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Archive for the tag “On Mission”

The Bridge

I had a strange dream last night. I was on a rocky shore looking inland. I needed to get inland; I couldn’t stay where I was. I started to make my way around a jetty, but it was too hard to cross. Someone came along in a boat and helped me get around it. As I looked inland, I noticed a bridge in the distance. I knew I needed to make my way to the bridge, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it. From the shore, I found a path up the rocks to a door. I crossed through the door and found myself on a high ledge overlooking a rapidly flowing river. Someone behind me wanted me to go up this ledge but the way was scary. There were rock footholds along the ledge that allowed movement upward. The rocks were not stable; one fell as I grabbed hold of it. The person behind me kept telling me to go faster but I couldn’t. I was making my way to the bridge when I woke up.

Don’t you hate it when you wake up before the dream is finished? As I was in that in between state of full wakefulness, I contemplated why I needed to cross the bridge. I think it represented safety. The river was too rapid and would be my sure demise. The place where I started wasn’t any safer either. I had to keep moving toward my goal.

The dream reminded me of a way to present the Gospel message. I was told to draw a picture of two cliffs. One side is where we stand. The other side is where God stands. There is a wide crevice between us with no way to cross to God on our own. God gave us Jesus to be the bridge between us and Him. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). It’s only through Him that we can cross to God. There are many along our path that will point us to Jesus – the bridge. But we all have to choose to follow the narrow path to His door. He is the door we go through to eternal life. The way is always narrow, and the way is always fought with obstacles to make us want to turn back. The bridge though is what we truly want – peace is just on the other side.

I have known about Jesus all my life. I grew up in church. I had a Bible on my nightstand since I was old enough to read – even though I didn’t really read it unless prompted to do so. My Mom and Dad pointed the way to Jesus, but it was my own choice to follow Him. I haven’t always followed the path perfectly. I have strayed far and wide from it at certain times of my life. Jesus, though, always came looking for me. He never let me stay off the path for long.

I know many would say that there are more ways to heaven than going through Jesus. Many think that their good works will get them there. However, good works will be burned upon entry. If the good we do stands it will be like silver or gold; the dross will rise out of the fire and what remains will be purified. The good that stands are eternal good works – done for the “least of these.” The good we attempt on our own is like straw or hay which will be burned up upon entry. It will amount to nothing. Jesus taught that if we do good works with impure motives or acknowledge our works to others, it will not stand. The ones who do the will of God are the ones whose work will be purified through the fire.

God sent His Son to us as a babe in swaddling clothes. He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:32). At the time of His anointing, He began to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recover sight to the blind and to release the oppressed. He showed us the way to eternal life. Jesus calls us to follow Him. We are told to fix our eyes upon Him. When the way is rocky and the storms of life come, it’s only by His presence we will have peace to endure and finish well. Let’s not forget the reason for this season. Let’s keep our eyes focused on Jesus, our bridge to eternal life.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18 (NLT)

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Three Billion

As I tended to the plants in my yard yesterday, I started reminiscing. When I was in high school, I studied horticulture in my junior and senior years. I don’t remember what began the fascination with plant life, but I do remember taking care of my Mom’s house plants after we moved into our new house back in the mid 70’s. The new house had lots of windows, and plants were positioned all around. Dad and I did the majority of the landscaping at that house, and the houses that came after it.

I once thought I would go into that field once I graduated from high school and college. However, I applied for a part-time job at a local nursery for a summer job and got turned down. And the door slammed shut on that particular interest. I didn’t consider it any further as a career.

During my life, I turned from one passion to the next. Before plants, my passion was golf. I just knew I would grow up to be a professional golfer; until we moved to that new house in the new city – far away from a golf course. I still love golf and play every chance I get.

I followed college basketball and professional football for years on end. Certain teams at different times depending on the “star” at the time. It was NC State while Coach Jimmy V was there. Miami Dolphins were my team during the mid 70’s. Washington Redskins because my Dad followed the team. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and jump on the bandwagon when seasons are going well. I used to get so worked up about winning or losing. I stopped watching a few years ago when I was convicted about all the time I wasted watching television.

Recently, I listened to David Jeremiah talked about the signs of the times. In one of his messages, he talked about apathy. He explained the Greek for the word apathy – pathos is passion and an “a” in front means it’s “anti” whatever. So for apathy, it’s a lack of passion. To me, I don’t believe we have a “lack of passion” in the world today. Just look to the sports arenas throughout the world; there’s plenty of passion. I think it’s just the wrong passion or wrongly placed passion which is the problem today.

I see Facebook posts all the time about animals in trouble and people get stirred up about abuses. Or people get worked up about injustices. I’m not saying these are a bad thing. Are we stirred up for the right reason? Or are we stirred up for the right thing? Persecution. Abortion. How about the lost people of this world who will never hear about Jesus because they are in a place that is not open to the Gospel message?

David Platt recently had a message at Passion City Church where he spoke about the three billion unreached people who will never know or hear the name Jesus in their lifetime. Spiritually speaking, we all stand condemned unless we know the Savior who sets us free from our sins. If they do not know and will never hear, then they stay condemned and will be forever apart from God. Levi Lesko said recently that “good people don’t go to heaven, forgiven people do.” That can be quite shocking if someone is banking on the “good people” heaven theory (all good people will go to heaven). Or I have heard it said that all religions are the path to heaven. Well if that were the case, then Jesus didn’t have to die such a cruel death.

My pastor reminded us on Sunday, Christianity is the only religion where there is an empty grave. All the other religions, the founder has a grave where worshippers can go to pay homage to their prophet or god. But not so with Christianity; there is only an empty grave in Israel marked with a plaque. The resurrection happened and eyewitnesses wrote about the encounters with the risen Jesus. Throughout the centuries, people have died because of their passion for the risen Lord. All the disciples, except for John, were executed because of their testimony of the risen Lord.

The idea of a risen Lord should change any apathy we may have to one of complete joy and a willingness to go to the ends of the earth to tell others before it is too late. It begins with prayer for hearts to be softened for the Good News. David Platt quoted Carl Henry, an old theologian, “the Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.”

This message has been one to check my heart: passion or apathy? My passion has been misplaced throughout the years. I followed many things that were not worth my attention. Let the right passion fuel my life with the right focus on what matters to God. Three billion people separated for eternity should matter to me because it matters to God.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15 (NLT)

The Butterfly

I am feeling a bit uninspired lately. I am in between projects with no motivation to move onto something new. You ever feel that way? I know there are things I should be doing. There are multiple projects around my house that I could be doing. But nothing seems to be creating an interest for me. In the meantime, I’m thinking.

Andy Andrews threw down a challenge a few weeks ago that has me contemplating my future. He asked his blog readers to come up with a personal mission statement. Sounded like a good idea at the time, but as I read over his questions to consider for my mission statement, the more I withdrew from pressing into the project. I got overwhelmed with the task. I started then stopped.

Andy tells of the “butterfly effect” that what we do or don’t do matters. Each person creates a ripple effect that affects generations with the things done or not done. An example he gives is a person winning a noble prize for an agriculture breakthrough that changed crop outputs. That person won the prize, but really it could have gone to the one who inspired the winner to go into the field in the first place. Andy went on to tell how the winner was ultimately connected to George Washington Carver who began the whole process with all he did for agriculture progress. Each person contributed a small piece of the pie all the way back to Carver through the ripple or butterfly effect. Each person had an impact on another person through their actions even though they didn’t know it at the time. What we do or don’t do matters.

Andy gave me another thought about intention. Intention doesn’t do anything but convince the thinker they are doing something – their intention was good. But their follow through didn’t make it into an action. I am a good thinker, but my follow through has a lot to be desired. I can think of all the things I should be doing, but until I actually do something, intention gets me nowhere. There is no prize for intention.

In The Greatest Salesman in the World (Og Madino), there is a sentence in this month’s reflection that has been drawing my attention (pg 64). “The prizes of life are at the end of each journey, not near the beginning; and it is not given to me to know how many steps are necessary in order to reach my goal.” We are told “to persist until we succeed.” My pastor keeps telling our Church Body to take the next step. I am reminded that if I am still breathing, then there will always be a next step to take. But the thing is we have to know where we’re going in order to get there; hence, why we need a personal mission statement.

The personal mission statement sets boundaries for the future. We understand who we are, what inspires us, who we want to become and what stamp we want to leave as our legacy – ultimately – what is the butterfly effect for our lives. It’s the vision we want to cast for the future. It helps define our next steps and keeps us on the right path to get to our destination. It helps with making decisions that will lead us where we want to go without getting off course.

Andy got me thinking; but I haven’t come to the conclusion. I haven’t finalized the mission statement. I got stuck in the big picture. I know what I should be doing, but I haven’t found the right motivation to do it. I haven’t been given a next step to move forward. I am stuck in the process of thinking. Sometimes we just need help getting unstuck. Sometimes mud floods the road, and we can’t move forward without a little help. It’s not bad to ask for a little help.

Actually, involving others in our lives is a very good thing. It takes a willingness to open up and share where we are. But involving the right people to speak into our lives is the key. Just as we all need a personal mission statement, we all need a team of people as our “board” members like a corporation would have to evaluate company progress and make course corrections to stay on mission.

I need to get these things in place. Thinking about it won’t get it done, but it is essential in the process. To go forward, I need to fix my eyes on the prize, get my intentions and my actions working together and just do it. My new word is PERSIST until I am done with this life. Do you feel the wind shifting? The butterfly will take flight.

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Philippians 3:13b-16 NLT

Take the Time

For the last twenty-five years, my family has gathered at the beach for our annual vacation. There are now four generations gathered in one house for a week. We asked a few years ago if everyone still wanted to do this, and it was a vehement YES! My nephews have grown up with this annual tradition and were not about to let it go anytime soon. It’s a pretty special time. For about ten years or so, the house was the same. But over time, we have outgrown houses as the family has grown.

This year, the house we are in is the same one we’ve had for the last four years. It’s quite different from all the others. All the others have the basic necessities. This house is different because the owners are gifted in hospitality. Everything you would possibly need for a week’s stay is provided – not only all the small appliances, lots of pots and pans with ample dinnerware that could easily provide for a large family like ours.

But the real kicker that takes these owners over the top is the extras that are provided for our stay. One drawer is full of every type of plastic bag. There are storage containers of every size. One cabinet is filled with every spice you could imagine. Dish detergents, laundry supplies, cleaning supplies (even though we’re not required to clean); to me, it’s very thoughtful and much more than expected. I know we are paying for this hospitality, but the owners could provide the bare minimum – most do. They could get away with the bare minimum, but they have chosen to provide more.

When I heard Louie Giglio’s message about having an Open House, I thought of this house. Louie is teaching about the traits of a Jesus follower in his latest sermon series. We should exhibit hospitality as the norm. When Louie spoke about hospitality, I immediately thought of this beach house and its owners. These people know how to open their house to others. They share the blessings with others. Again, we’re paying for the blessings, but it’s more than what is expected. And yes, it’s evident the owners are Christian based on the scriptures placed around the house.

Louie says we should be known for our hospitality. We are supposed to do more than the bare minimum. We could do just what is expected of us, but what sets us apart are the extras that we provide for others on our paths. Most people love the ones who love them. Most people will be considerate of others to a certain degree. Most will give something for a cause or passion. But we are called to be different than what is expected.

Jesus gave us examples to live by. He taught with stories to show us how the Kingdom of God was represented on the earth. He taught the story of the Good Samaritan as an example of not only what He did for us, but how we are to treat others – our neighbors. The Samaritan not only bandaged the wound, but put the victim on his own donkey, took him to a place where the victim could heal and paid the price for the stay. Jesus said we are to do the things He has done. He gave us the example of serving when He stooped down to wash the disciples’ feet. Jesus taught to go the extra mile. If we have two tunics, give one to someone who has a need. We are to see a need and fulfill it.

I don’t know if you are like me, but that makes me feel uncomfortable. This gift of hospitality sounds much like generosity. By nature, it’s not who I am. I want to want this. I want to be different. I want to grow in this area. God gives us opportunities to grow in areas where we need to grow. The opportunity will most likely come from an uncomfortable place. We have to have eyes that see the opportunity. As the other two men who saw the victim passed him by, the Good Samaritan saw and stopped. He took the time to meet the need.

Louie pointed out in his message we are to be lights that are not hidden. Each day we are to let our light shine in the darkness. We are given these gifts to use them to draw others to God. Gifts are meant to be shared. We are told to be different – even if it means we have to get out of our comfortable place to do it. The house is a good reminder of who I need to become. Open and inviting. Willing to share what I have with others. To be the light to shine for Jesus and do what He did. To take the time to be a neighbor to someone today.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Fan the Flame

I think I’m in a rut. My routine is pretty set day in and day out. Even spiritually speaking, I think I’m in a rut. I haven’t felt the nudge from the Holy Spirit in a while. Did I move off the mark? Did my anchor slip? I think I just lost focus. I took my eyes off of Jesus. My fascination has been on the signs and wonders of what’s going on in the world. I do believe we are seeing the signs of the last days. This is not to say that Jesus is coming back in the next year or ten. That time is set by God. But I do believe He is coming soon. Maybe I’ll see it in my lifetime, maybe not.

But I am struggling with what to do. I should be focused on Jesus’ business – making the Kingdom known on earth before He parts the skies. At that point, the decision is made on who will be joining Him in the clouds. The rest will deal with the judgment that will come. (I’m a pre-trib girl.)

On Sunday, the pastor said that we should be living each day like it’s our last. Whether it’s because Jesus will come that day or we’ll be called to our heavenly home. To live like that, we’ll do everything necessary to live a fulfilled life. We’ll do what matters most and let the trivial things go. We’ll reach out to those on our path who needs something that we can fulfill.

Louie Giglio said in his Sunday message that we are to have an outward focus. We are the solution to the world. Jesus is the Savior of the world, and He uses us to be the solution. It’s a reminder that we are the light. We are not to keep Jesus a secret. His is not a secret kingdom with a secret password to enter. The door is open to anyone who comes and knocks.

Over the last couple of nights, I have been listening to Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live “Audacious” message from last year’s simulcast – it’s now on TBN and on demand. The message is about being audacious – having boldness beyond normal. We are called to be mighty for the Lord. We are not supposed to keep it to ourselves. The story is meant to be shared.

Jesus was a storyteller. Crowds followed Him to hear the stories and to be healed. They came to see Him do miracles. He taught them about the Kingdom of God through stories. Most didn’t get it. Their religiosity got in the way. They were being entertained not enlightened. But the children came, and it had nothing to do with what Jesus could do for them. The children felt the love Jesus had for them. They instinctively knew Jesus loved them. I think as adults we have become cynical to love. We don’t naturally feel the love and want to give it to others. I guess that’s why we need the Holy Spirit to help us in this regard. It doesn’t come natural to us; it’s a supernatural act.

In Beth’s book Audacious she wrote about falling in love with Jesus. Something has to compel us to do something. The love of Jesus in us will compel us to be bold in His name and for His glory. I made a note from the simulcast – we need to look for this one thing that will drive us for the rest of our lives. I think it’s the love that will drive us. Beth wrote about Peter’s encounter with Jesus on the beach after His resurrection. She asked the reader – Do you love Jesus? I mean, do you really love Jesus? Really, do you love Jesus? It’s not an automatic reply. It’s a think about it moment. Do we long to be in His word? Are we excited to spend time with Him? Do we bounce out of bed in the morning and rush to set down with Him for a morning chat? I can’t say that this is always my response.

When we think about loving someone, it’s a feeling but also an action. I have never known the love of a husband/wife scenario. I can imagine though the “swept off the feet” moments of romance that led to the marriage proposal. The thrill of the chase. The moments when passion over takes you, and you would do anything for your future mate. I can’t say that is the case with my relationship with Jesus. But it should be.

We should look for the romance with Jesus – we should ask for it. It should make a big difference in our lives. Religiosity should not get in our way to love Jesus and live for Jesus. There is too much at stake; time is short. We need the boldness for our lights to shine in this dark world. Ask the Holy Spirit to fan the flame of what has been entrusted in us. Let’s do it now and keep asking until boredom is replaced with passion to compel us to live each day to the fullest for His glory! Amen!

This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:6-7

Blindsided

One of my favorite television shows is Survivor. It’s a game played out on a remote island somewhere far away. It starts with 18 people of different backgrounds with different life skills and different game skills. The players have to outlast and outplay the others to remain on the island and ultimately become the sole survivor (and the million dollar winner). Each episode ends with a person voted out of the game. The one voted out can be blindsided by the vote. The people they thought were their alliance will turn against them; they don’t see it coming, and they are voted out of the game. No more chances to play; no more chances for the million dollar prize – they go home.

It’s interesting to see the dynamics shift. Bonds are formed. Alliances are made. You place great confidence in the ones who you think will take you to the end. But in the end, all the people are voted out of the game except for the one who will take home the prize. There is always a celebration at the end of the game. Everyone comes together to celebrate the winner. It’s a great game, and everybody on the show recognizes it’s just a game.

But what happens when we are blindsided by life? My next door neighbor was blindsided yesterday. They didn’t see it coming. They moved in about a year and a half ago. They were excited to have a new house. I remember the wife’s enthusiasm as they moved in and got settled. They have a small son. He’s too young to know what’s going on in the house today.

You see, about six months after they moved in, the husband was diagnosed with cancer. He did all the treatments and thought he beat it. It came back; and as cancer does, it came back in multiple places. They gave him about six to nine months until the cancer would take his life. He would be voted out of this game called life. He would exit the playing field. This morning, the wife and the son will wake up to a new chapter in their lives.

I watched a program last night on John Paul Jackson on Daystar. He too had a battle with cancer. I watched the program as he talked about beating the cancer. He talked about the time he discovered the cancer. He had been a runner and found the tumor one day while he was running. It came out of nowhere. Blindsided. He was very encouraging as he talked about how he trusted God through it all. God would see him through it.

At the end of the program, I waited to see when the program was originally on. It was dated 2014. I was hoping for a more current date thinking that maybe I had heard wrong. You see, I found out last year, John Paul Jackson lost the battle and died. I assume the cancer came back, and it beat him. We never know when circumstances will turn against us; when we will be blindsided by a diagnosis or the death of a loved one or anything else that knocks us down. But we have a loving Father who knows everything from the very first breath to the very last, and we can trust him to see us through each and every day – no matter what. Even if the diagnosis comes and the outcome isn’t good, God has a plan to get us to the other side of it. It’s a matter of trusting in the One who knows it all.

John Paul Jackson had a celebration in the end. When the battle ended, there was a celebration in heaven when he walked through those pearly gates. He received the greatest prize ever – a life with Jesus for eternity. I don’t know about my neighbor’s outcome. I don’t know where he stood with Jesus. I hope the prayers I offered on his behalf were answered, but I won’t know it until I go home myself.

We will all face those moments when we will be blindsided. There will be a moment in time when we don’t see it coming. Our friends and family can surround us, but it’s a moment when the only one you can have confidence in is the One who knows how the game will end. Our loving Father will never leave us or forsake us. He is trustworthy to get us to the end. He is also the greatest prize we could ever hope for. And the celebration that we receive will be amazing if we endure to the end.

A new chapter begins as the old one closes. My prayers will shift now to the wife and son who are beginning again this morning. The birds are singing. The trash has to be taken out. The lawn needs to be mowed. Life still goes on even when we have been blindsided. The moment comes when we have to decide to get up and trust God to work it out in the end. And He will because that’s what He does. Trust Him.

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:6-8

The Power of Hope

When I serve in my church body, I run one of the cameras for Live Stream and for taping purposes. I really enjoy it. The downside is the tech team does all three gatherings (we don’t call them “services”). By the third gathering, I am tired; and my focus can falter if I am not on my “A” game! This past Sunday was my Sunday to serve. We had a guest speaker whose name was Daniel Tyler from Arkansas.

Usually when we have guest speakers, the camera people have to be on their toes because most speakers move about the stage. My lead pastor is relatively stationary, so another speaker keeps us focused! This past Sunday, Daniel sat with one of the pastors on staff and did a sit down interview. Through the interview, we heard Daniel’s testimony. It had impact; there wasn’t a moment that I lost focus!

Daniel told us about his early years living in a broken home with addictive parents. His Mom was hooked on crystal meth, and his Dad was an alcoholic and abusive. Needless to say, his early years were very unstable. By the time he was in high school, his heart was ripe for an encounter with Jesus. A “fine” (Daniel’s word) girl invited him to go to a worship experience at her church one evening. Of course, he didn’t want to really go; but she offered to do “whatever” with him afterwards. Naturally, he was ready for the “whatever” and thought he could endure the church for one night.

That worship experience changed his life. He encountered Jesus in a very real and physical way. As he listened to the message of love, Daniel questioned if this love was truly real. Daniel prayed if Jesus was real to make His presence known in a physical way. Daniel felt arms wrapping around him from behind. It was a father’s hug that he wanted so desperately to feel. When Daniel turned around to see this man, no one was there. That hug changed everything for Daniel.

When he got to school the next day, one of his friends asked him if he was ready for the party that weekend. Daniel told his friend his life had changed the night before. Daniel told him he meet Jesus. His friend was like, “Dude, I’m a Christian too!” We all chuckled when we heard this. But Daniel told us his response to his friend. “We’ve been friends for ten years; you knew my family’s circumstances; you had the answer that I needed all along and you didn’t tell me?” Wow. Nobody was chuckling then. It brought tears to my eyes (all three times I heard it).

How many times have we had this kind of wake-up call? We might not have experienced someone confronting us with our “Christian” apathy in this way, but is it not a reality that we face every day? There are people we encounter who are struggling with issues that we have the answer to but never utter a word. I would have been the “friend” that could have said the same thing Daniel’s friend said. And Daniel would have been right in questioning my silence. Daniel walked around every day feeling worthless. He felt like his life didn’t matter. He fell into the patterns of his parents; drugs and alcohol. It’s what he knew. He was reckless and had no hope.

Jesus is the answer we all need. Jesus is our hope. James MacDonald’s message (Harvest Bible Chapel, Chicago) this past weekend was on the message of hope. Faith. Hope. Love. The trifecta of our Christian life. Faith in God. Love for one another. Hope for the future. Pastor James said “Hope is the confident expectation of better days ahead.” We are chosen by God to give a message to a dying world. This message of hope changes things. How is it we keep silent unless we just don’t understand its power?

Daniel’s life was redeemed; he has given the glory to God for the work that has come from his struggle. He now is working with at-risk youths. He works with the same juvenile detention center where he also spent time. How powerful is a testimony of God’s grace! Maybe our stories aren’t like Daniel’s; but Jesus also gave us a story of grace to tell. (I have written my story out in book form and published it this past week!  Please check the “My Books” tab on this website for the links to purchase or go HERE for Kindle or HERE or your favorite download site for another version. Thank you!)

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11–13, esv).

The Championship Team

Last week was an anniversary that I had completely forgotten this year. One of my college friends posted a picture of a plaque she received on the 20th anniversary of NAIA National Championship won by our women’s basketball team. She was the point guard, and I was the manager of the team. We had different roles on the team, but we got to experience the same event. It was an exciting year in my life.

We were the Cinderella team that won the title. If you had asked any of us just a couple years before that championship year if we would be in a national title game, we would have thought you were delusional. I joined the team my sophomore year (it was also the coach’s first year as well). We only won five games that year. It was a transitional or building year. The next year we did better. Our coach had recruited well.

We were a much different team with the new recruits. However, it wasn’t really about the quality of the players. We had chemistry and functioned well. There was a unity on the team that was remarkable. By the third year, we were almost unstoppable. We did lose five games that year. I don’t remember too much about the losses except for one we had on the road in New Orleans. It was a Christmas break trip. We faced a scrappy team that played more “street ball” style than “play book” style. We lost by about a dozen points.

The reason I remember this team over the others was because we faced them again in one of the playoff games before the title game. When we faced them the second time, we knew their game plan. Our coach had counter moves to thwart their play. We ended up winning by about 18 points. That last week of our season was completely March Madness!

My friend’s plaque reminded me about that time in the past, but I heard a message about unity that brought to mind something deeper. The message spoke about Jesus bringing unity through His life and death. Before Jesus died on the cross, He recruited a bunch of rugged men who were diverse in their backgrounds. The team He formed had fishermen to tradesmen. There were two though who were extreme in their differences: a Zealot and a Tax Collector. Who in the world could bring unity to this bunch? The Tax Collector (Matthew) would have thrown the others into a tizzy. Matthew was a hated man among the Jews.

Yet, Jesus saw the diversity and called it good (I assume). The disciples each had different gifts and different roles. Judas Iscariot was the treasurer of the group; not Matthew. Judas was trusted with the money, even though he shouldn’t have been since he regularly “helped” himself to the funds. Matthew would have been trusted with nothing since everyone knew Tax Collectors regularly “helped” themselves to the taxes paid by the citizens of the country. But Jesus taught them for three years how to live together and actually love one another (in the end).

In the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray Him before He called Judas Iscariot. Peter, one of the twelve, had something gnawing in his gut about forgiving someone. He asked Jesus how many times someone should be forgiven. The answer: seventy times seven or don’t keep score! Maybe Peter had problems with Matthew or maybe the “loved one” John. But the team had problems; they were too unified in the beginning. By the time Jesus died, everything changed then. In His teaching, Jesus was adamant about loving one another. He instructed them over and over this is how others will know they were part of Jesus’ team.

Just as my college team was unified for a greater purpose, we as followers of Jesus are to be unified as the Body of Christ. There should be no division in the Body of Christ. We stand on the foundation of Jesus and work together as a Body with one Head – Jesus – who directs us in the mission. We all have different roles but the same purpose – to proclaim the Good News of Jesus! Others will know us by our love for one another – it was a commandment by Jesus!

Without the unification of Jesus, the disciples would not have brought the message beyond the borders of Israel. They would have scattered without getting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But because the disciples were true to Jesus, we are here today proclaiming the same message that was given 2000+ years ago. We don’t get national championship rings with the victory we are given in Christ; we get a crown that lasts for eternity! Now that’s something to remember and really celebrate! Let’s get in the game and finish well for the winning team!

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16

Building Community

A couple of weeks ago, Andy Stanley blew up the “twitter sphere” with some comments he made in one of his messages. I heard the message that Sunday and knew there might be some offense taken from his message. The next Sunday, he apologized profusely for his “offensive” comments. He listened to his message and understood why the internet blew up – he heard what he said and how it came across. He said he heard his voice speaking the words, but the words were wrong; not conveying the message he wanted to deliver.

I won’t go into the message, but it had to do with the smallness of some churches. Growing up in small churches, I understood what he was saying because it was a “been there, done that” kind of recollection for me. I got the message in the context that he was trying to convey. And I knew his heart of the matter and he doesn’t speak unkindly about small churches. Small churches and large churches each have their problems in reaching the people – young and old – with the message of the Gospel.

Last Sunday, I sat in a small church in my hometown and thought about Andy’s message. But what I thought about was the context of the community in that small church. At the end of the gathering time, the preacher opened the front of the church to those who wanted to come pray or to come forward with a decision. There were many who gathered at the altar to pray. What struck me was the fact that it wasn’t individuals coming to pray, but couples or friends gathering to pray together. They were praying for one another. It showed me that we are not meant to walk this path alone. We are supposed to be in community with one another – helping each other walk this walk.

The church where I belong is a large church. If it wasn’t for the small group that I attend, I wouldn’t feel a part of this large church. I would just be a face in the crowd. I joined this church about four years ago and have developed friendships with those in my small group. But at times, I still feel disconnected even in the small group. I can put as much effort into the relationships as I desire. It takes intention- whether in a large church or a small church. We have to make the effort to connect. Relationships are the key to become a community.

Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time talking with my neighbor that lives across the street. She is a sister in Christ, and we have been praying for another neighbor as this neighbor goes through a very difficult time. She updated me on some good news, and we rejoiced together in one of our prayers being answered. As I walked away from the conversation, I realized this is what community in Christ is all about. We have an obligation to reach out to those around us. My neighbor has formed a relationship with the mutual neighbor and is able to speak about Jesus to this neighbor. I don’t have the relationship that she has and haven’t had the opportunity to encourage the mutual neighbor. Until the door of opportunity opens, I will continue to pray for the fruitfulness of the connection already formed.

I am excited to be a part of a greater plan. We all have to make the effort to form relationships we can foster and encourage one another as we walk along this journey. We are to be in prayer over one another and offer those who have difficulties the Good News of hope and salvation. God is at work in the community. We all have the opportunities to be a part of what God is doing around us.

The church isn’t about a building but a people. We are the people of God who gather together in a building or house to support one another. It’s not about a denomination. We are one body with one Head – Jesus Christ. The gathering size doesn’t matter – whether large or small. Community matters and reaching out to others is our mission. Prayer is the fuel for the power source of the Holy Spirit to deliver the Good News to all who are ready to hear. When we work together, we can do mighty things for the Kingdom.

Make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace [each individual working together to make the whole successful]. There is one body [of believers] and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when called [to salvation]— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all who is [sovereign] over all and [working] through all and [living] in all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (AMP)

The Love of His Story

If you would have asked me a few years ago if I loved history, I would have looked at you as if you were crazy! But for the last few years, I have been fascinated by events of past and present. When I look at the past, I can see God’s hand moving things into place. I need a bit of help to see so I read all that I can read. History is a bit fickle though as it is determined by a point of view. Some of the time, the point of view is accurate enough to get a glimpse into the world at that time.

Jesus’ life is written down for us by four men who give us a slight variation in the details. Each man tells the story of Jesus from the point of view in which the writer can relate, and for the audience who will eventually read it. Matthew took his writings to the Jewish community. Mark did a quick overview of Jesus, hitting the high points. John was the longest living disciple and wrote his version near the end of his life. His view point took a higher view of Jesus. He saw Jesus as the Eternal One – from the beginning of time until the end of Jesus’ life to the eternal life to come. Luke on the other hand, was not a disciple. He was an investigator. He went to the ones who witnessed the events of Jesus’ life and reported on those things.

John should have been the one who told of the birth of Jesus. Ancient writings (or traditions) teach us that John took care of Mary until her death. He probably heard so many stories of Jesus’ birth, the family running from Herod, what they did, where they went, Jesus’ childhood; yet, John mentions none of these things. Luke, however, gives us the birth narrative. Luke gives us the stories Jesus taught; he gives us the healing encounters; everything that we could possibly want to know about the living Savior of the world.

I think we forget the Gospels are books written just a few years after Jesus’ life. These books could have easily been destroyed as nonsense by those who would have known the truth of these accounts. Yet, the Bible is still being validated each and every year. The Book still survives the test of time. There is no other book in history that has the number of manuscripts that validate it than this Good Book. Nothing can compare.

When I first started reading the Bible, I was fascinated by the stories. Originally, I thought this was the complete book of history. I thought it accounted for the Chinese, the Incas, the ancient societies that were talked about in my history classes. It wasn’t until I understood the Bible isn’t the Book of History, but the Book of His Story that things started to make sense. God’s handy work was evident by the events recorded in those ancient manuscripts.

When I consider the events of today, I imagine it’s a bit like those times in ancient culture. At the time of the writings, they probably didn’t understand the significance of the events. It’s with hindsight that gives the greatest view point. In a few years time, we will probably look back to 2015 as a pivotal year. The year gay marriage was upheld in the highest court. The year ISIS took over a vast land. The year Iran was allowed to maneuver their agenda to the signing table with the world watching. The year terror hit the west once again. On and on, we could mark the year of significance.

What fascinates me even more is the prophecies that are coming true as things align to bring events to the ultimate completion. I don’t know what the future holds for us in this next year. I suppose even more events will rock our world. There will be more natural disasters that will devastate us. There will be more death and destruction as Satan realizes his time is growing even shorter. He is becoming angrier with each passing year. But I don’t find any of this distressful. I have more hope than I have ever had. I find God working His plan exciting and hopeful; that people will see His glory and respond in greater ways. I see a revival of the Body of Christ. I see a vast army standing up in one accord – with one faith, one hope and one Head – Jesus Christ.

It’s going to get very real. It’s going to cycle around once again; for history to repeat itself. The Book of Acts will come back to life. The Body of Christ will once again learn how to make disciples and share the Good News to all who are ready to hear. I believe the Holy Spirit will be poured out in dry places, and the Body will have new life and new power. 2016 will be a year of significance like we’ve never seen before. Get ready; hold on for the ride of your life! Watch God work in amazing ways. And remember, we are here for such a time as this!

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. Psalm 118:17

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