Why Missions?

Luke 15:1-24
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion …”
Verse 20 (NIV)

I have heard it said more than once that when a person is converted to Christianity, the last part of the person to be converted is his or her wallet. Meaning of course that our present culture is very much concerned about money and material things.

Seldom do we see any expression from God that points to opulence. The exception may be the building of the temple by Solomon. Simply put, God goes all out to seek people in order to have a deep, loving relationship with them. God wants followers who care about the same things he cares about.

Jesus’ parables in Luke 15 tell us about the deeply loving and caring heart of God. In this section of Scripture, we find three powerful stories with the same theme: something precious and valuable is lost, and it simply must be found and restored! We sense the pain of deep loss; we are caught up in the search and desire for restoration; we feel the thrill of rediscovery; and we experience the great joy of celebrating with a big party.

You can always tell what you value by what you do. Does your heart beat in tune with God’s heart? Will you go out of your way to join God’s mission of love to those who aren’t home with the Father yet? Missions is about searching for what is lost, finding and restoring them, then celebrating the victory of ultimate restoration and life. Is there any wonder why missionaries are so passionate about what they do!

Lord, thank you for coming to look for us long before we started searching for you. Use us to be your restoring presence today among people who’ve lost their way. Amen.

Putting On The Right Clothes

Colossians 3:1-14
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.                                         Verse 12 (NIV)

In the mid 1980s I worked on the transformation of a house in Toronto’s Rosedale area to a posh hair boutique. The owners were impressed with our work and invited my boss and I, with our wives, to come to the grand opening with Hall & Oates (pop singers) in attendance. So, we went. Did we ever feel out of place at that event. Everyone was dressed in very modern and up to date clothes. The four of us quietly left and went out for dinner. A much more comfortable evening.

Sometimes what you wear ­allows other people to see what you value and what your character is like. If you go to a sports game, you will be surrounded by a sea of team jerseys.

In today’s Scripture passage, we are encouraged to dress in a way that shows what we value and who we are. In verses 5-11, we are reminded to put off things that are sinful, demeaning, and hurtful, such as malice, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed. Then we are urged to put on a new set of clothes: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We also add love, “which binds them all together in perfect unity.” In other words, love makes our outfits perfectly coordinated! All of these articles were “worn” perfectly by Jesus Christ; as his followers, we model our lives after him.

I remember a time when I was wearing my denim jacket with a “Jesus is Lord” patch on my back. I was making a purchase at a gas station and the attendant, I thought, was very rude. I was ready to give him a good piece of my mind, but then I remembered what I was wearing. That would have been a very poor witness. I changed my attitude and tone of voice and informed him that I thought he should be more customer friendly. May we always put on the mind of Christ and glorify him before others.

Lord make us aware of what we show ourselves to be as followers of Jesus, Amen.

Good Foundations

Matthew 7:24-27
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (NIV)

As a house builder for a number of years I understood the value of a well-built foundation. I do remember a house in the Cobourg area that was putting on an addition. The excavator dug too close to the existing footings and the soil below began to give way. Within a day the entire end of the house had collapsed and fell into the newly excavated basement, exposing the roof and both first and second floor. Without a good foundation a house will not stand!

Jesus gives some building advice in the parable we have read today. But he is talking about more than building houses. He is talking about building our lives and making sure their foundation is firm, made up of wisdom and faith in him.

This foundation requires two things. It first involves listening to Jesus’ words. Listening is ­really important and can be hard to do sometimes. Listening often means putting aside our own ideas or agendas and paying ­attention for a while.

But listening is only the first step in the foundation of our faith lives. The next step is doing what he asks of us. If we only listen and don’t do what is asked, we haven’t really accomplished anything. Our faith can be filled with knowledge and belief, but if it isn’t tied to action, it rings hollow. Doing is really important!

Is the house of your life built on the foundation of faith that involves both listening to what Jesus is saying and doing what he asks? That is the way of life Jesus is calling us to.

Lord, make me a good listener to your word and an excellent doer of your word, Amen

Just Keep Going

Hebrews 10:23 – 25
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  (NIV) 

In North America and other parts of the world today, we are living in what is called a “post-Christian” culture. More and more people are rejecting Christianity and the church and saying they have no religion. It is discouraging to see people leaving the faith, and the pressures to conform to a faithless culture seems to be increasing all the time. 

The author of Hebrews gives us a different perspective. As we hear about Jesus, what he has accomplished for us, and his superiority over everything, how can we not be encouraged in our faith? But the pressures and challenges of an unbelieving culture remain ours to struggle with. 

Today’s text reminds us and encourages us to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” – or just to keep going! Even if we experience despair and discouragement, we are encouraged to hold tightly to the one who is faithful. All other things may fail us, but Jesus is faithful. His promises are true. Even when we experience discouragement and despair, he is faithful, and we need to just keep going. 

Let us continue to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Let us continue to encourage each other to keep going, even if times are tough. We do not trust in one who is unreliable; we trust in the one who is faithful. Let us continue to be encouraged and to encourage one another in the Lord 

Lord God, thank you for being faithful. Help us to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess” in you. Amen 

Barnabas: God’s Bridge Builder

Acts 11:19-30
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So, for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.  Verses 25-26 (NIV) 

I have always enjoyed the story of Barnabas. I guess I just like the fact that the name Barnabas means son of encouragement (Acts 4:36)and in every place of ministry that I have been active there has been a Barnabas to keep me going and pushing me forward. 

The gospel spreading to those outside the Jewish nation did not stop with Peter’s encounter with Cornelius. The scattering of believers because of persecution led to more and more Jews hearing about Jesus, and in Antioch some believers began sharing the good news with Greeks and other Gentiles. 

The task of equipping theses new believers fell to BarnabasBarnabas began ministering in Antioch, and many people came to believe in the Lord. 

God also motivated Barnabas to look for Saul and to bring him into the work in Antioch. Barnabas had introduced Saul earlier to the apostles (Acts 9:27), and now he became a bridge builder again. For the next year, Saul and Barnabas “taught great numbers of people.” And the believers there became so identified with Jesus that a term of ridicule, Christians – meaning “little Christ’s” – became a badge of honor. 

Interestingly enough, the final verses of our passage show us that the bridge works both ways. When a severe famine came into the region and Judea was hit hard, the church in Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul with gifts for the people in Judea. Bridge building is the way God wants us to work together. 

Our heavenly Father, may we be challenged to live as bridge builders who desire to serve whomever we meet. May our eyes be opened, and our hearts be in sync with yours. Amen