This article is just the beginning of a series designed to provide hope for the smaller church and hopefully the church at large.
In the gospel of Luke we find a story about 10 lepers who came to Jesus for help. They are a lot like people in our neighbors today. They knew that Jesus cared about their needs and has the ability to help. These 10 men also were ready to immediately do anything that Jesus asked.
Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God
Jesus had made an impression on people because they knew that He was willing to touch lepers and that He had the power to help them Because of how Jesus ministered He was continually surrounded by people longing to get close. Some wanted to touch Jesus, others hoped just to see Him and still others sat quietly listening to what He had to say. It must have looked a little bit like a hospital emergency room. People were lined up waiting to be seen. Others brought their loved ones and family to Jesus. He was constantly presented with opportunities to demonstrate the love of God.
Sadly our local church today bears a distant resemblance to the ministry of Jesus. Too often we seem to function more like an understaffed medical clinic. Sick people still show up regularly but they find few people around to help. Our nurses are out on strike for a better benefits package and our doctors are having coffee together reviewing their retirement program. When folks press their nose against the glass and look inside the office they hear the sounds of a business meeting called into session to discuss how to reduce the number of sick people allowed in! If any hospital functioned like our churches they would quickly find themselves in court. The front page of the paper would be filled with angry headlines. The 6 o’clock news would begin with a lead story demanding immediate change to how that medical facility functioned.
So as we approach this Thanksgiving let’s consider what we can each do differently. The world has as much need as it ever did. Do our altars act more like walls to keep folks off the podium rather than a meeting place for prayer? God is still willing to cleanse. Jesus is still ready to heal. He still welcomes the sick, the blind and the sinner. They are outside looking in our windows. What will they see this Thanksgiving?
“For Mother Teresa, poverty and sickness were gifts that provided the opportunity to develop one’s connection with God. Her mission was not so much to alleviate suffering but to ensure it happened within a framework of religious belief.” George Gillett from The West’s big lie about Mother Teresa in Salon Magazine January 3.2016
In his article,Mr. Gillett takes issue not only with the “saintliness” of Mother Teresa in specific, but also with what he sees as questionable motives in all Christian missions and charity. He asks some hard and some very pointed questions about poverty, suffering and why Christians see value in the spiritual side of their work. Initially I was offended by his seemingly heartless attacks on Mother Teresa. Then as I paused to reflect I realized that his opinion as expressed in the article was really only another voice in the growing secular chorus of doubts as to the purpose of Christian work around the world. Criticizing Christian charities may have become popular because it gives people a politically correct sense of moral outrage. But maybe it would be better if we can all take a breath and ask ourselves why poverty is a wrong to be righted and just what should be done to deal with it.
Going to the Bible’s account we find that Jesus was all for us giving to the poor. When he was approached by the rich young ruler and asked about eternal life Jesus said,
If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. Matthew 19:21
Jesus absolutely saw great value in a no strings attached giving to those in need. But coupled with that command was a higher call, “Come,follow me” Alleviating suffering was only a part of life’s journey, but the goal was farther up the road. Life’s purpose could only be discovered after giving, if we take up our cross and follow Him.
When a man came to Jesus who asked Him to to judge fairly about the division of wealth, Jesus responded quite differently than a person who simply aims for social justice.
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth Luke 12:15
In Jesus’ view, the central issue of life had less to do with economics and everything to do with relationship to God – the creator of life. No amount of money, education or ability could compare to the value God placed on a single strand of hair on our heads.
The mission of Christian work will always minister to human suffering wherever it is found, but success cannot be measured by meals given or vaccinations administered. Success is when a single human heart is awakened to the immeasurable love of God. While the world all around us seems continually to demand we do, say or give something of value, God comes to give true worth. The worth God has placed in us can only be measured by the sacrifice of His only Son on the cross. He sees beyond our small horizons of pain, poverty and hurt and looks to the finish line of this life and into the vast reaches of eternity safe and warm at His side.
“Jesus didn’t just die for nice people to make them even nicer…” Pastor Steve Brown
A friend of mine once said, “I believe there are only two kinds of people in the world, good people and bad people” I replied. “But we don’t believe that at all. We believe we are all bad people but God can forgive us.”
“You’re trying to convert me!” she responded with a smile.
“Oh, yes I am ” I replied
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, the Bible tells us that Jesus took bread and wine and shared it among his disciples. He wasn’t doing that because they had all finally arrived at some kind of Holy perfection. In fact, that very night, Peter would deny him, Thomas would doubt him and everyone of them would run away and hide.
No Jesus gave us the bread and the cup to remember his death – for us- until He returns. No matter how bad the world gets and no matter the violence we face or deception of religious people who murder innocent lives for their God, Jesus love is still greater. God’s forgiveness is still more powerful. The cross of Jesus Christ will always be greater than anything in heaven or earth!
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 KJV
Why is it that we are so often fixated on the latest movie star or sports icon who says they have become a Christian? If it is because we think that finally we have found a “key person” who will unlock the doors to true church growth we are sadly mistaken.
We need to re-adjust our spiritual vision and re-position our heavenly contact lenses if we want to see as God does. In the psalms David tells us something of how God sees.
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation Psalm 68:5
Two weeks ago I began a class on nursing home ministry at our church. Most interesting to me was that of the eight people who have participated so far, five are under the age of eighteen! We are going into week three and will be visiting a large nursing home in the area with a time of music,dance and most of all friendship. It is amazing what happens when God’s father heart begins to connect to us. There is a mighty untapped potential for church growth and evangelism when we realign our value system with God’s Over the next few sessions we will look more deeply into the opportunity God is giving all of us to be His hands and feet to those whom He considers key,because they are key to the heart of God!
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8
If you are considering Nursing Home Ministry or any other kind of work for God, this workbook is for you! This is a seven week course designed for anyone who senses the call to commit to Nursing Home Ministry. The lessons guide you through seven weeks (Or spread it out to seven sessions over a longer period). Every session is filled with practical projects, pointed questions and encouragement to keep going till the end.