Archive for September, 2017|Monthly archive page

Restless

I freed myself from my computer for three days last weekend.  How refreshing!

Once again, I realized how much I am a captive of my computer – my mind and my fingers bouncing from one thought to another.

It’s a symptom of my inner restlessness.

I know I am not alone.  I see men, women and children clicking on their phones every day, often oblivious to the people around them.

Why this restlessness?

I can’t speak for others.  But, in my case, I believe there is a spiritual issue.

I am not resting in Christ.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This passage tells me that I must yield to Christ in everything – I must yoke myself to him and let him lead me.

I remember reading somewhere that, in Jesus’ time, a young ox was placed in a yoke beside a mature ox and learned how to pace himself from the older animal.  If the young ox plunged impetuously ahead, he was pulled up sharply by the older ox.  Gradually, he learned.

I love this passage.  It tells me that Jesus is not a hard-taskmaster – he is “gentle and humble in heart”.  And his demands are not frightening – his “yoke is easy”.

The question is: Do I really want to give up running my life my way?

The apostle Paul answered “Yes” to that question.

In Philippians 4:12-13, he said:  “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Paul gave himself entirely to Jesus and received his strength and guidance.  The Book of Acts and his letters testify to his willingness to do whatever Christ asked him to do.

What if Christ asks me to do what Paul did?  That’s a scary thought.

But Jesus is not asking me to become Paul.  He is asking me to “abide” or “dwell” in him as he said in John 15:4.  I am to let the Holy Spirit flow through me in my daily life and to follow his leading.

God has chosen a path for me and he knows what I am able to do.

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The youth exodus

A friend and I were chatting this week about how to stem the massive exodus of young Christians from church.

So how do we do it?  Maybe we should do what Jesus did.

He went outside the synagogue walls and into the marketplace with his young disciples.  There he dealt with the real needs of people – spiritual and physical – healing many and speaking directly to their hearts with the good news of God.

Then, he spent time with his close disciples, answering their questions and teaching them.

Finally, he sent these young, inexperienced men out into the countryside – two-by-two – to bring healing and the gospel to others.

So what happened to these men?  They learned what ministry to others is really like the way Jesus did it.  And they learned to lean on God in the fire of life.

They saw the transforming power of God at work in ordinary lives.

When Jesus ascended to heaven, they were ready to take up his challenge to make disciples of the nations.

So, Jesus’ method was simple: Go out with disciples to where people are, show God’s love to them, share the gospel, and commission the disciples to go out in the same way themselves.

I realize that it is an uncomfortable thing to do.  Like many Christians, I’d much rather live quietly and avoid the problems of other people.

But Jesus’ approach to reaching people is exciting.  It really is life-changing – not only for the people we meet but for ourselves, too.

I believe that kind of life would appeal to many young people.

But that means we older Christians would need to lead that kind of life, as well.  We would need to risk ourselves in the outside world.  Only as we live like Jesus will young people be inspired to live like us.

Also, we would need to let young people make mistakes and learn from failure.  We would need to yield responsibility and leadership to them in their outreach efforts.

A Southern Baptist Convention study in 2002 estimated that 88 per cent of children in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18.  I have no proof, but I believe many leave because they are bored and see no relevance of the Christian faith in ordinary life.

And I believe that would change dramatically if young people – and us adults – walked the way Jesus walked.

Pulling together

Pastors of churches in Katy, Texas have been praying together every week for 20 years, so when Hurricane Harvey hit two weeks ago, they were ready to leap into action.

While Harvey was still raging,  the pastors prayed together and immediately developed a coordinated plan to help the people of the town of 17,000 in the Houston area.

The story of the Katy effort was featured this week in an interview conducted by Daniel Henderson, head of the 6:4 Fellowship which supports pastors and helps them develop their spiritual and prayer lives.

For me, this is a living illustration of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-23 where he called on believers to be one as he and the Father are one.

“May they [believers] be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me,” Christ said in verse 23.

A simple thing like praying together can break down barriers between Christians and open the way for God to work mightily in our towns and cities.

Jim Leggett, a Katy pastor, told Daniel Henderson that he was “super-grateful” that the foundation for the Katy relief initiative had been laid years before through weekly prayer gatherings of the Katy pastors.

Every year, 80 pastors also hold 24-hour pastoral prayer summits where they pray for each other and for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.  And annually the churches come together for the National Day of Prayer with 4,000-5,000 church members meeting in the auditorium of a local high school.

After praying together on the second day of the hurricane, the Katy pastors started developing a strategy to help residents of Katy.

“The first thing out of our mouths after prayer was: ‘Let’s do this together!'” Leggett said.

They decided to split responsibilities.  One church provided water, another clothes, and so on.

Leggett’s church housed 100 people from a residence for the chronically-ill.  Other churches joined his in providing shelter for those flooded out of their homes.

People were directed to specific churches where they could get the help they needed.

Everyone pitched in with “mucking out” – cleaning homes damaged with water and mud.

Jesus commanded believers in John 13:34 to love one another.  “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The Katy pastors have shown us how to love one another.