Categotry Archives: Devotional Insights

Personal thoughts on the miscellaneous in life.

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What’s in “The” Name!

Categories: Devotional Insights, Tags: ,

The precious Name “Jesus Christ” is constantly abused in the world, where people use it as a curse word. This verbal assault reaches all the way to heaven where every word is heard and recorded. When we trustingly whisper His Name, His aching ears are soothed. 

(Devotional insight inspired by Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, devotional book, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004)

In reflecting on this devotional insight of Sarah Young, it hit me: I have been conditioned and trained to live with great sensitivity to hearing my name called. Even if I am in any size gathering and someone is calling to another “Jonathan”, I immediately respond with body language or verbal affirmation. I can’t help it. That’s my name. It gets kind of humorous (or awkward), when another “Jonathan” other than me is the true target of call and the caller clarifies by saying to me, “Not you. The other “Jonathan”!”

Every day, thousands, maybe millions of people call out the Name “Jesus Christ” but not to call Him. Not to speak to Him. They call it out either in exasperation of an event in life, or in defamation of His character by attaching that Name with something that is far below what is virtuous, noble, and appropriate worthy of the Person behind the Name. “Jesus Christ” is called out in contempt,  (defined as something being despised, dishonored, disrespected, disgraced) with no intent or attempt to seek His aid, His presence, His light, His truth, His help.

The thing is… He hears every usage of His Name…every time it is called out!

He, in His divine infinite omniscience, knows intimately the intent behind every usage. He registers every mention and motive, whether uttered by those who do not know Him or those who profess to know Him but still, sadly, use His Name in contemptible ways. (What’s possibly just as, if not more sad, is when His own people, refuse to call out His Name for aid only He can bring. Instead they call out for everything else OTHER than Him!) Truth is some of us followers of Jesus Christ, could use His Name a whole let less and call out His Name a whole lot more than we do!

I shudder to think of the doing day when all of us will stand before the actual divine Person behind the Name and give an account of all we have done in this body, whether good or bad… every thought… every word spoken… whether good or bad… even His Name!

Between now and then, maybe we should take time to reflect on the magnitude and meaning behind the Name “Jesus Christ”:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,  he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.  Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the Name above all other names,  that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.                           Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT)

The supreme issue is not what we think about His Name, but what He thinks of His own Name and how God the Father regards this Name that was given to Joseph by the angels, that not even demons will utter the way we do and can! The Name to which eventually, no living being will ever call out without properly attaching its significance to the One it belongs to. It is not the Name that makes Him great but He — in His character, His supremacy, His authority, His divine otherness — that makes that Name great… and greatly to be praised!

My we bless Him by calling out His Name in ways He loves to hear it, to seek Him, to honor Him, to love Him, to worship Him. Nothing less than these motives is worthy of Him and His wonderful Name.

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Truth is the Superfood of faith. Scripture is the pantry. I say now’s the time to chow!

Categories: Devotional Insights, Spiritual Formation, Tags: , , , , , , ,

Scripture is the spiritual superfood of the soul (way better for you than Chicken Soup) and the high protein, no-fat food of faith!

I read an article on ‘superfoods’, which according to the journal of all things wise and wonderful, “Wiki-pedia”, is regarded as an unscientific term without legal definition or scientific basis and thus considered a misleading marketing ploy (how’s that for a downer…though I just registered as a subscriber of superfood.com!) is also used to describe foods…

“…with high nutrient or phytochemical content that may confer health benefits, with few properties considered to be negative, such as being high in saturated fats or artificial ingredients, food additives or contaminants.” (Wiki)

The term is used generously by many health conscious patrons and nutritionists as they enthusiastically espouse the apparently innumerable benefits of consuming these catalysts of super health. Included in this alluring food group are such foods as blueberries which tops the list as a superfood,  broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, tomatoes, quinoa, nuts, seeds, bananas, potatoes, dark green vegetables, and fish (due to the omega-3 fatty acids which promote cognitive development.

My wife is an MS sufferer of 24 years and has become a patron of these superfoods with benefits already logged. Because of her dietary change, we have had some changes in our eating habits as well with changes for the good. So yeah, I am a superfood believer!

That covers our physical/psycho-chemical needs. What about our spiritual/soul-centered dimension. There is no better, purer, more potent food for faith than the words and Word of God. Check out these verses from the NIV about how Scripture is like food.

I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.    -Job 23:12

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!   -Psalms 119:103

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.    -Jeremiah 15:16

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”    -Matthew 4:4

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,    -1 Peter 2:2

Scripture is the spiritual superfood of the soul (way better for you than Chicken Soup) and the high protein, no-fat food of faith! Consider how you take advantage of it like food: You prepare it, you chew it, you swallow it and then let it do its work. Consider Who you dine with and dine on: the character of Jesus Christ as His life becomes the sustenance of our life in Him.

Truth is the Superfood of faith. Scripture is the pantry. Study is the kitchen of preparation. Meditation is the feasting where the meal is chewed and consumed.

We cannot mature in the faith without consuming the Word of God frequently, intentionally and prayerfully. We must ingest and digest high quality morsels in high quantity measures. We can’t afford to skip meals or skimp on the meals we partake of. Our ability to stand with confidence, run with endurance, rest in His peace, serve with patience, worship with integrity and love God and others passionately requires our feasting on the spiritual soul satisfying bounty He has already prepared and delivered among the pages of the Bible, the banquet of divine truth!

I say now’s the time to chow!

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Ambushed in my Devotional.

Categories: Devotional Insights, Tags: , , , ,

I think that many times, we come to Jesus without resolving that 'thing' that must happen in us before we come to Christ.

My day started way off rhythm…

Cup of coffee,  water the grass,  workout,  hunt for a stupid water bottle with an envelope in it (don’t ask!),  spoke with my mother,  took the kids to school,  showered and dressed,  contacted home-care personnel to inquire about the stupid water bottle with the envelope in it (I mean it – don’t ask!) — these are all the things I did this morning before having my Quiet Time, what I apparently deemed more important to do later than first.

Then to make matters worse, my devotional article was from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest”, the one for today (divine sense of ‘humor’ here…or is it ‘humbling’), entitled, “The Exclusivity of Christ” featured Jesus’ words, “Come unto Me” from Matthew 11:28. He began with the question, “Is it not humiliating to be told that we must come to Jesus!” He went on to mention our tendency toward “spiritual impertinence” in our expectation for God to disclose “big things” when what he really tells us is to “come”.

Then he lowers the boom with the following:

“Come unto Me”. When you hear those words you will know that something must happen in you before you will come.

That got me. I think that many times, we…I mean “I”…come to Jesus without resolving that ‘thing’ that must happen in me before I come. This means I can physically come to Jesus for devotional and yet still not really “be there” with Him. I believe this is one of those elements that also gives me permission to pursue other things on the way to pursuing to Him.

What follows is my journal response to this article in light of my off-rhythm start:

“How grossly impertinent, rude, arrogant, self-willed! He bids me come and I do everything else but that…intent to ‘constrain’ God to my schedule rather than submit to His. It is only in my coming to Him that I then am able to go with Him in His power and strength. How I treat Him early, sets the tone for the rest of the day if I truly believe that each day belongs to Him.”

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Debating the Inspiration of Scripture.

Categories: Devotional Insights, Tags: , , , ,

stillness-2One of the objections raised by folks regarding the issue Scripture’s authority stems from the difficulty of how we (Christians) can place a great deal of trust in a manuscript written long ago by ordinary men, prone, as all men are, to defects and biases. I admit that, on the surface, this is what it seems, but the internal and historical claims of the inerrancy of Scripture go beyond this common objection. I submit that this common objection misses the point. The focus for debate really rests on something far more profound and transcendent. See if you can detect it in the passages below, usually used to affirm the authority and inerrancy of Holy Scripture:

2 Peter 1:16, 20-21 16We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

Did you catch it? Human authorship or participation is not central. The issue is not about the reality of the weakness of man but about the existence and influence of God. I submit that there are 2 questions that need to be answered and upon which the debate should be waged is,

  1. Does God exist? AND
  2. If He does exist, does He interact personally with human beings?

When considering publications like the NY Times, USA Today, Wallstreet Journal, Encyclopedia Britannica, Encarta, etc, no will argue that these are written by ordinary men, prone to defects and biases. Yet, of their millions of readers, subscribers and patrons few question the integrity of the writers in connection with their manuscripts, though many may disagree with them. Yet when it comes to the Holy Scriptures, the same concession is inadmissable and the integrity of the biblical manuscripts are thus discredited. Maybe it is precisely because the Scripture goes beyond orthodox literary decorum to claim divine inspiration.

If there is no God, the debate is over and Bible was written by men who either thought they were divinely inspired and they weren’t, or knew they weren’t but said they were. Either way, under those conditions, the Bible would be an unethical collection of writings based on that which is not truth, yet claiming superior authority,  and, therefore, unworthy of any serious consideration…if there is no God!

But if, indeed, God exists, and if indeed, He does personally interact with human beings, then He most certainly can inspire men to scribe His truth for all men to encounter and thus the authority of Scripture can be firmly established. People may still disagree with its content but they cannot simply repudiate or dismiss its source. The summation of the internal claims of Scripture and the external, historical affirmations of those claims is that “Scripture is inscribed by men inspired by God.” The first part is obvious and undeniable. It is the second part that adherents cherish by faith but that antagonists must sufficiently disprove.

So let’s not rest arguments against the validity and authority of Scripture purely on the weakness of man. That fact is irrefutable. Let’s debate the issue on the true lodestone being  the Living Lord Himself, God Almighty, the true Author of His Living Word.

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Prayer That Strengthens the Weak

Categories: Devotional Insights, Spiritual Disciplines, Tags: , , , ,

prayer1Not too long ago, after one of weekend worship services, it seemed like there were a lot of intense prayer needs…people dealing with significant, personal, heavy issues. I listened to one dealing with a custody hearing, sat with one going through a legal suit case against them, prayed with one dealing with depression, and physical health concerns, and these were introduced to me within 10 minutes! I confess that hearing these, I was overwhelmed and my faith fluttered when I wondered what I could do. So then I prayed, and even then, it was hard to feel that it wasn’t more than just words.

Later, I heard from those facing the court cases, that the worse didn’t happen. God came through. In one situation, as they were approaching the judge, something happened that turned what could have been devastating into something that has preserved life and hope…and honestly, I am hoping and praying for more than that!

The title of this post is not about the prayer that strengthened those I prayed for but strengthened the one who prayed for them: ME! Ashamedly, sometimes I find myself saying to others, “Hey, the least I can do is pray for you!” What a crock!

If the US Air Force accepted my invitation to execute a military “shock-and-awe” maneuver in my backyard to destroy a nasty nest of Army ants (you gotta love the imagery) they would bring firepower that was more magnificent and vastly superior to any insectarian defense or assault the vicious beasts could mount and to any insecticide ammunition I have under my kitchen sink!

Asking the USAF for help would not be the least I could, that would the most extravagant, maybe even audacious thing I could do! Consider that when we pray, we are inviting the divine and infinite source of power in and beyond this universe to move and accomplish His perfect will in our life or the lives of others. That is so far above “the least we can do”! Praying for people is less about what we want to do to help, but the privilege we have of inviting God to bring His strength and power to the table.

Now I know that there are times where God doesn’t come through the way we wish He would… all the time! We might be ashamed to admit, that our faith in God is sometimes dictated by His performing the way we want Him to, when we want Him to. Thus when He doesn’t comply with our requests, we tend to lose faith in Him and pray less. Tragically, that is where weakness sets in.

In hearing the praise reports of these friends who needed God to move and then experienced His movement, it revived my faith in Him, gave me hope in spite of those times that other prayers weren’t answered my way, and somehow, reignited the conviction that though I am not sure what He is up to, He has no doubt about what He’s doing and why. God is good (all the time) and is working all things out (always) for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

The “least I can do” is fake it but still mouth the request. The best I can do is ‘faith it’ and sincerely trust in Him to do what only He can! Sincere prayer is where faith in God is strengthened, not solely by His fulfilling my request as we asked, but more, by the wonderful reality and promise of His Presence, His Purpose, and His Power that will ultimately brings His version of good into our lives. Given the choice, I definitely want His version of good!

Lord, forgive us for weak prayer that is really more about weak trust in You. Help us to lift up our requests to you with a clearer focus on Your Imposing Nature and Divine resources than on our imposing circumstances and desperate conditions. We agree with Jesus: our spirit may be willing but our flesh is so weak! So, may we submit ourselves to You for renewal.

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The “Flawed Scribe”

Categories: Devotional Insights, Tags: , ,

“Flawed Scribe” is my upfront admission of my being an imperfect but in-process pilgrim whose musings and insights, though sincere, are reflective of the journey I am still a student in.

I find that people (me included) give the disclaimer that we aren’t perfect and that we’re all in process but it does seem that we actually do assume a significant level of expertise with our views. I mean, look at the heat and vigor with which we communicate and unconsciously expect to be heard and heeded. That is “flawed” because no matter the issue, we are incapable of seeing it from all the angles AND with perfect flaw-free clarity. Only One can make that claim for He is also the One who shapes reality and perspective. When it comes to the issues of life, including those of my own, I am definitely 20/20 challenged.

I am reading through the book of Job, in the Bible. I think this assumption of “flaw-free clarity” was Job’s problem in his understandable reaction to the incalculable suffering he was afflicted with along with the insufferable “comforters” he had for friends. (They really did try to help but they were clueless malpracticioners of soul-care). Job dared to assert that in his own righteousness, he had the right and intention to confront God and expect an answer. Larry Crabb in his book, Inside Out (great book) refers to the “Sin of Demandingness” and that this cute little companion already has real estate in our hearts, lurking in close proximity to our own sense of justice and fair play. It usually rears its attractive head with calm ferocity whe we face adversity or deprivation. It is when we are going without, being left out, being opposed or oppressed that we demand, even to God, our list of grievances be heard and resolved. The amazing thing is that we are not even aware of the presence of this self-righteous roommate, closer to us than our own skin.

Personally, I am going through some challenges in my own life and I have come to understand painfully, humbly, that although I have been given some wisdom, that due to my “flawed” nature, I must be careful not even to count on that apart from an absolute reliance and dependence of the One who is fully, truly all-knowing and all-wise. I am a flawed scribe because even in the face of the reality of Jesus Christ, The Way, TRUTH and life, I still find myself opposing His wisdom in favor of my own.

Indeed, I am a scribe in that I think, read, muse, ponder and then communicate through writing, musical compositions (makes me more of a bard here) and also counseling, guiding, encouraging, and teaching/preaching to others. I am flawed in that, inherently, I am broken and in the process of being fixed. My musings are always tainted with the fact that I do not see as God does, and quite frankly, never will, not even, I believe, in eternity, since I will never BE God. But that’s OK…God is already doing a great job being God and I trust Him….I mean, I am learning to trust Him. (Oooops, I did it again!)

So as far as your sampling my philosophical emanations, enter and partake at your own risk, but with eyes wide open, recognizing who you’re dealing with: a piece of clay on the wheel being molded to become something of far greater worth in the future than he is right now.

My hope is in this passage of Scripture, which is also a promise:

“…being confident of this, that He who began a good in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

May it be true of me and you as well.

Bon Voyage!

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Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Rebuilding Hope

Categories: Devotional Insights, Tags: , , , ,

In the aftermath of the brutal genocide in Rwanda, the message of the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of grace and forgiveness, has taken on transcendence as hearts, one by one, are engaged and then embracing the call to rebuild.

rwanda-mainRecently I viewed the documentary “As We Forgive” with my church. It chronicled the reconciliation efforts currently underway in Rwanda where in 1994, in the space of a few months, 1 million of the Tutsis people were slaughtered out of fear and prejudice by the Hutus (pronounced “hoo-toos”). (click here for more info. [http://www.asweforgivemovie.com/trailer.htm])

Featured in the film were testimonies of actual Tutsi victims who testified of the brutality they personally suffered in violence against them and the senseless destruction of loved ones – father, mother, children – and friends. There were also testimonies of their assailants who testified of their reasons behind and their remorse for their despicable crimes against innocents. What made this genocide even more heinous is the admission of the killers that they were deceived and incited to raise their hands and weapons against people who days prior were considered friends and fellow countrymen and women! They had eaten, recreated, cultivated and shared lives together. They revealed that they had been led by government propaganda to believe that these fellow Africans were a threat to the peace and stability of their society. Motivated by fear of the harm they were told would come to them by the Tutsis or the very government seeking to involve them in this genocide, these Hutus natives carried out merciless desecration of sacred lives. In some cases even religious leaders gave refuge to escaping Tutsis only to bulldoze the havens over them, burying them alive or these leaders alerted the Hutus raiders who then came and slaughtered these captives.

The film showed the scars, the anguish, the desolation left in the wake of this human carnage. It also displayed the shame and guilt on the faces of the Tutsis culprits, remorseful for their loss of sanity and their complicity in the genocide. The guilty criminals were incarcerated, by the thousands, for their crimes and then after serving some time, were released back into society. The rationale of the government authorizing such actions is that the genocide had so deeply affected the fabric of society in innumerable ways through the countless lives no longer walking the earth or walking the earth in abject horror and shame at their actions, that a process of forgiveness and reconciliation needed to begin. The core of the movie was the guilty seeking forgiveness from those they had victimized. Led by Christian organizations primarily through prison ministries, the unrelenting process had been undertaken to sow seeds of peace back into the torn fabric of humanity to thus resurrect the dignity of life in each person. Through building programs, crop support, and other efforts the guilty, took responsibility for their actions but also demonstrated it through the practice of restitution with those they had “taken from”. In the aftermath of brutal genocide in Rwanda, the message of the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of grace and forgiveness, has taken on transcendence as hearts, one by one, are engaged and then embracing the call to rebuild.

I was so moved, first by the depth of human depravity and the ease at which man can be so diabolically set against another, whether friend, woman, or innocent child. I can still picture the grisly footage of bodies charred and burned, or hacked by machetes, or bludgeoned to death. I was also moved by the testimonies of those sharing the degree to which life, hope and peace had been ripped violently from their world, some skulls-rwanda1even suffering the scars of physical violence done to them, to some who had been abandoned, presumed dead. But then I was moved by the human drama of watching how the criminals too ashamed to face their victims eventually were encouraged by Christian leaders to face their victims and taking responsibility for their actions, humbly seek their forgiveness. I watched how the victims, reluctantly and with great angst gave audience to their violators, gave air to their own hurt and also eventually embark on the path of reconciliation.

The subtitle for the movie promo was “can mercy rebuild what genocide destroyed?” The answer came in watching lives that were torn apart, come togetherin a process where hope was gradually restored;  where both criminal and victim came to live together rebuilding a community of love; where actual, active, intentional forgiveness, raw and real, but reflective of the Christ, became the final form of love. One of the lines that stuck out to me,

“Forgiveness and reconciliation releases the criminal from guilt and shame and the victim from grief and anger.”

I guess there were alot of things running through my mind. I reflected on how shallow we do forgiveness sometimes, aware that sometimes our version of forgiveness is white washed with gospel rhetoric, the offender requests forgiveness from the offended and the latter declares their willingness to offer forgiveness but refuses to associate with the offender in any significant way. Nothing is rebuilt. Cold war has been declared.

I recall a couple of people in my life that I have let down or hurt them (I guess we all d0!) but also where there is no bridge to rebuild anything that in any significant way reflects the way that Christ loves us. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the divine degree of forgiveness is possible when we face the reality of the brokenness we’ve caused and the barrier that remains, even after the words of forgiveness are spoken but never fully applied to the point of healing and rebuilding. In these cases, the words “I forgive…” are followed by “…but I cannot…” delineating a line that must not be crossed and a relationship that can never be rebuilt. We retreat into a complacency comforting ourselves with the belief that we have done all we can to seek forgiveness or to offer forgiveness, and yet if we truly pondered the implications, we would not want God to “forgive” us the way we forgive others. In a quote by someone, connected with the Rwandan genocide but not with the movie, they said,

“I visited the [Genocide] Memorial with a Christian group and felt some tension between the banners declaring that we should “Never Forget” and my understanding of Forgiveness. Of course we should be cognizant of the human capacity for evil for the purpose of preventing similar events in the future, but is it possible to mourn one group’s tragedy without asking another group to bear a mark of shame? Is this fair? And for how long?”

Now I am the first to admit that in no way am I guilting or condemning those who have suffered deeply at the hands of others appealing to them to simply forget and quantum leap to trust without some degree of assurance that they will not subject themself to further brutality or betrayal. But I do wonder if for many of us our efforts at forgiveness and reconciliation go as far as they should, toward the actual rebuilding, not of what was lost – nothing can rebuild that. But to rebuild something new out of the pain and grief that forges a new way of looking, loving and living. Indeed, forgiveness and reconciliation that posits the possibility of the reclamation of hope and dignity of both victim and criminal…that ain’t human: it is thoroughly divine!

And that is precisely the point.We are told in 2 Corinthians 5,

“18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

This verse reminds that as followers and ambassadors of Christ we have been commissioned with a Gospel that is not only about saving humanity from the hell God  created for the devil and his angels, but also from the hell we create for ourselves by living independent of God’s and releasing that destructive chaos into the lives of others. It reminds us that as those compelled by Christ’s love (2 Cor. 5:14) Christians are the incarnations of divine invitations of God to a sinful, shameful, imprisoned humanity. Christ is our model and also the medium through which this new hope for a new community can and must come. That doesn’t mean the road there will be easy.

The victims in the documentary confessed how hard it was to look into the face of the murderers and not see the face of their dead. The perpetrators confessed the difficulty of looking into the face of those they had abused or taken from, and not see the shame of what they had done and what they had become. But they also confessed having a shred of hope for deliverance from what they had become, some hope that they could be restored to what they were meant to be and desired to be. I am reminded that the road to forgiveness and reconciliation contains a bridge that both offended and offender must begin and walk together if they are to ever emerge on the other side as a community of hope rebuilt by love. To refuse in any way to do so may very well sustains and support the chaos of any form of genocide spawned from hate.

Thank God that He fashioned us in Christ for better things. May we seek, as offend-ers or as offend-eds, to make our lives available to the Prince of Peace to execute His sovereign rule in us, over us and through us for the salvation and liberation of the world He died to reconcile to God.

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Family First in Reaching the World

Categories: Devotional Insights, Tags: , , , ,

When our reliance is completely on Christ and our hearts are captured by His love and our fellowship with one another is a natural (or supernatural) byproduct of the indwelling Spirit, the only true source of true fellowship, the world may also come to us, even as we still go to them.

I am cautious with so much of the rhetoric and activity in the progressive, active, evangelical Christian community with vision-plans, outreach strategies and the like to extend the Gospel all over the world.. Christ’s dominant teaching during the last evening with His closest friends was the high degree of service offered to the family. Throughout the New Testament we are continually admonished in the way that we are to regard, serve, treat each other.

Now I know we are salt and light in the world and I know that we are to offer ourselves as servants to the world, ambassadors, messengers and ministers of reconciliation to the spiritually lost and condemned, but the overwhelming biblical evidence points to our love for and service to one another being the litmus of our belonging to Christ. I wonder that we engage in incredible efforts to reach the world for Christ, offer enormous resources of relief and fight feverishly against injustice and oppression while ignoring or overlooking the health and welfare of true fellowship and mercy and healing within the ranks of the household of faith. How can the Body properly serve the world if the Body is malnourished of the love and affection, truth and service that must be operative and functional among its parts? We measure our impact around us and abroad. When will we measure the impact within? Many will tell us to not fuss about this and that we should be about the business of reaching the world, but if Christ Himself lays down the example of servanthood among the servants as the fertile soil from which harvest will come for the glory of God, then are we in danger of insubordination by not tending properly to the health and well being of the community of faith?

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” John 21:16 (NIV)

Another aspect of this is to consider what kind of witness it is to the world when we serve them extravagantly while we serve the family of God with meager spiritual resources, in mediocre, tepid fellowship, with minimal care for their significant health and well being. Do we really want to replicate the same atmosphere to those we are trying to reach? That’s like a very dysfunctional family seeking to create healthy families without changing their health! In this mode, we will be reliant on programs, and gimmicks, and technology, and ‘stuff’, because what we offer is not an authentic expression of our hearts but an automated, autonomous extension of our efforts and agendas. Healthy families do not have to broadcast or prove their health. They do what they are.

Let’s be clear. This is not an “either/or” debate but a both/and obligation. It is the effective execution of the Great Commission as we experience the divine reality of the Great Commandment. When our reliance is completely on Christ and our hearts are captured by His love and our fellowship with one another is a natural (or supernatural) byproduct of the indwelling Spirit, the only true source of true fellowship, the world may also come to us, even as we still go to them. In this way, coming and going, the final destination is Christ on roads paved with love and servanthood that are most effective when they begin at home.