Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns

Does Jesus still change lives today? The answer is a resounding, "Yes!" and for proof, look no further than The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. Stearns takes you through his journey from successful business man and CEO, through the heartbreak of poverty and starvation in Uganda in which he realized being a Christian with his resources should demand something more than a check in the offering plate. He takes you through his experiences on his road to World Vision where he would take the reigns in 1998. He uses his real life situation to challenge the American church to wake up and fill what is missing in our gospel, which is love and service to our fellow man.

The only drawback to this book was that it was hard to get into at the beginning. The first 50-100 pages seemed to drag as the author searched for his style of writing. After that, the book picked up pace, especially in it's challenge to modern-day Christians. I was challenged by this book and would definitely recommend it to others.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Land of Egypt

Last week our VBS focused on the life of Joseph. As we studied his life I couldn't help but notice how God was cultivating Joseph in the midst of trials and unfair treatment. From being sold into slavery by his own brothers to being cast into prison by the false accusations of a spiteful woman, God humbled, matured and grew Joseph into the man that not only Egypt would need, but that the Hebrew nation would need as well. Yet, in the midst of these trials, Joseph has no indication of how long each trial would last, nor does scripture ever state that God explained Himself to Joseph. Yet Joseph remained faithful through every hardship. Not until he is able to look back with perfect hindsight is Joseph able to say to his brothers, "What you intended for harm, God meant for good" Genesis 50:20.

What's your Egypt? When have you faced trials and mistreatment through no fault of your own? Some of us might be inclined to question, doubt and blame God for our misfortune. I implore you however, pray for wisdom (James 1:5) and think to yourself, "What others have meant for harm, God intends to use it for good." Be like Joseph and look for opportunities to use your God-given abilities to help others. Stay faithful, because you may be just the right person God needs in your situation.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

War of Words- Friends

Part 5 of a Series

"No longer do I call you servants... but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:15

Friends of God

There is a popular praise song that proclaims, "I am a friend of God... He calls me 'friend!'" The refrain is loosely based on John 15:15 where Jesus calls his apostles 'friends'. So we Christians like to walk around proclaiming ourselves to be friends of God and friends of Jesus, not knowing that some people in the world think us extremely arrogant for thinking of ourselves as such (not that it is wrong to do so, but we must remember we are friends by Jesus' merit, not ours.) Then when we evangelize we invite people into this "friendship" with God and some respond, but others give us a quizzical looks because, let's face it, friendship with a Deity is a mind-blowing concept.

"Will you 'friend' me?"

Facebook has transformed our use of the word friend. A word that was but a few years ago used exclusively as a noun is now used as a verb. The phrase "friend me" has become an invitation to follow our online personae as we update the world on what we are doing, feeling, seeing etc. It's as if this one social network, which has many positive uses, also has a dark side that tempts us to feel as if we are the center of our own self-made universe, and this universe is measured by the number of 'friends' we have.

Recently my 'universe' grew to over 230 friends. My sister has over 500. I even have a couple of 'friends' whose count is closing in on the 1,000 friend mark. But are these people truly our friends? Are they friends in the same sense Jesus calls His followers friends? Most of us would say no. There is no way that 1,000 people are sharing intimate moments with us. Only a fool would share the secrets of his life with 500 different people. Friends grow through trials, troubles and toils. Friendship takes work and effort to cultivate trust and communication, and for us mere humans, this is difficult to do with 3 or 4 people, much less 230.

So the facebook 'friend' is most likely an acquaintance. It may be someone we knew long ago and are interested in what they are doing now, but we don't share our secrets and trials with them anymore. Others may be people we know by face and name only. We might work with them, but we don't really know them. Still others might be friends of friends, so out of sheer curiosity we follow their postings. Acquaintances, workmates, former friends, these make up the facebook world we live in, but we should not think of them as friends, because in the truest sense of the word, they are not.

The Disconnect is Our Fault

Do you want to know why people look at you funny when you call yourself a friend of God? Do you really want to know why the dubious expressions when we invite them to be friends of Jesus? Here's the reason. Too many people say they are friends with Jesus when they are really a mere acquaintance. They view Jesus like a list of friends on facebook. They may have walked with Him long ago, but have since fallen out of step. They are interested in what He's saying or doing, but they don't have any real relationship with Him. They don't communicate with Him. They don't work on cultivating trust in Him. When trials come, they pray to Him, but it's for mere deliverance, and not for growth and maturity. They are acquainted with Jesus, but they do not know Jesus, and the difference is vast and catastrophic. And the saddest part, is that a world that desperately needs to see what a friendship with Jesus looks like, instead sees what you see on a facebook page; glimpses and snapshots, but nothing of real depth or meaning.

What about you? What does your relationship with Jesus look like? Are you helping the cause of Christ or hurting it by your example? Jesus needs some real friends to introduce Him to a hurting generation of people. Will you be that friend?