; and, probably, even bought everything he wanted to buy. But, SUDDENLY one day, EVERYTHING changed. No longer was he in control. Before he was standing and now he is kneeling. Before he was seeing and now he is blind. Before he was telling others what to do, and now he is being told what to do. And, before he is leading and now he is being led.

The most fascinating thing in this story is what God does next. Rather than “kick him while he is down,” God reaches out in grace towards Saul and offers him both forgiveness and a future, vv. 5-6.

5"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.  "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

Saul never got over the grace of God that took hold of him on that fateful trip to Damascus, Philippians 3:12.

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Literally in the Greek it says Christ Jesus arrested me. How ironic! PAUL WAS ON HIS WAY TO ARREST CHRISTIANS AND ALONG THE WAY, CHRIST ARRESTED HIM. I am praying now that God would use the circumstances in my barber’s life to “arrest” him, believing that “no one, anywhere, under any circumstances, is beyond the reach of the Gospel”

I wonder who you have in your life that you want to see saved. Maybe it’s your barber. Maybe it's a family member, a boss or an employee. Maybe it’s a mate or one of your children. Well, don’t give up. Remember that if the conversion of Saul teaches us anything, it is the fact that “no one, anywhere, is beyond the reach of the Gospel.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Making Disciples

I grew up in a church where we went to Sunday School, Church, Sunday night service and prayer meeting. We even had “youth group” before the Sunday evening service. Typically then I went to church at least 5 different times a week. There aren’t many churches like that anymore for which I am sort of glad.

Yet, I will say one thing about the “good old days”, it was a lot easier to “measure” someone’s spirituality then than it is now. All you had to do then was look around and see who was coming to church. The more services you attended the more spiritual you were. Right? Well, not necessarily. Jesus in his last words to his followers said “to make disciples.” (Matthew 28:20) In those days it was assumed that the more services you went to the better disciple you were. That may have been true, but it wasn’t guaranteed. I tend to agree with the old adage that “Going to church doesn’t make you a disciple any more than going to a garage makes you a car.” That was true then and it is certainly true now. So if going to church doesn’t make you a disciple what does? And how do we measure spiritual maturity?

For one I think it takes more than going to church. Going to church can be a tool for making disciples. Jesus often preached to large crowds, but the most compelling conversations he had were with individuals, conversations that were informal and seemingly unplanned. Jesus challenged people like the rich young ruler to go and sell all that he had. He invited the tax collector to come down from the tree for he was going to his house. He spoke to the woman at the well when no one else would give her the time of day. He also spoke to the woman caught in adultery after everyone else had left and He comforted people like Mary and Martha over the loss of their brother and His friend. He restored Peter with the calling to “feed His sheep.” And the list goes on and on.

Truth is the “old” approach to discipleship though it was simple to implement and measure did not always make disciples. For instance I went to a church where there were at least 300 on Sunday morning but only 30 or 40 on Wednesday night. So if we were depending on the pastors message on Wednesday night to make disciples we were only making disciples of barely a 10th of the congregation. The old approach then of “one size fits all” didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Jesus’ commands were not for the pastor or even a few talented teachers to make disciples but for ALL of us to make disciples. So here is my question, “How are you doing at making disciples?” “Who are YOU meeting with both in small groups and individually?” Whose life are you building into and who is building into your life? If we insist on discipleship being in large groups only, then we are going to miss the majority of our audience, but more importantly we are going to miss obeying Christ’s command and after all isn’t that what it is really all about.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dance Like No One is Watching

Now that I am a grandparent, I have a lot more patience. Maybe it's because I can send them home! But one thing I wish I would have done when my kids were younger is relax more and "enjoy the journey." Unfortunately I can't go back and do it all over again but I can try to relax and enjoy the journey where I am. Maybe that's why this story and the accompanying verse mean so much to me today. I'm not sure of the original source but my brother in law sent it to me today, so I though I would just share it with you. It was forwarded to him in a MVNU Education Department Newsletter.

We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough and we’ll be more content when they are. After that we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with, we will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage.

We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire. The truth is there’s no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when?

Your life will always be filled with challenges. It’s best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway. One of my favorite quotes comes from Alfred D Souza. He said, “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin -real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way, so, treasure every moment that you have. And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time…and remember that time waits for no one. So stop waiting
until you finish school,
until you go back to school,
until you lose ten pounds,
until you gain ten pounds,
until you have kids,
until your kids leave the house,
until you start work,
until you retire,
until you get married,
until you get divorced,
until Friday night,
until Sunday morning,
until you get a new car or home,
until your car or home is paid off,
until spring, until summer,
until fall, until winter,
until you are off welfare,
until the first or fifteenth,
until your song comes on,
until you’ve had a drink,
until you’ve sobered up,
until you die, until you are born again
to decide that there is no better time
than right now to be happy…

HAPPINESS IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION. So, Work like you don’t need money. Love like you’ve never been hurt and Dance Like no one’s watching.

"for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13.