Thursday, March 19, 2020

Revival and Harvest

I started today in Luke 3 and then on our daily prayer call. Here are a couple of thoughts in light of those as well as an article I read last night that is helping me process how to “Do church” going forward.  
Revival and Harvest

In Luke 3 we get John the Baptist being “activated” for ministry. (Sorry, I’m a recovering Trekkie) “The word of God came to the wilderness.” He was there preparing and waiting on the Lord to release him. This is when that happens.  

“He went into all the country...preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (3:3) 

God sent him out from his personal retreat and revival into the harvest where he would "show and tell" the good news that the kingdom of God was coming. He was preparing the way for the King to come. 

Luke then quotes the prophet Isaiah who wrote around 700 years earlier about the one who would prepare the way (John) so that, “All people will see God’s salvation.” (3:6) 

Salvation comes when God’s people "show and tell" his story and his glory to our neighbors. This is our calling: to multiply disciple-makers (xDM) around the corner and around the world.  

Prayer: Oh Lord, revive our hearts so that we see our neighbors as you do and are moved by compassion to reach out to them with the love of Christ.  

Doing Church

It has become clear to me that not only do we have to change the way we “do church” going forward but that we will not go back to the way things were when the viral dust settles.  

And that will be a good thing. 

This article on Carey Nieuwhof’s blog is a great inspiration to brainstorming how our gathering(s) might change. 

One principle that was not in the article, but worth thinking through, is the need to think like the early (first century) church. They had overwhelming needs as the Jesus movement grew exponentially. In addition, they were inundated by the poor. There were wealthy people coming to Christ too, as God sovereignly provided for the early church financially. But think about the lack of real healthcare. So they learned to turn to God for healing. And he healed. Some lost everything (financially, socially, religiously) when they trusted the Lord and were baptized. They turned to God for provision. And he provided for them too.  

This speaks to our methods too. They did not have the means to communicate on a large scale. So how did the early church grow?  

Word of mouth. They talked to the people in their personal networks. They talked to people where they lived, worked and played. They talked to people in their circle of influence. They communicated using what they already had—their social networks.  

For them, it was speaking. For us, it is speaking and/or writing using a variety of tools and means to do so.  

The key was that they spoke. They played “show and tell” with the world. 

And so must we. 

We must share the good news that this world is broken and hopeless apart from faith in a Creator-Savior-King who is making all things new and will come back to complete that one day. We must share the good news that he’s making things new every day. 

Why don’t we do this more? Because our heart is not completely full of compassion for our neighbors yet. This is where revival comes in.  

Revival is for God’s people who do not have his full heart for the lost yet. So we pray and ask God to revive us—to wake us up. 

Then we speak into the harvest.

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. -Jesus, Luke 10:2 NIV

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Coronavirus: How should I respond?

A thought. A verse. A prayer.
#coronavirus #faith #peace

Every day brings more gloom and doom over the Coronavirus pandemic. Even in the faith community we find a wide range of reactions to the current news cycle.

 In America, it seems that there are two common reactions:

1) Alarming and dramatic responses that include runs on toilet paper and the cancelation of major sports events, and
2) Business as usual with little concern or awareness that this virus is a serious threat.

What should we do?
How should we respond?

Can I make a few suggestions?

1. Pray. It seems like we only go here when we do not know what else to do. But it is actually where we should start. When we start with God, we think about things from a more eternal perspective. This is always a healthier place to think from. Are you praying as if it all depended on God?

2. Study. Studying is reading with a pen in your hand. It is concentrated research that results in potential actions. Whether you are watching an interview on YouTube or reading the USA Today website, you should be reading with a researcher’s mentality. Research multiple sources. Read critically and with discernment.

3. Agendas. Keep in mind that those who are sharing information are doing so for a variety of reasons and motives that affect what information they share and how they share it. Be discerning and thoughtful as you take it in.

4. Reserve judgment. It is so easy to react instead of respond. Reacting is like a reflex. There is a time for that but usually we have time to contemplate, process and then to respond thoughtfully. Remember too that inaction is still a response.

5. Explore the extremes: Is everyone overreacting? Maybe they are. What are the downsides of this? Am I contributing to panic or waking people up to a sobering reality few are taking seriously enough? Remember that the press has access to a lot of information. They are also in a hurry to get it out. Are they cross-checking their sources? Remember also that their reason for existing is to turn a profit. That happens when people tune-in or click on a link because it generates advertising revenue. Could this cloud their judgment?

6. Explore the extremes: Am I not taking this seriously enough? Is there any harm in preparing? Even if this is being politicized, does that mean I should not be paying more attention to what could be happening? What are some simple steps I could take to prepare now while it is still easy to do?

7. Prepare. Are you preparing as if it all depended on you? What if God wants to answer your prayers in part through your preparation? Can you prepare in such a way that your preparation is helpful for a number of different possible disasters? Would that be wise?

8. Believe. How does my faith hold up to this? Does this cause me to doubt what I say I believe about God? Do I find myself in a crisis of faith? How does the gospel apply here?

9. Love your neighbor as yourself. Are you thinking about others—beyond yourself? Are you preparing with those in mind who cannot or will not prepare? Is compassion even on your radar?

The verse that came to mind for me today was of Jesus sharing with his disciples how to respond to his earth-shattering news that one of them would betray him and that he would be killed and then rise from the dead on the third day.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” -Jesus, on the night he was betrayed and arrested

‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Paul gives us more wise counsel,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A Prayer

Lord, we come to you needy of your peace—that peace that transcends all understanding. Give us a confident belief that nothing has ever surprised you and that you are in control even now.

Give us a peace that is content in you whether things straighten out or continue sideways. Help us remember that in the end, you hold it all together for those who know and trust you through Jesus Christ.

Flood our hearts with your peace! Guide us with your wisdom! Help us rest with all our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual weight on You! In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.

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