Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

Romans 15:23-33 — This passage today is about provision. The work of the church is about provision. Providing for missions, providing for other Christians in need, providing through prayer. As Christians, we are part of a team. We are not just self-contained units dotting the landscape. We are all joined together in Christ. Our fellow Christians are not out of sight, out of mind. Like the human body is interconnected and interdependent so to are all Christians in the body of Christ.

As Christians, we must provide for missions. We do so not out of obligation but we do so because the message must be sent. There are those who are sent and there are those who support those who are sent. My friend, Tim Lyda, felt the burden and the passion to plant a church in spiritually hard soil known as New England, specifically Manchester, CT. We did not force him to go there. He followed God’s leading him there. It is our job as the church from which he was sent to support him. This man, along with Jason Edwards have made sacrifices. They have moved their families 16 hours away from those who love them. They are strangers in a strange land who are making it there home, developing relationships day by day. They are faces struggles daily as they toil in the hard spiritual soil of New England. We must support them with our financial gifts. If you are a member of the LifeSong mother church here in Lyman, SC, we need to provide for Tim, Jason and their families. They are doing needed work. The gospel must be spread. People dying without knowing Christ as their Savior should, should, SHOULD burden our souls. We should care that New England is a spiritually dead place and that many souls there will be separated from God for eternity in hell for having rejected Christ. We must, must, must be there in the persons of Tim, Jason and their families. We must, must, must support them financially. We must make a way for them. The church at Rome was apparently ready and willing to support Paul’s journey to Spain. It is not just LifeSong Church as a whole that must support Manchester, we as individual LifeSongers must support them. They are doing tough work in a tough place and their need our financial resources to do the work that needs doing — spreading the gospel in ways that connect to the culture up there.

As Christians, we also have responsibility for our fellow Christ followers who are in need. In your life, would you allow a family member to be in need and not help them. If your brother, sister, or child were in desperate need would you not help them. We are part of the family of Christ so we too also have an obligation to help fellow Christ followers who are in need. Just as ancient Christ followers helped the Christians in Jerusalem when they were in need, we should be concerned about our fellow Christians here at home and abroad who are in need. We should be moved to tears by the persecution of Christians in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, China, North Korea and other places that happen on a daily basis. We should be concerned too when Christians are in need right here at home as well. We have a responsibility to both, not one or the other. We must as Christians think of the welfare of others before our own. The thing that gets in the way of us supporting other Christians in real and direct ways is the American Dream. We have bought so into the fact that we are to have the newest cars, the finest houses, a cell phone for everyone in our house including our toddlers, the finest appliances, the newest, etc. The most expensive is better. We have so bought into that we cannot do what we are called to do. We are slaves to our finances and Satan just smiles. Christians awake. Shed yourself of debt. We are called to support fellow Christians. Is it not better to live on less. Does the new BMW become more important than supporting those that fight against the killing of Christians in Syria. The BMW seems pale by comparison. Is your manicured lawn worth more than helping those who spread the gospel in China? Is your boat worth more than supporting the soup kitchen right down the road from your house?

Finally, we, as Christians, must support each other with our prayers. Do you know how much Tim, Jason and their families value our prayers? Do you know how much missionaries in the Muslim world, or in North Korea, China and elsewhere value our prayers? They beg for our prayers. In committing to pray for those who are on the front lines of the battle to spread the gospel, we participate in their ministry. When we pray (and I mean more than just those prayers that we say at the dinner table….real prayer is what I mean), we are urged by the spirit to learn more about the people we pray for and their situations. When we pray for them, we are committed to find out what exactly they need prayer for. Through prayer we become involved. Through prayer, we can move mighty mountains. For example, the LifeSong Manchester team needs our prayers for a place for Sunday worship. The work of Satan has prevented them from using a city gym. When you pray, you want learn more of the needs of those on the front lines. Commit to pray for the Manchester to find a new place to worship on Sundays. Get to know about the missionaries in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Iran and elsewhere. Pray for them. The work they do in all the spiritually hard places is long and hard. They deserve our prayers. Not just supper table prayers, the real prayers that we usually reserve for when things have gone wrong. Pray with desperation for our front line missionaries!

Father, help us to set our priorities straight financially so that we can financially support our fellow Christians who are in need, our fellow Christians who are missionaries. Help to remember the difference between those things that are temporary trappings of this life and those things that have eternal weight. Help us to pray for those who are doing the work that needs doing and in so doing we become so moved that we become desperate to help our church grow more so than making our list of things we own grow. Help us to support the church in all ways in which our common body of Christ needs. Help us to set our priorities straight so that we can. Amen.

Have you ever felt like you were coming up short? And, no, I’m not talking about the fact that I am vertically challenged! I am talking about that feeling you get after maturing in Christ for a while and you feel like you are not doing enough to spread the gospel, you are not saving lives, not saving souls. Have you ever felt like you were missing out on opportunities to serve the Lord because you had to work? Have you ever felt that even if you were not chained to your desk for 60 hours a week that you would be doing more? Have you ever felt that nothing is going to happen when you finish seminary though it is my hope that I will go in the ministry sometime soon after graduation? Have you ever felt that you would not pull the trigger to do so when it is time, after graduation? Have you ever been surrounded by people that seem to be spiritual giants to you – who can quote Scripture easily at key moments, who are out there on the cutting edge doing real things for real people – while you feel sapped and stuck in inaction? These are the feelings that have been plaguing me lately.

I accepted Christ as my Savior in December 2001 and Christ went to work in removing layers of crud in my life, but most particularly removing the idols in my life. That took a long time. It was not until about August 2009 when Elena and I joined a church similar to Lifesong when we were living in California (Livermore Alive Community Church in Livermore, CA) and it was there I began maturing after shedding many of the ghosts and fears of my past with the help of the Holy Spirit. Prior to that time, I was a spiritual baby or a toddler. Just learning to walk in my new legs. There, God let me know that it was time to start stepping up my game not because He had a checklist but because it was just time in His plan for me. Then, it was time for the big leagues…at Lifesong Church. Here, I have learned that you are not going to be asked to do something as in most churches. In those churches, you have to earn your way and have seniority and such. Here, if you want to do something, as long as it is consistent with the mission of the church and with Jesus’ command to us (Luke 10:27), then, you are empowered to do so. Here, I have grown so much in my faith in and my walk with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have gone from greeting people as they come into church on Sunday to leading one of the five stakes of ministry at our church. But therein lies the rub, the more you mature in Christ the more out of control, the more “less than” that you feel.

I have truly been blessed to participate in some of the truly community transforming activities of our church. It has been awe inspiring and empowering. So much so, it led me to go begin seminary two years ago. This experience has been one of the most beautiful and challenging experiences of my life, of my walk with my Savior. I am generally recognized as a pretty smart fellow and fairly gifted in “getting at the heart” of Scripture. However, I have been so humbled by the things that I don’t know about the Christian faith, about the plethora wonderful literature and research out there about the Bible and about Jesus himself, about the depth of knowledge and depth of faith of my classmates and my professors. It has and can at times make you feel like you are coming up short – making you feel “less than”. I compare it to the first day at school each and every time I moved as the son of Methodist preacher. That insecurity. That feeling of “less than”. At my church, there are spiritual giants. My senior pastor, Jeff Hickman….oh man, what a giant (not a comment on the fact that he is 6’3″ and 220 lbs). He is an intimidating figure physically but more so spiritually. He is so on fire for the Lord! In his presence, I feel less than. Equally there are others at our church that just blow me away with their spiritual intensity. And, its not a holier than thou intensity. It’s real. It’s impact the world for Christ real. Hayden. Humbert. Ginger. Danny. Scott. Brian Sr. All giants to me. Then, there is my wife, Elena, what a whirlwind for Christ she has become since she was saved by His grace three, almost four, years ago. She is a giant to me. All of these people can make you feel “less than.” Not that they are trying to do that. Most assuredly, they are not.

In thinking on this subject the last few days and being Jacob wrestling with God, several things have become clear.

First, earlier, I told you that after my salvation, God had a LOT of work to do – cleaning out the crud in my life, my soul. The biggest thing was that I measured my worth by the woman who was in my life. I lived and died by their approval or disapproval. That expressed itself in me valuing myself by how much intimacy I had with women. When there was much intimacy, I had great value. When the intimacy was down, so was the value I placed on myself. I allowed intimacy to rule my life. In that, I allowed the women in my life a great deal of emotional power over me. In that, I allowed the women in my life over the years to become my god. It caused me to de-elevate the things that should have been important in my life—my children and my integrity. These things took second place to access to intimacy. Anything for intimacy including not having the relationship I should have had with my children during my second marriage. That began to change when my salvation came. I got a late start on this thing—when I was 39, when I got God. So, I am only 11 years old spiritually and it is my personality to be slow to recognize things. Thus, these spiritual giants are ones who God has been able to work with longer and probably faster.

Second, and this is the biggest point, maybe at this point in my life, where I have grown so much in Him, He is wanting me to see that it is REALLY not about me. Cause, even when I was subverting myself to the women in my life, it was still in a way (a weird and twisted way) all about me. This is the point in spiritual maturation that I could easily get a big head about what He has allowed me to achieve, to be. Here among the true spiritual giants, I see that I have a lot of growing to do in Christ. Still a lot of crud to get rid of. Here among the true spiritual giants, it is clear that God wants me to be a cog in His machine. It is clear that I have so much to learn. Watching these giants is what He wants me to do right now. Watching and learning. He wants me always to feel “less than”—not in some low self-esteem way. He wants me to feel “less than” Him because that IS the way I should feel. My Savior is Jesus. Jesus is One with the Father in Eternity. He is amazingly way more powerful than me in a way that I cannot even begin to comprehend. I am “less than”. I do come up short. It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that I am alive right now. He drew me out of the pit of false gods and false hope and has kept me from destroying myself. In that, on my own, I come up short. I am less than my Savior. But my Savior in me, through the Holy Spirit, makes me of great value. It is through this writing, through the Holy Spirit’s hand, that I realize that He is still working on me. He has me here to watch the spiritual giants. He has me married to one! I am to learn. I am to be humbled by how their faith works. I am to be broken of my pride. I am to have this moment of time of doubt. I am to have this time to break me down. So…..He can use me for His purpose at His time.

Patience. Humility. Learning. Timing. Broken. Useful.