~~i want to be everything you dreamed when you called my name~~

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On Loving a Dying World

So Pastor Jim was preaching tonight on love...the general jist of his message was that to know God is to know love. And faith expresses itself through love (Galatians 5:6). We can't truly have faith in God - truly believe God - until we love others the way the God loves others. At one point he (Pastor Jim) said, "love will begin to make you care about the dying world around you..." And that really got me thinking...

There are so many people in the world who are hurting, and who desperately need Jesus - who need to know Him as their Savior. Unfortunately this isn't the reality we oftentimes choose to live in as Christians. People need Jesus! Everywhere we turn, there is evidence of a fallen world, a world so desperately in need of love. And I started thinking about the hundreds of people who I come in contact with who need Jesus...of the thousands of people in this city who need Jesus...of the millions of people in this country who need Jesus...of the billions of people in the world who need Jesus. And my first response was something like, 'right Lord - what am I, one person, going to do'. And His response was...

Have faith in me. Believe that I am big enough to handle this. Trust that I will use you - right where you are - to accomplish my purposes.

Wow! Then I was lead to John, chapter 6 - Jesus was teaching the crowd that had followed Him, and He saw that they were hungry, so He asked the disciples where they could buy enough food to feed everyone (I laugh, because Jesus obviously knew what was coming...yo! disciples - where's the nearest grocery store?!). Anyway - the disciples told Jesus that they would need to work for a month to feed the crowd sitting before them - and they brought to Jesus all that they could find...5 loaves of bread, and 2 small fish (these fish were like the size of sardines...). And we all know what happened next - Jesus, took the food, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples to feed the crowd. John tells us that there was more than enough (vs. 13).

Great, Stacey - so what does this have to do with loving the world? Well, I started thinking about the little boy that the disciples got the 5 loaves and 2 fish from. Do you think he went home to his mom that night saying, "Guess what I did today?! I fed thousands of people, not one person didn't have enough to eat - I'm so amazing!" I don't think so...I'm thinking that this little boy was amazed by what Jesus did, and was never the same again.

Which brings me to us loving the many lost people in this fallen world. So many times in life we approach a situation with our 5 barley loaves and 2 fish - wondering what in the world God could ever do with it. But that's all God has asked us to do - to show up with what we have, with whatever we have packed in our lunch for that day, and trust that it will be enough for Him to accomplish His purposes. Don't you see how that takes us out of the equation - we just get to 'sit back' and wait in amazement as we see what our Creator will do this time!

The Bible says that our Father is going to send us off into every day with exactly what we will need to accomplish His purposes for that day (Philippians 4:19). As each day unfolds, the events may surprise us, but they don't surprise Him! All He asks is that we offer what little faith and courage we do have to Him, and He will make it enough.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pointing to Jesus

God's ways are often surprising, yet He often graciously prepares us in one way or another to understand them. Through Isaiah, God declared that He would provide a "voice" before the appearance of the Messiah to alert the people that the day was approaching (Isaiah 40:3). The "voice" Isaiah was referring to was John the Baptist, who was sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus (see Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4; and John 1:23). Isaiah included many details that would help the people during that time (and us!) to identify this messenger.

Bear in mind that John was not the voice - he was only a voice. His purpose was simply to point to the voice - Jesus Christ. When the priests and Levites questioned John as to whether or not he was the Christ or Elijah or "the Prophet," he emphatically stated that he was not, specifying that his role was to be a voice (John 1:19-23). At long last, John was able to make the announcement: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes awy the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

John's voice implored people to turn from their sins and follow God (Matthew 3:1). This forerunner of Jesus realized that the people needed to be willing to listen to God in order to recognized God's Son for who he was. Sounds like something we need to be able to do too...

John was no ordinary prophet. He made his home in the desert, wearing rude clothing made of rough camel hair and eating locusts and wild honey (Mark 1:6). He may not have been the poster-child for Jesus that we were all hoping for - been when, really, has God operated in the realm of what we expect in this crazy world. What's even cooler (I think), is that John - this crazy man - didn't travel to meet the crowds - instead, the people came to him.

It would have been an easy task for John to establish his own following and give birth to his own movement - the people were following him around, asking questions, seeking answers...but he resisted his temptation, recognizing that his life's calling was simply to prepare people to open their lives and hearts to Jesus. Even when John's disciples argued with Jesus' disciples about which of the two was greater (thinking about this makes me chuckle...the disciples - like us - were so often too concerned with verbally 'proving' God, instead of just letting Him do the work and the proving!). Anyway - the two sets of disciples are arguing, and John allows no room for doubt, stating that "He must because greater, I must become less" (John 3:30). You see, John knew that once Jesus appeared on the scene, John's task was complete, and he was content to fade into the background.

God wants each of us to be a voice for him as well. Our purpose is to point people to Jesus rather than to demonstrate how good we are, or how committed we are. Wow - did you hear that?! Our purpose is to point people to Jesus rather than to demonstrate how good or how committed we are. And the message we call out is the same as John's - that God wants people to turn from their sin and give control of their lives to Jesus. We are called to be faithful to God wherever he places us - in the city, in the desert, in our schools, in our workplace, in the midst of a crowd of friends, in our secret quiet place.

But wait, there's more...we are called to be more than Jesus voice - He asks us to be his hands and feet as well. In our awesome Father's name, we are to feed the hungry, offer a cup of cold water to the thirsty, show hospitality to the stranger, clothe the needy, look after the needs of the sick, and visit those in prison (Matthew 26:34-46). (check out my friend Nicole's blog about this...I put a link at the bottom...) We are called to be Jesus' hands and feet - and too often I think we take a look at that responsibility and decide it's too difficult, it's too dirty, it's not for me. But the writer in Hebrews urged us to "keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:1-2).

Don't think you have to do this alone! Ask God to reveal to you ways that you can be Jesus' voice, hands, and feet today...and every day.

Nicole's blog: