Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Troubles (John 16)

My life isn't perfect. Shocker! How about yours?

I have troubles, problems, issues, trials, battles, etc. How about you?

Too often we get caught in the false-belief that if we believe in God and follow Jesus Christ our lives should be great - everything should always work out, nothing should ever hurt us, we should never struggle with anything.

It's interesting that we all get caught in that mentality (and we do!). In fact, we can get so deep in that mindset that we find ourselves worshiping God more so that our life will work out the way we want it to and less because God simply is all-powerful, all-knowing, love and grace. Or, how about the opposite? You know when you haven't been to church in a while and you've been missing your quiet time, you haven't read your Bible...and then something bad happens, and you think, "If only I had done those things, I never would have blown a tire on the way to work."

It's silly but true that we think this way. And yet, Jesus told us exactly the opposite would be true.

As Jesus was on his way to the cross, he took time to explain to the disciples that they were going to have trouble in this world (John 16:33). He didn't mince words. He told them they would be persecuted as He was persecuted. He told them they would be opposed as He was opposed. He even compared it to childbirth - and I would like to tell you personally as someone who experienced 23 hours of that with my firstborn - that's for real, and I'm pretty sure Jesus didn't know anything then about epidurals.

Jesus told the disciples He was going away, it was going to hurt, and the world wasn't going to be nice about it. But then he said, "But take heart, for I have overcome the world!" (John 16:33).

Now I know that often in the moments of our deepest hurt that seems little consolation. I've been in places where I pleaded with God, "I don't care about later, just take away the pain now." I've been angry with God over suffering in this world. And yet, the Gospel (the Good News!) of our faith is that God didn't sit back and ignore our pain. God doesn't revel in our pain and see it as character-building. God did something about it for all-time in Jesus Christ. And though we wait eagerly, at times on our hands and knees and through our tears, for Jesus to return so we can get to the joy part, we know with absolute certainty that it is coming.

How do we know? Because Jesus went ahead and paid the price and paved the road. He did the dirty work. And so we wait patiently, though the mountains fall and the earth shakes, we wait and hold onto hope. We even rejoice, because no one can take away what Jesus has done for us!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A New Command

In John 13, Jesus is meeting with his best friends for a meal. He knows what's going to happen next, and as you can imagine, there is so much left that he would like to tell his friends. But first, he gets down on his hands and knees and washes their feet.

I don't know about you, but I feel awkward when people offer me compliments. I appreciate the encouragement, but I never know what to say. "Thank you" doesn't seem adequate and it always seems to imply that you think they're right, which feels arrogant. What do you think the disciples said to Jesus as he washed their feet? "Uh, gee, Jesus, thank you." I think the tension in the room must have been thick, the level of discomfort high, James probably pushed John ahead of him in line to put it off a little longer. They probably all hung back on the far side of the room and Jesus had to call them by name to come. Can you imagine this moment?

Well, if the level of discomfort was high while Jesus washed feet, then I think the level of relief and ease in the room must have been huge when it was finally over. I'm sure Peter was thinking, "Sweet, time to eat. Someone pass the wine." And all of the disciples kicked back, tired from their journey, weary from travel and ready for the Passover meal.

But, Jesus had more to say. First he tells them that one among them will betray him. They look around in confusion - "really, Jesus? After all this time and all we've been through together, you really think one of us is going to turn away from you now and sell out?"

Jesus understood their humanness far more than they did - the temptations, the fears, the insecurities and the weakness. And so, he gives them this most important commandment in John 13:34-35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Notice Jesus didn't say, "They'll know you're mine if you get everything right," or "They'll know you belong to me if you speak well and pray the best and build the best building." Jesus said, "They'll know you're mine if you love one another."

Jesus had taught his friends a lot in their time together, but more than anything he showed them real love. He showed them what it meant to go out of your way and be inconvenienced and abused for the sake of another. He showed them what it meant to see people we'd rather simply walk past. He demonstrated true brotherhood, the kind that stands up for friends and enemies alike and says, "no one will hurt you, not on my watch." He lived the love of a parent for a child, but he did it for everyone, and said, "I'll take the hurt and the pain so that you can be spared. I'll die so you can live."

We can't walk to the cross with Jesus, revel in his unbelievable love for us, and then keep it to ourselves. Jesus took his last moments, his most sacred moments with his friends and asked them to love each other. You might get dirty, you might get hurt, but it's the only way the world will know we belong to Him.

Monday, March 29, 2010

After the Message

Well, as many of you experienced, we shuffled the decks at Ashley Ridge yesterday morning and defied all expectations - I led worship and Jamin preached. I think we made our point. And yes, we've shuffled back for Easter for all of those worried about your ears going through another week of my singing.

Back to the point...yesterday was all about Jesus defying our expectations. Jesus tells Pilate in John 18 that he is a king...just not the kind of king everyone was looking for. The Jews living in Jerusalem thought they knew what the Messiah would look like and sound like and do, unfortunately, their message looked a lot more like Caesar than Jesus. So when Jesus came into the city on a donkey instead of a chariot, dressed in common clothes and talking about a kingdom not of this world, the people lost it - not in a good way.

We do the same thing everyday. We put God in our box and we look for the picture of Jesus we've come up with from our head, from our culture, from some book we read or some movie we watched; instead, Jesus says "listen, and I'll tell you who I AM and who you are in me."

We've talked for several weeks now about who Jesus is and what that means for who we are and how we act. We could talk about it for several more weeks and still not have a full picture of Jesus.

What if we give up defining Jesus and start trusting Him? What if we stop trying to understand and instead delight in the Jesus that died and came back to life and gives us the opportunity to do the same?

I'll be posting everyday this week as we walk with Jesus together through Holy Week. Keep reading John, especially chs. 13 and beyond.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lessons I'm learning from my 13-month old about planting a church:

1. Just because you can walk on your own, doesn't mean you shouldn't find a hand to hold sometimes. We all need a little help so we don't fall over in the rough patches.

2. Yelling louder doesn't translate to everyone understanding you better and doing what you want.

3. Be fearless. Trust that your dad has your back.

4. Dream big - nothing is impossible. As far as he knows, stuffed animals can talk.

5. Smile at strangers - you just might make their day and open the door to a meaningful conversation.

6. Be thrilled with the little things. Jacob thinks it's Christmas every time I walk in the door. (It's easy to get discouraged if you don't take time to celebrate all of the joys and victories, no matter how small.)

7. Take time to explore everyday. Creativity isn't found staring at a computer screen or sitting in the same chair day-after-day.

8. Love people - after all, the church is people.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fruit-Bearing (of a sort)...

In John 15, Jesus says that if we remain in him, he will remain in us and together we will bear a whole bunch of fruit. Meaning, if we stay connected to Jesus, we get to be part of changing lives and bringing hope and restoring the world to the "very good" God intended from the beginning.

Where to start? It can be overwhelming to look at the big picture and see all of the needs in our world. In fact, it can be paralyzing. So, we start with the piece of the puzzle God gives us and trust that if everyone takes a piece of the puzzle, God will ultimately make it whole.

It is no accident that we are planting Ashley Ridge Church at Ashley Ridge High School. We saw it as available space, God saw it as a mission field and an opportunity. There are more than 300 students at Ashley Ridge who qualify for free or reduced lunch, meaning their families live below a certain income level, an income level that is quite frankly startling. It's hard to imagine that we have neighbors we see and those we don't see who are living a vastly different life from our own - a life with a level of uncertainty that most of us will never face. A lot of these kids leave school in the afternoon and don't eat again until they come back the next day.

And so, we've made it our mission to partner with the high school to send these kids home with food - food for the evenings, food for the weekends, food for breaks, and food for the summer. Already, the stories have been remarkable. High school kids who take home a container of ramen noodles and split them with a younger sibling. Kids who stop by the food center and say "my dad's getting paid today, so can I come back later this week when the food's gone?" A special needs child who brings a note back from their special-needs parent written with a crayon on a full sheet of paper, simply saying "Thank you so much."

It is our privilege and opportunity to care for these kids. It's our privilege and opportunity to support the high school teachers, counselors, volunteers and administration as they work constantly to serve our kids. It's our privilege and opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world, bearing fruit all to the glory of God.

Details: this Sunday, please bring food to help us fill the Fox Food Center with enough food to send home with kids for Spring break. In specific, we're looking for things like individual-size cereals and big boxes of cereal, easy mac, pudding cups, pop tarts, honey buns, ramen noodles, fruit cups, any kind of little debbie type snack cakes, chef boyardee, instant oatmeal packs, instant grits packs, jars of peanut butter and jelly, popcorn, instant lemonade, a can of tuna or chicken and a box of rice, pasta, spaghetti sauce, or things like this.

Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches." Join me as we reach out in faith that God will do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine in the lives of these kids.

Monday, March 22, 2010

After the Message

Every community has a center (coach, team captain, that friend who keeps up with everyone, etc.)
Jesus is our center!!

There is a difference between cult leaders and Jesus. Both are dynamic personalities at the center of a community of followers. However, cult leaders often suck the energy from the whole for themselves and their own notoriety while Jesus is the strength and energy that gives life to the whole.

John 15:1-8
Jesus says, "I am the vine, my Father is the true gardener."
Think about it, the Bible is a story of God as the Master Gardener who first creates all things and then sets about to redeem creation after the Fall (Creation-Sin-Israel, God's vineyard-Israel, the degenerate vine-Jesus, the vine that can't even be destroyed by death)

Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches."
Our job is to stay connected. On our own, we don't bear any fruit. With Jesus, we are able to bear abundant fruit, all to the Father's glory.

Jesus is the center, the connector, the piece that gives strength to the whole. This isn't good news, it's great news because we only have so much time and energy to give, but Jesus never runs out and never stops pouring into us.

If we stay connected to Jesus, we're going to get all the nutrients we need. We're going to get all the time and attention and cultivating we need. We're going to get all the strength we need, the stability we need.

Bottom line - we remain in Jesus, He remains in us, together we change the world.

Check back tomorrow for more about our partnership with the Fox Food Center at Ashley Ridge High School - this is how we're going to bear fruit together as Ashley Ridge Church - I'm excited out of my mind!!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Great Example

This morning during my devotional time I came across a new church plant in Chicago called Soul City Church. I was captivated. In fact, I read their entire website and a good portion of their blog. I don't think I've read an entire website before. The pastors of Soul City Church are Jarrett and Jeanne Stevens.

Yesterday, I ranted about Christians who think the Church exists for them. Soul City is a great example of people who've left everything comfortable and safe to go where Jesus has asked them to go and be the Church for the transformation of the world.

I'll say no more, but please check out Soul City Church at their website and their blog and take a minute today to pray for their incredible ministry. I hope it encourages and inspires you as much as it did me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Church Isn't for Christians

Please forgive the rant that's about to occur. This is something I am extremely passionate about and therefore I tend to get a little fired up and high-pitched when talking about it (be glad you're reading and not listening). Anyway, here goes...

Jesus never intended the Church as a place for Christians to simply hang out. The Church isn't a place at all. The Church is people (you and me) who believe in Jesus Christ and because we do, we are sent together into the world to share the good news about Jesus with everyone else. Thus, the primary function of the Church is to reach the world. The Church isn't for Christians, it's for the world.

And so, we don't make decisions based on what we want and what we like. We make decisions based on what will effectively reach the people who aren't there. The Church doesn't exist to meet our needs. It exists as an avenue for us to meet the needs of others in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ.

The Church is not a social club. It is not a non-profit agency. It is not a social justice organization. The Church is the body of Jesus Christ. And if we're serious about being that body, then yes, we're going to help people. Yes, we're going to fight for the people who've been hurt by injustice. But, first and foremost, we're going to proclaim a message of hope in the name of Jesus to those who haven't yet heard or connected.

This means sometimes doing things that aren't our taste or interest. This means giving up our seat so someone new can sit in it, not claiming prior ownership. This means not getting so wrapped up in our preferences that we can't see the preferences of those we're supposed to be reaching.

I have a friend who went to a meeting last night and the person in charge of "older adult ministries" asked for suggestions about what event they should have for the older adults in their churches. What a ridiculous question! The Church isn't a bridge club or a bowling league. We're the Church. Maybe the older adults could get together and talk about how to make room for more teenagers to come. Maybe the older adults could spend time learning some of the music the teenagers like so they could worship with them.

We've got to get over the idea that the Church should suit our needs and instead start going out of our way and out of our comfort zones to meet the needs of those who don't know Jesus yet.

Rant temporarily finished.

Monday, March 15, 2010

After the Message

Yesterday was part 4 of the "I am not but I AM is" series. For more background, check out the previous weeks, especially week one.

This week we talked about John 14:1-7 where Jesus says, "I AM the way, the truth and the life."

We often think we know where we are going, and not only that, we often think we know where others are going or should go. (Just ask me, I always have an opinion)
The truth is whether it's street directions or life directions, we have a very limited perspective... Let's be honest, even a bird's eye view is nothing compared to God's view.

And so, the reality is that I am not the best GPS for my life, but Jesus is.

In John 14, Jesus is sharing a meal with his disciples and they're getting worried about Jesus leaving them. They had been with Jesus on an incredible journey and He had opened their eyes to so many things they would have never seen on their own. Now they're wondering where they're going to go without Jesus and if they'll even be able to see the signs.
Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me." In other words, "Calm down, I don't expect you to know everything, you've gotta trust me." Jesus goes on to talk about his Father's house and all the rooms it has and preparing a way for the disciples to come and be with Him. At this point, they're totally confused. Here's where I love the honesty of the disciples. Thomas jumps in and asks, "Jesus, we don't know where you're talking about so how are we going to know how to get there?"
What a great question. How often are you and I the same way? We think that if we know the final destination, we can figure out how to get there. We just want to know where the finish line is so we can then figure out for ourselves what we need to do to arrive at that point. It's easier that way. It's within our control that way. Hmm...

Jesus responds to Thomas, "I am the way, the truth and the life." In other words, I am the next direction. I am the destination and I'm also the only way to get there.

Bottom line, knowing where to go and what to do has everything to do with knowing Jesus.

And so,
Perhaps we should spend less time trying to chart our course and figure out the roadmap for our life and more time getting to know Jesus.
Perhaps we should spend less time telling others what we think they should do with their life and more time pointing them toward Jesus.

How will you do those things this week?

Friday, March 12, 2010

And the word of the day is...

SNARKY - originated as British slang; it's a word used to describe someone or something as testy and irritable in a sarcastic vein (my own interpreted definition)

I like the word snarky. It's fun to say and it's one of those words that sounds like what it's describing. In fact, it's hard to say without wrinkling your nose or curling your lip. Try it.

I think snarkiness can be humorous and in good fun, but I've made an observation that being snarky has become vogue in our popular culture in a way that is often degrading and sometimes rude. So many people are willing to say something snarky at another's expense simply to earn a laugh or a bump in their own poll.

Case in point, check out this article from today's Washington Post about American Idol - "American Idol Picks its Top 12". I'll admit the article made me laugh at the beginning, but by the time I finished I just felt put-off. I read another article I would also describe as snarky, but it was so highly offensive in its characterization of evangelical Christians that I won't direct you to it.

My point is simply this: we've gotten too comfortable at the idea of putting someone else down "jokingly" to get a laugh. I say that as someone who is often sarcastic and enjoys sarcasm in others. However, it can be a tool for tearing people down instead of building people up. Women, we are often guilty of doing this to our husbands/boyfriends/brothers when we get together, which is gossip in addition to tearing down. Guys, ya'll do it to each other in front of each other. Sure, that means you're not necessarily gossiping, but you are getting in the way of relationships that provide accountability and spiritual discipline.

There are lots of Bible verses I could point to, but for now let me simply offer I Thessalonians 5:10-11, which says "Jesus died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shifting Perspective

Here's your weekend challenge: Do Something Different

- If you typically eat cereal for breakfast, get up one morning and make some pancakes for yourself and your family or a good friend
- If you usually go to the gym in the morning, try going in the afternoon and see who else you run into
- If you drive to Target or Wal-Mart or the grocery store, try a different route
- If you usually go out on Friday night, try staying in and reading a book or having some friends over to play games (I highly recommend Scene It Squabble if it's a mixed crowd)
- If you usually stay in on Friday night, go out (if this requires a babysitter, do it!)
- If you don't usually come to worship, COME
- If you usually come to worship, STILL COME, but maybe come early to talk to someone new

The key is, do something different. When we mix things up, our perspective shifts and we often gain new energy. We're forced to look at things in a new way simply by experiencing something a little differently.

On Sunday at Ashley Ridge we're going to talk about perspective and this will get your brain in gear. But even if you won't be at Ashley Ridge, please try it. Change is good for the soul.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wrong Side of the Bed

I know it's corny, sounds cheesy, etc., but I had a wrong side of the bed morning. I woke up mad, moody and mean. Fortunately, no one else in my house was awake yet. I'm not really sure why I woke up in such a bad mood. Mornings are typically my favorite part of the day. I love being the first one up and having the living room to myself. I like looking outside and just thinking about the day from a relaxed perspective. I like having time to read my Bible and pray in the quiet and stillness.

Speaking of which, for those of you wondering where I'm going with this, I have to be honest and say my Bible reading didn't help. I finished Acts this morning and the last few chapters of Acts are about Paul arguing his case before this governor and that judge and this king. When he finishes doing that he shipwrecks for three months and then lives under house arrest in Rome with visits from ornery religious folks until he dies. Now I'm exaggerating the bitterness, there's lots of good stuff in those chapters. But, in the mood I was in, that was what I picked up.

The confession continues...I didn't pray when I finished reading because I told myself I wasn't in the mindset (for the record, this is never a reason not to pray). So, I went and got my bowl of Total with a banana and turned on the news. Now, I haven't turned on the news in a while b/c I cut out most television for Lent. I wasn't missing anything and this morning confirmed that. The news put me in a really terrible mood - idiot congressman, Toyota malfunction and Jihad Jane - you can see how this didn't help.

And then, Jacob woke up. I've never known Jacob to wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Instead he wakes up and immediately starts talking to the stuffed animals around his room. Sometimes he even starts laughing. But here's the cool part, I open the door and peek in and immediately he jumps to his feet, a huge smile spreads across his feet, he throws his arms out at me and exclaims "Mama!" He changed everything about my day in that moment. It didn't matter that he was completely soaked and I had to harass a sleeping Clark out of bed to help me give him a bath. It didn't matter that doing so put me behind schedule. Nothing else mattered, least of which Lindsay Lohan and e-Trade. My mentality changed and my heart melted.

When's the last time you made someone in your life feel so special, so loved, so valued and so appreciated that it changed everything for them? That's what Jesus does for you and me everyday.

This is what we talk about in Christianese when we say we need to be people filled with hope that we share with others. Filling someone with hope doesn't entail a theological dissertation or some by-the-book encouragement jargon. It's about taking the time to value them, love them and care about them in a ways that translates as "I can handle anything the world throws at me today because Jesus loves me now and loved me enough to die and secure my future forever."

It's time to get up on the other side of the bed.

Monday, March 08, 2010

After the Message

This is my very bad dog, Auburn. Sure, he looks sweet, and he is. He's a lover to a fault. He's so intent on being with people that he completely disregards commands such as, "Come," "Sit," and "Down." Friends send us text messages when they're around the corner from our house so we know to put Auburn outside and keep his barking from waking Jacob.

But here's the thing: "There are no bad dogs, only bad owners."

I own it, it's true. Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, would say that I need to be the leader of the pack. I try, but again and again I fail. I'm sure there are many reasons, but two that come to mind are my own instability and the bad habits I created by acting out of my own convenience.

Good news - I'm not leader of the pack...Jesus is.

John 10:11-13 - Pharisees think Jesus is just some guy who's messing with their laws and calling it a God thing. They think they're the leaders of the pack and Jesus simply isn't complying. They think being leader of the pack has to do with fear and submission...Jesus has a different approach.
Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd."
Immediately the good shepherd is contrasted with the hired hand. The hired hand has the option of running away when things aren't easy or aren't working out like he thought. After all, the sheep don't belong to him. In other words, the hired hand has the fight or flight option, the hired hand is in it to make a living.

Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd." The very nature of shepherd implies sheep - there is an intimate connection. The sheep belong to Jesus. He can't let them go astray, even if it costs him his life.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we are most often like the hired hand. Not always - kids are an exception, sometimes spouses :), and maybe a few close friends. Our instincts lead us to self-preservation while Jesus' instinct is sheep-preservation.

John 10:14-18
Here's where it gets really cool. At our best, we start to look outside of ourselves and care about the needs and desires of others. But Jesus not only keeps at heart the best interest of those who follow him, are like him, want to be with him, etc. Jesus goes after the disobedient, the ones nobody likes, the ones who are hopeless and blind. We wake up every day and take account of our lives and the lives of those we love. Jesus wakes up every morning and the first thing he does before assessing his own needs is account for all of his sheep. And when they're all accounted for, he says, "Let's go find some more."

Now there's a pack leader I want to follow.

Jesus is the shepherd and it's time for us to stop competing for the job and instead embrace our role as sheep - sheep who know their Master's voice and take time to listen for it, sheep who recognize their livelihood and future are entirely dependent on the Master's protection and His willingness to lay down his life for you and me.

How are you doing as a sheep?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Loving Your Kids

Do you know that the best thing you can do to love your kids is love Jesus? Seriously, the best thing you can do to care for your kids, provide for your kids, encourage your kids, etc. is have a passionate, ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. And yet, how often do we use our kids as an excuse for not spending time with God and pursuing that very relationship?

Do you know that the next best thing you can do to love your kids is love your spouse? Research consistently shows that kids mimic the relationships they see growing up. If we want our kids to be in healthy relationships, we need to demonstrate a healthy relationship. And yet, how often do we use our kids as an excuse for not spending time with our spouse?

Do you know that the next best thing you can do to love your kids is to spend time with them? Our society will give you 80 million places to send your child and things for your child to do that will enhance their intellectual capacity and make them the next greatest thing since sliced bread. Not one of them compares to the time you will give them to focus on them, have fun together and pray together. And yet, how often do we forego our relationship with God and our spouse for the sake of our child who we're sending somewhere else anyway so we can impress our friends with how advanced our kids are?

I'm not an expert. But for any parents reading this who spend a lot of time worrying and stressing about whether they're doing the right thing. Start here:
Love Jesus
Love your spouse
Be with you kids
No Excuses

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Being Around

In seminary they called this fancy names like "the ministry of presence," "incarnational living," and whatnot, but there's a very basic truth that at least 80% of ministry is done by simply being around others.

Let me give you a few examples:

Last week at my Bible study one of the ladies brought up a question regarding a friend of a friend who just got a scary medical diagnosis about the heart of their unborn child. Basically, the child has a hole in his heart and will require several surgeries immediately following birth and even with that the prognosis isn't good. The woman in my Bible study received an e-mail from the baby's father asking for advice and information because she is a nurse at MUSC in the children's hospital. In the e-mail, the father said he was too angry to pray, but asked her and others to pray to whomever and whatever they believe in on their behalf. The backstory is that this family does not have a church background. My friend asked how she could share her faith with them in this time and what she should say. We talked about it for awhile and phrases like "God's plan" came up, but ultimately we came to the conclusion that the best thing she could do for this family is be there. Be there to answer medical questions. Be there to pray. Be there to hold a hand if needed. Bottom line - be there. For those without faith, being there with others through something like that is nearly impossible because it forces us to confront our own mortality. As people with faith in Jesus, we have strength to be there and be strong for someone else because we know our mortality is safe in Jesus' hands. It's not the time to talk theology and explain who God is, but simply by being there we're demonstrating that faith. And someday, God will give root and growth to that planted seed.

Another example...Sunday night we hosted an evening of live music at Montreux's Bar and Grill. It was an opportunity to be out where people are. We never talked about Jesus, and the songs that were sung were not directly about Jesus either. Many I'm sure would question whether it was a "ministry" event. The answer: absolutely. Simply by being where people are as a community that celebrates good music and creativity and relationships, we were sharing Jesus.
I hear all the time from people that they're uncomfortable sharing their faith or they're not sure how. Another day I'll talk more about sharing your faith story and being bold in speaking the name of Jesus to others. But for today, I want to offer that the best place to start is simply to be around people - not just the people you like and not just the people who are like you, but be intentional about being with and around people. It speaks more than we often realize.

Monday, March 01, 2010

After the Message

Yesterday we talked about John 6:28-35 where Jesus says, "I am the bread of life."

Here's the thing - too many of us are walking around exhausted and burned out because we think (or at least we live) as though the world depends on us. We're afraid that if we don't do enough our kids won't turn out right, our job will fall apart, our marriages won't work, our livelihood will be in question, etc.

John 6:28 - the people ask Jesus what they must do to do the work God requires. Typical. The crowd thought they could add God to their to do list. They thought they could do enough to get in good with this guy who could walk on water.

Jesus answer: "The work God requires is this: to believe in the One he has sent."

Dang, you mean the world doesn't depend on me? I can't save myself? I can't work my way into God's good graces?

6:34 - Jesus comes all the way down from heaven to give life to the world. Catch that, Jesus does the work. Jesus gives life.

6:35 - "He who believes in me..." i.e. puts their trust in me, depends on me, let's me be the giver/sustainer/provider, "will not be living on an empty tank."

Jesus is the bread of the world - all on His own, Jesus gives life and sustains it.

We've gotta stop trying to be all things and do all things for all people. On our own, we'll burn out and we won't be able to do what God asks us to do well, which is believe in Jesus.

Who and what do you need to say "no" to this week? What good ministry do you need to let go so you can do the great ministry God has called you to do?