Who is Welcome?

I posted on Facebook yesterday what I thought was a pretty innocuous thought about unity in the church. Wow I was dismayed and surprised to see the “controversy this stirred up! My hope is that if we each ask ourselves this one simple question and be willing to take personal responsibility to reach out that each of our churches will be the better. Have a blessed day!

“Will folks who think or look differently than we do feel welcome at our church? If God wanted us all the same He would have used plastic and not dust when He was forming man.”

 

All kinds of folks

Week-end Visitation Rights

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him  Psalm 103:13

My relationship with dad began with his week-end visitation rights granted when I was 15. Though I just barely knew what my dad looked like I eagerly looked forward to his one week-end [er month visits. Our relationship began about where our relationship with God often begins (It was all about me!) Dad would take me special places, buy me some things and then drop me back off at home on Sunday nights. In retrospect I am not sure what kept my dad going. But somehow my father loved me in spite of my inability to return that love for years and years until one day I realized, I really loved him. He had built the bridge single-handedly that joined us together.

In that very same way God has loving compassion on us. Even when our showing up in church is just about our blessings, our needs and our desires He remains willing to build the bridge through Jesus Christ to join our soul to Him. What a gentle awesome and patient Father we have. We have the choice on any day to walk across the bridge to Him and yield not just visitation rights, but the full rights of a father with a son or daughter to Him!

week-end visits

Come and See

Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”  “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” John 1:38-39a
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Jesus had a way of dealing with new followers which was a lot different than ours. He didn’t say, “Come and do” or “Come and give.” In fact Jesus began the conversation with a question, “What do you want?”

Whether at the door of the church or alone on a mountain trail, God asks us every morning, “What do you want?” Am I following just because someone told me to or do I really want to for myself? His test is not about our ability to serve Him but our desire to know Him.

When we go looking for Jesus we will find Him. He knows us but He waits for us to long to know Him. Then Jesus extends the invitation, “Come and see!” Jesus wants us to get to know Him because He isn’t afraid of what we will find. Every day is an opportunity for a new discovery of His character, His will and His heart. Maybe you have kimg1621received an invitation that says: RSVP. That stands for the French “Répondez s’il vous plait” – “Respond if you please. “We have received an invitation to come to know Jesus. Jesus waits to see if we will respond. Do we really want to know where He lives? He calls out, “Come and see!”

Effective Prayer Part One

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much  James 5:16

Prejudice is a common issue all across denominational lines. Many of our greatest struggles in relationships seem to be within the the church rather than out in the world. Amazingly even in the early church they had the very same issues! Right after the miracles and with the church growing at a phenomenal pace they ran into difficulties between the Greek Jews and the Hebrew Jews. It was a conflict that in various forms was played out through the entire book of Acts. What is encouraging is that though even the early church had problems, God worked with them in just as He continues to work with us today.

The breakthrough came, not because of some program or by the power of reason but by God’s action with a non-Christian Roman centurion named Cornelius and the Apostle Peter. First God spoke by an angel to Cornelius as he was praying and told him to send for Peter to learn the way of salvation. Cornelius then sent a delegation to Peter to find out what God wanted him to know. Since the apostles weren’t even speaking with Greek speaking Jews much less Romans, God had to send a vision to Peter telling him to receive the men coming to see him. After Peter went to Cornelius’ house and heard about Cornelius’ prayers and the angel visitation Peter came to a startling conclusion. God didn’t think the way that he did! God in fact cared about people whom Peter would not have even spoken with the previous day!

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and workimg1348ks righteousness is accepted by Him  Acts 10:34-35

Is God’s work being slowed down by how we think about others? Who might we be praying for and reaching if we began to see them through the eyes of God? How much more effective might our prayers be if we saw men through the eyes of God rather than God through the eyes of men!

 

 

When God’s Answer Seems to be NO

When God’s Answer Seems to Be No!

 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”  

Matthew 15:24-26

Well finally after being ignored and just a little humiliated by the disciples, the woman got an answer from Jesus. But the response was definitely not what she had hoped for. What do we do with our prayers when it seems that on very good scriptural basis we are told that God’s answer for us is “NO!”? In fact, what may hurt the most is not only God’s refusal,  but also His apparent agreement with people who reject us. How could Jesus take the side of those who seem to have such cold and uncaring hearts.  How we choose our to respond in that lowest of moments says everything about who we truly believe our God to be.

p1020539lives? Have we begun to murmur, complain or even point the finger of blame towards Jesus Himself? This Canaanite woman somehow knew that no matter what the outward appearances were, Jesus was in fact both willing and able to heal her daughter and to grant her request and He will hear and answer our prayers today!

 

 

 

 

 

Challenged to Thank God

My wife came across an interesting sign that asked the question, “What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you thanked God for today?  After we shared Communion tonight I began to ask myself, “What if next Sunday we only had the people for whom we thanked God for today?”

Maybe our church and yours would have a lot less empty seats if we wete grateful for one other rather than complaining. ( I confess to being one of those!) Maybe if we began to truly appreciate the people who do come to our services God could help us to grow and then He would get the credit!

1 Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.

I would be willing to bet big money that when the apostle Paul visited the folks couldn’t wait to get to church! When was the last time you couldn’t wait to get to church? I am taking the thankfulness challenge this week. Anyone care to join me? Let’s give thanks for as many people as we can remember starting tomorrow. Let’s give thanks and ask God to have His way in their lives and ours, then wait and see what He will do!

Is that you?

I have other sheep too who are not of this sheepfold, I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock with one Shepherd. John 10:16

When someone calls our name, even in a crowd we automatically stop and look to see why. Jesus is telling his disciples that they are not the only ones. He has people of every kind who will also be his sheep. Our unifying factor is not our race, language or family background. What makes us all one is that we have one Shepherd.

Maybe one reason that our churches are struggling to grow is that we haven’t yet gotten Jesus message. Can it be that Sunday morning at 11 AM is the most segregated hour of the week? Jesus says one flock with one Shepherd. Can you hear Him now?