AN ELDER’S JOY

“I have no great joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (III Jn. 1:4)

The apostle John wrote those words in his old age.  This was the same John, who, at a much younger age wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans for forbidding Jesus to lodge in their region.  (Lk. 9:54) John reminds me of myself when I was younger.  I preferred action movies in which the good guys gave the bad guys their just deserts.  But like John, I’ve changed.  I like stories of redemption and rescue, etc. with outcomes that make you feel good to tears.

In his maturity John had acquired Father’s heart which delights in seeing His children receiving saving grace in all circumstances of life.  It brought him joy to see God’s children not just talk out, but walk out the truth.  It delighted his heart to see those burdened by guilt walk free because Jesus paid it all and cleansed them by His blood.  In the struggles against heresy John had joy in seeing the flock cleave tenaciously to the truth in Jesus.  He delighted in seeing forgiveness and reconciliation when their was offense.  He delighted to see his children keep themselves from sin and walk in paths of righteousness.  Joy welled up when he saw the strong help the weak and the resourceful bless the poor.  It was a joy to see long standing members welcome the stranger and make them feel at home.  He delighted when his children called on the Lord for wisdom when facing hard issues.  He had joy in observing fathers who knew the heart of their heavenly Father, young men who overcame the evil one, and children who trusted Abba, Father to meet their needs.

I have found joy, as have many of you, in observing the body of Christ at Calvary walk out the truths of the gospel.  Conversely, however, there is pain and sadness wherever Jesus truth is not the known or chosen path.  Paul, in Phil. 2:2 speaks of his joy being made complete by the saints at Phillippi walking out the truths of Jesus, especially in relation to unity or harmony in Christ.  The elder’s joy is reflective of the Lord’s joy over us walking in truth, therefore Zephaniah said “He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph. 3:17)  May our joy be made full as we walk through this decision making time.  May our walk be prayerful and careful.  May the Lord’s agenda be our agenda.  May we have the wisdom to know the difference between the major issues and the minor issues and focus our resources accordingly.  May we possess prophetic insight to know the mind of Christ issue by issue.  May our joy be full because of the vision He reveals for the body.  May we receive His unique plan for His church not because it agrees with our former experience, but because it’s birthed by the Holy Spirit and founded in the word.  May our joy be full because we don’t conform our worship to that which is the socially accepted standard in the larger church community, but we run with the Holy Spirit’s leading in the manifestation of gifts.  As faithful saints, may we have the joy that possesses those who walk in the land of promise.  Even though we may not have received the fruition of some promises, our faith sees them coming.

Lord, grow us to more fully walk the truth, and be filled with joy when we see it.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

Mark

BLESSED TO BLESS

I appreciate two promises spoken to Abraham: 1.) “I will bless you” and 2.) “All the people of the earth will be blessed through you.”  (Gen. 12:2,3) Peter repeats the second promise in Acts 2:25.  Paul, wrote “…gentiles (i.e. nations/families of the earth) who have faith are blessed…”. (Gal. 3:8,9)

What a glorious God we know and a glorious faith we possess!  It is a holy (different from any other) faith in which those in its family are blessed not to hoard blessing but to extend blessing to others.  Some popular examples of the blessed who blessed others are Elisha in the healing of Naaman, and Paul extending the blessing of the gospel to the gentiles.

From start to present our Lord is purposing to bless His people but then to extend His hand of blessing through them to others, saved or unsaved.  Throughout, His purpose mitigates against the sinful selfishness of corrupt human nature.  He sent Jesus into the world to teach myriads of ways to extend blessing in relationships.  Then He gave the ultimate to bless all the families of the earth making them Abraham’s children by faith.  they, in turn, bless as they’ve been blessed.

Jesus’s call of his disciples contained this two-fold purpose.  “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  (Mk. 1:17)  Through Him, they would be filled with blessings to extend to others.  His blessings poured from their lives to such an extent that they became known as those who “turned the world upside down.”  (Acts 17:6)

Calvary Church has been blessed abundantly in Christ.  The Lord has endowed us with everything from spiritual gifts, wisdom, knowledge, to material provisions.  We are stewards of these endowments, for which He holds us accountable.  His blessings in us are purposed to bless the families of the earth.  Calvary church’s history shows we’ve been a blessing to many in need as the Lord has blessed us.

The time is right for us to more clearly identify these endowments and activate ministry venues which are as channels of blessing to those in need.  Watching the news, we see the dark, dismal, depraved, and desperate times in which we live.  We have Christ’s overcoming power, light, salt to preserve, and His peace to share.  Have we considered thoroughly enough the utilizing of this Treasure in our earthen vessels?

In Christ, however, we are new wine-skins, able to stretch our hearts, minds and lifestyles in new ways to extend the Lord’s blessing to others.

Let us pray for a revision of vision for engaging others who need the blessing we contain.

O Lord, stretch us into the channels of blessing you’ve intended us to be all along.  We condemn our self-centeredness  to the cross.  May we live with an increased sensitivity to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  We pray for release of blessings to the families of the earth through us.  In the name of our most gracious Lord and Savior.  Amen

Mark

CALLED TO OUTREACH

Jesus said “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Mt. 28:18,19).

God’s record in Biblical history reveals that he desired for His people to reach other people.  He said to Abraham, “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 18:18).  Paul states in Galatians, “…that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the gentiles in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:14).  In II Chron. 6:33 Solomon prays “…that all peoples of the earth may  know Your name and fear you.”

Though Jesus came to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” he encountered many gentiles and ministered the blessing of Abraham.  Paul, states in I Cor. 9:22 “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save (win) some.”  Thomas took the gospel to India.  The scriptural record is loaded with examples of people who passionately loved the Lord and as a result were on a mission to reach out to others.

When God’s people love the Lord fervently they desire to know Him and make Him known.  We at Calvary Church have known and walked in that passion to reach out with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Some of you remember some saint who reached out to you, and here you are, part of the flock.

Outreach, however, seems to be in ebb and flow in the church, ours included.  It seems we easily lose the impetus, passion and yearning for the unsaved to be saved.  Our energies can easily turn inward, striving to find the latest, deepest delicacies of the kingdom.  In which case we need to be mindful to serve out, not just consume.  Or life is so busy, hectic, and w’re so hobbled by personal issues we cannot afford to reach out to others.  In which we need to repent of wacked out priorities and realign our priorities with the kingdom.  In our country, the church is not flourishing in growth through outreach.  Often, churches grow numerically because Christians are migrating from one church to the other.

So what are the answers to more concern, intensity, and development of outreach?  As someone well said “the heart of the problem is the heart.”  Are we hot, cold, or lukewarm for the Lord?  Cold or lukewarm will not reach people.  Are we communicating Christ as a self help, fix me messiah or are we communicating as Paul put it, “Christ crucified”?  When relating to an unsaved person, are we allowing godly sorrow to lead to repentance or are we comforting them in their sin?  The church needs the gift of evangelist.  Will a real evangelist please stand up!

Evangelists can inspire, teach (mostly by example), the rest of the flock to do outreach.  I don’t totally agree with the statement about being a witness in what you do and if necessary use words.  The apostles and early church won people to Christ by the verbal proclamation of the gospel.  Who can you share Jesus with?

Lord, send forth laborers into the harvest field.  Forgive/deliver us from every weakness and sin that impedes us.  Make us a light to those in darkness till your glory covers the whole earth.  Amen.

Mark