Monday, March 31, 2014

Don't Forget...

I had Ephesians 2 left open on my computer from my blog last week, and something just hit me. Smack in the face.

Last week I quoted from Ephesians 2:8-10. The section that follows is all about reconciliation, talking about how Jesus saved Gentiles and Jews, all people (read it, it's good). That we are all saved through Christ Jesus. But there's an interesting start to that section. The Holy Spirit through Paul reminds us that we (the Gentiles) were outsiders. We were not invited into God's Holy Kingdom before. We were on the outside looking in.

What if looked around at people and remembered that we were once outsiders.
We didn't fit in at church
We didn't know the songs or when to stand or when to kneel
We didn't see the importance of joining with friends in a Bible Study
We didn't know or understand that God's guidelines for living are out of love and actually help us
We didn't have a pew to call our own
We didn't "feel" welcome
We didn't know people or have friends at church
We weren't invited or reminded of some fun event
We didn't see ourselves as holy or worthy enough to talk to God
We didn't know where to go, when to meet, or how to get there (church or any other gathering)
We didn't see understand how great serving feels

We didn't see the importance of getting to know God anyway

We just didn't know.

What if we understood that many people feel like outsiders looking in? Or maybe even outsiders not knowing they can get in or why they should bother. One of the best ways to cure that, when insiders invite the outsiders in.

What if you saw those who cross your paths as those on the outside without realizing it, understood where they are at and do what we could to move them from outsiders to insiders?

That's a Great Commission...


Monday, March 24, 2014

"Then Who In The World Can Be Saved?"

This was a question the disciples asked in something I was reading last night. It's a story in 3 of the 4 gospels, it obviously made a dent in the followers' minds.

It's a familiar story. A rich man wants to know how to get into heaven, and he tells Jesus he has followed all the laws since he was a young boy. So Jesus ups the ante. Give up everything, sell all your possessions and follow Him. And the young man walks away because he is very rich.

At this point Jesus turns to His disciples and tells them how incredibly hard it is for the rich to enter heaven, but He also says it is hard for everyone to enter the Kingdom of God. It is easier to shove a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to get into heaven.

Here the disciples ask that question. "Then who in the world can be saved?"

Jesus' answer: Humanly speaking, no one. No one can earn that right. But with God, all things are possible.

We have been talking about grace for the past few weeks at Fishers UMC, a really fitting topic during Lent, because this is the time we focus on what Christ did that none of us could do. Live a blameless life and earn salvation. And since He did it, He is also giving it away to anyone who wants it. For free. The truth is, there is nothing you can do to earn the right to heaven. There is nothing that can be done to somehow gain enough Jesus points to save ourselves. It is a gift, and one we should be incredibly thankful for and share.

Because of His kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God Himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago He planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10 (LB)

(notice we don't do good to earn God's love, because of God's love we want to do good, there's a big difference there...)


Monday, March 17, 2014

There's No Snakes In Ireland

Today is that wonderful day we celebrate by wearing green and drinking too much. St. Patrick's Day.

Here's the scary thing. Why do we remember St. Patrick 1600 years later? What are we actually celebrating? If you ask many people, St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Well, that's not really true, there were never any snakes there to begin with.

St. Patrick is remembered because of what he did for Ireland. He was a slave there and escaped, but instead of hating this land that beat him and imprisoned him, he went back to share Christ's love. At a time when the church said worship could only be done their way in their language singing their songs, Patrick did things differently. He explained Christ in the language of the people (he learned it as a slave). He used things around them to help them better understand Christ including their own legends and fairy tales. Instead of starting churches as we would see it, he started communes, places people could come to get food and shelter for no charge (and if he was asked why, he would share the gospel). St. Patrick even went so far as to dress like the people he was ministering to instead of dressing like a priest and standing out as a "holy man".

The reason St. Patrick is remembered is his love for people who really didn't deserve it. And instead of forcing them to be loved his way, he learned about them and loved them in a way they would understand. That's something truly worth celebrating. And I think the best way to celebrate this is imitation...


Monday, March 10, 2014

Would You Drop Everything?

If Jesus were to ask you to do something, you knew for sure it was Him, would you drop whatever you were doing to do what He asked? I was reading a story that made me think of this. Sir Ernest Shackleton was a great explorer who decided to make a what turned out to be fateful trip to the Antarctic (he had originally planned to go to the Arctic, maybe he should have stuck with the plan). The interesting thing about this trip was the publicity. Usually Shackleton would rather do the trip than go public, this time he was incredibly forthcoming with his plans. The story goes a friend asked Shackleton why he was so public for this trip. The reason was Shackleton's friend Frank Wild. Mr. Wild had been a leader on many of these expeditions, but at this time Frank Wild was hunting in the heart of Africa. No phones, no telegraph, he was in the middle of nowhere. The reason Shackleton was so public with the trip was in hopes news would reach Wild. Shackleton said if Wild heard of the trip, he would come. Sure enough, Frank Wild showed up at Shackleton's office in London. When he heard of the expedition, he dropped his gun, picked up his luggage and started home. He showed up asking what his orders were for the new trip. If you were living your dream on the trip of a lifetime and Jesus called, would you drop it all to show up? Peter replied, “Remember, we left everything to be Your followers!” Jesus told him: "You can be sure that anyone who gives up home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or land for Me and for the good news will be rewarded. In this world they will be given a hundred times as many houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and pieces of land, though they will also be mistreated. And in the world to come, they will have eternal life. ~ Mark 10:28-30 (CEV) T

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Take5 Initiative

For those of you who don't know, the Richards family loves Disney. We love the stories and the experience of Walt Disney World. Ever since I first visited I realized there has to be something more to this place, there has to be a way to take some magic home and use it for Jesus. So I have been reading all sorts of books about what Disney does and why they do it. Something really simple that's amazing in a business concept, Take5's. Have you ever heard stories of Disney Cast Members doing something nice like playing with children, giving someone a snack even though the kitchen is closed, making extra room key cards as souvenirs? There's a reason. Every person who works for Disney is empowered to do anything the can think of that will take a guest's vacation from good to "wow" as long as it takes less than 5 minutes and/or costs less than $5 (the reality is most are free and take less than 5 seconds, but they are able to do more if they would like). Everyone is empowered to do this with the understanding of their purpose, making the guest's experience amazing. Here's my question. What do you think FIRE & WATER (or your church) would look like if every member/Insider on a Sunday night looked around for ways to do a Take5 for others? Holding the door for the person behind them. Cleaning up someone else's trash. Smiling "Can I get you another soda/hot dog/cookie?" Being the first to say "hello". Moving over a little to give the person next to them more room. Getting someone a pen or note sheet (rather than throwing it at them). Asking someone how their night is going and if there is anything they can do to help. Asking someone about their weekend. If someone is new, helping them find their way around or understand what's coming next Telling someone how happy you are to see them at FIRE & WATER. What do you think a Refinery/Drink Deep on a Sunday night would look like if everyone did these things (and more)? Imagine someone who has never been to church showed up on a Sunday night and everybody treated them like this. What do you think their first impression of Jesus would be? Almost everything on that list takes 5 seconds, and I'm sure you could think of many more to do. You could probably even do more than one on a Sunday. You could even do them during the week and when asked why you're being so nice, "My whole church is like this, you should come one Sunday night." What would the community think of our church? Think about FIRE & WATER? Think about Jesus? The real question is, are you willing in the craziness and fun of a Sunday night to give God 5 seconds, give someone else 5 seconds. Just imagine how loving and caring FIRE & WATER would be. You could almost describe it as "magical"... Some of you may recognize this verse from a few weeks ago. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus ~ Colossians 3:17a (LB) T