Are You an Apostle?

jesus sending pic

How would you describe your relationship with Jesus?

My relationship with Jesus began when I was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I have been a student and a church organist. I have been a counselor at a Christian camp and I’ve served as a pastor for 29 years. My relationship with Christ has changed as I’ve moved through life, and I’m excited about where God is going to take me in the coming years.

How would you describe your relationship with Jesus?

In this week’s message, “The Apostolic Imperative”, we see that the writer of Matthew’s Gospel referred to people who surrounded Jesus in two different ways. In Matthew 10:1, we see that the people who surrounded Jesus were called “μαθητης” – a Greek word that occurs 74 times in Matthew’s Gospel and that describes the people who surrounded Jesus as “disciples” – followers – “followers who adhere to the teachings of a particular teacher.” But, in Matthew 10:2, the writer of the Gospel shifts gears and uses the word “αποστολος” to describe those who surrounded Christ – a Greek word that is only used one time in the Gospel. “Αποστολος” describes those who surround Jesus as apostles and “commissioned representatives” of One who sends them. When you think about “αποστολος,” I want you to think about Moses – a man who was called to serve as a commissioned representative of God and who was sent to the Pharaoh of Egypt with a clear message from God.

I suspect that most of us picture ourselves as “followers” of Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus is walking with us and we want to believe that we’re doing things that Jesus wants us to do. But, what if we began to understand that we’re, also, called to be commissioned representatives of the Reign of God? Imagine the power that kind of a distinction could bring to our ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ!

Christ’s “Commissioned Representatives” feed the hungry, and announce the coming of the Reign of God in the very same way that Jesus did. “Commissioned Representatives” of the Reign of God confront the powers of evil that oppress the poor and that continue to separate people by looking at the color of their skin. “Commissioned Representatives” of Jesus Christ proclaim God’s forgiveness and embrace, and they speak a word of hope to young people who are being bullied in schools. “Commissioned Representatives” of Jesus Christ fight against domestic violence, substance abuse, homelessness, and hunger in the lives of children who are living in the communities that surround our churches. And why? Simply because that’s what “αποστολος” do!

I believe that the modern-day Church has become insecure, and I believe that the role of the Church in America (and in other places around the world) has been clearly dislodged because the Church is experiencing an “identity crisis.” We must recapture the important distinction between being “μαθητης” (followers of Jesus) and “αποστολος” (commissioned representatives of the Reign of God) in the world today. And that’s what I lift before you in this week’s message, “The Apostolic Imperative”

Blessings!

That We May Be One

Unity Pic

What does “unity” look like to you?

I suspect that most people believe that “unity” is created when people share similar ideas and perspectives. The “unity” of the Church is centered upon the saving message of Jesus Christ. The “unity” of the Church is created by God as people gather to worship with each other, to pray with each other, and to join hands with each other in ministry.

But “unity” and “uniformity” are very different, aren’t they? We can be “one” with each other when we agree about specific things, but we can also be “one” with each other in times when we disagree about specific things. The “unity” that God creates in the Church is not a “unity” of absolute uniformity; and thus, Christians are called together in a spirit of love even when they are moving through times of disagreement and struggles.

In this week’s message, “That We May Be One”, we explore the difference between unity and uniformity; and, perhaps just as importantly, we learn that we need to learn how to distinguish between “those who are for us” and “those who are simply for the things that we are for.” That distinction is important because “those who are for us” will continue to be “for us” even when we aren’t in 100% agreement about “what we are for.”

Blessings!

 

What a Restaurant can teach the Church about Hospitality

welcome

What makes you feel welcome?

I’ve noticed that, when my wife and I eat-out in a restaurant, there’s always someone who is ready to greet us the moment we walk in the door.

I’ve noticed that restaurants always have people who are “in place,” who are ready to help me find my way through the hustle and bustle, and who are dedicated to the task of helping me to feel both “comfortable” and “at home.”

I’ve noticed that servers in restaurants almost always tell me their names when we first meet, so that I know somebody by name when I need help. They usually even wear a name tag, so that I don’t feel uncomfortable if I need to talk with them—even though I’ve forgotten their names.

I’ve noticed that restaurants clearly mark the path to the restrooms, so that I don’t need to ask for directions. None of us like to ask for directions to the restroom, do we?

I’ve noticed that most restaurants have high-chairs—because they don’t expect parents to bring everything that their children will need during the visit. When you’re expecting children, you make special provisions for them, don’t you?

I’ve noticed that most restaurants (at least in America) provide menus that are written in English (which, conveniently, is the language I speak) because people want to clearly know what they’re ordering. I’ve never been impressed by a menu that contained fancy words that I didn’t understand.

I’ve noticed that restaurants put “Reserved” signs on seats and tables that are set aside for use by other people. I never need to worry about sitting in someone’s seat and being asked to get out of someone’s seat in a restaurant.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people need to do a lot of different things to make me feel both welcomed and embraced. Hospitality is the outgrowth of strong teamwork.

I’ve noticed that servers seldom complain to customers about their managers, about the cook, or about the people who clean the tables. I enjoy feeling welcomed and embraced, but there IS such a thing as “too much information” during my first visit.

I’ve noticed that the people understand that I’m visiting the restaurant to be fed—I’m not expecting to be asked to help cook my own meal, to pour coffee for other people, and to get the table ready for the next guests who will use it. When I’m visiting a restaurant, I’m not expecting to be offered some sort of “job” before I leave.

I’ve noticed that I’m far more likely to return to places where I have felt the welcome and embrace of other people—when I’ve been made to feel appreciated and important—and when I’ve felt that people were doing their best to make me feel “at home.”

Blessings!

 

 

God’s Taking Us to Court!

gavel

Have you ever thought about what would happen if God took us to court?

A lot of us believe that “good” people go to Heaven and “bad” people go to Hell. A lot of us probably picture God sitting on a great, big throne in the sky – always keeping an eye on us and making a list of “good things” and “bad things” that He sees us doing, so that He can judge our “worthiness” to enter Heaven after we die.

But, have you ever thought about the fact that God speaks to us and tries to point us in the right direction when we fly off course, right now? Have you ever thought about the fact that the Holy Bible, the “Sacred Story” of God’s journey with His people, is part of a story that’s continuing to unfold even now? We can find ourselves in the midst of the Exodus during times of dramatic change and transition. We can learn how to live with faith, in a world where God’s grace is often only sufficient for today, when we find ourselves in the “Sacred Story” of people who trusted that God would provide “manna” in the Wilderness each day. The “Sacred Story” we find in the Holy Bible is OUR story. The “Sacred Story” we find in the Bible is not just a story about historic events that happened long ago. It’s the story of OUR journey. It’s the story of OUR struggle to make sense of what it means to live our lives with faith in changing (and sometimes scary) times. The “Sacred Story” that we find in the Bible is the story of OUR continuing relationship with the Risen Christ, who came into the world to set us free from the power of sin and to raise us up to a new life.

In this week’s message, “God’s Taking Us to Court!”, we find ourselves in the midst of a courtroom. The prophet tells us that God’s taking us to court! We listen to God’s clear and pointed testimony. We hear the “Sacred Story” of God’s continuing love. And, as we are drawn into that “Sacred Story,” God challenges us to think about how we treat people who are hungry; how we respond to people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol; how we respond to the cries of refugees who are fleeing from their homes and countries to escape certain death; how we treat people who are being victimized by domestic violence, child trafficking, our inability to forgive, and “systems of power” that trap them in poverty, homelessness, fear and uncertainty.

This is a challenging message, but it’s a message that will speak to your heart. It’s a message that will remind you that YOU are a part of the “Sacred Story” that God’s been writing since the beginning of time. Perhaps, you’ll hear a Word that challenges you to be more forgiving and embracing? Perhaps, you’ll hear a Word from God that challenges the ways you think about people who are less fortunate than you are? Perhaps, God will speak to you in a different way and help you to discover a new and life-giving way to respond to the “Sacred Story” of God’s faithfulness in your own daily life?

Blessings!