Category Archives: The Gospel

Twenty-First Century Reformation: How We Talk to Our Neighbor

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

And, oh, how we hate that sin.

We hate sin because we believe God hates it. We act as if we are keepers of the old Law as God’s special deputies, here to explain and enforce His Law.  People focus on a very small handful of issues or sins, for the most part, declaring damnation on anyone who takes part.

People tend to spout selections of the Law as fits what they feel is the most important issue or the worst sin. There are protests, speeches, sermons, statements and general words-to-be-said to people who are involved, have done or support some sin (or what some may consider sin). There are select verses, long-winded explanations, alleged studies showing how wrong they are, warnings and threats of eternal damnation for those who are guilty of these oft mentioned issues.

People are told how much God loves them.

Okay. That is good. As we know, God’s love is unconditional.

However, with that, they are told how sinful they are and how they must repent and and accept Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.  Funny thing is, this is not how Jesus ever approached, anyone.

biblebashers

He told His disciples, “Follow Me”.

He told the Woman at the Well, “I am He.”

He had the disciples feed the multitudes without question.

He went about doing good and acted in kindness toward all. He healed, fed and taught.  He simply presented Himself and the Gospel.

But, we demand repentance of people.

Repentance is a result of knowing His love and grace. It is a change of mind in response to His revelation. Not from the demand of anyone.

Quick story: A pastor I knew told of one of his weekly stops at a local doughnut shop, which was owned and run by an Indian family.  One of the women there asked him about what he believed and he explained about his belief in Jesus. When he returned the question, she replied how she believed in many gods. He came back at her with, “That is a shame!”

No. He was being shameful, really.

The Romans were pagans. We don’t read Jesus telling the Centurion, or other Romans He encountered, anything about their paganism.

How we speak to our neighbor is important. Being pleasant and nice is good, but the words we use can be like either throwing rocks or sending invitations.

Jesus said to love our neighbor. There was no other caveat, clause, opposing thought, or even a, “But…”.

Jesus never reacted to sin or how people lived. If He addressed anyone on their sin, it was the religious hypocrites, not the “sinners”. He made it a point to spend time with sinners, so much so that the religious accused Him of being one of them (Matthew 11:19). Christians, on the other hand, stay at arms length from those they deem as sinners, often spending a great amount of time among ‘their own kind’.

The big trouble with hating the sin and loving the sinner is that hating the sin gets magnified. We can be so focused on “hating the sin” that what others mostly see is the hate. How people live is often part of who they are. To express hate over what someone does communicates hate toward the person.

In the account of the woman at the well, Jesus spoke lovingly and respectfully to the woman, even though He had every opportunity and perfect right to address everything that was wrong with her. He answered each of her questions and made no issue of her not being married to the man she was living with.  When she wanted to go back and get people to come hear Him, He did not demand that she change in order to “represent Him better”.

We would rather tell people what is wrong with them, how sinful they are and how far away they are from Jesus, rather than just presenting them with Jesus in the first place.

Hate is a poor communicator.

Back to the first sentence of this post. Let’s edit that.

Love the sinner.

 

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Are We Supposed to “Defend the Faith”?

In the culture of Christendom, we have buzzwords, catchphrases, axioms, old chestnuts, sayings among the rhetoric many hold so dear.  Many have come from streams of Biblical thought, others are extrapolated from out-of-context Biblical thought, while others are basically made up.

Personally, I like to challenge these extrapolations and made up stuff.

Now, as to defending the faith – here are my thoughts, as clearly and briefly as I can communicate.  This is a topic that has been on my mind for several years, now.  But, the topic has come up several times, recently, so I thought I would approach it.

Let’s take this from the back end.

The Faith

To be clear, Christianity (nor any religion) is not “a” faith.  This places faith as an institution.  In short, faith means belief.  We do not follow or ascribe to “a” faith or “the” faith. Faith is, in plain terms, is agreeing with God. I shall explain.

Abram/Abraham believed.  Right?  Yes, but not right away.  He is considered a great man of faith, but he was just as much an idiot as the rest of us.  God, in His great love and grace, took time to show Abram more of Himself and prove Himself.

However, in order to make faith a real thing, action must take place.  When Abram believed God, he acted upon what God was telling him.

Faith needs works to be complete.  Abram’s faith was nothing unless he did what he believed God told him.  This is what I believe to be, “Faith, without works, is dead.”

Therefore, faith is not like a system, an organization or a stream of thought.  We cannot belong to it, be part of it or join it. We have faith, we walk in faith and this is not possible except by the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Defending this Faith

Faith, truly defined, does not need nor can it be defended.  However, we can move on to the idea of “defending the Gospel”.

Gospel.  Good News.  Jesus is the embodiment of the Good News. The Promised Messiah. He brought love and grace and lived these every moment during His ministry, here.

The Gospel does not need defending.  And, if it does, certainly we are not near one iota of being qualified to defend it.

There are a couple of things I see.

One, is that there are those who feel they have to defend Jesus, Himself.  Really?  King of kings, Lord of lords, Almighty God, Prince of Peace, etc.  Mere human feels Jesus needs defending?  Jesus said, as He was about to be arrested, that He could command legions of angels, if He wanted to.

I think He has all the defense He needs.

The other thing I see is folks want to defend Christianity.  They feel that Christians are being persecuted, somehow.  When we realize what makes them feel “persecuted”, the reality is, they have no idea what it means to be persecuted.

In the US, particularly, it is felt by some that religious freedom is being taken away, simply because people don’t want the convictions of a few to legislate everyone’s lives.  I think I might approach this idea of “persecution” in another post.  Overall, they take disagreement as persecution.

In either case, people act like some battle line has been drawn.  I fail to find where we are supposed to fight to defend Jesus or Christianity in the militant manner some are inclined toward.  Nothing…nothing says anything about Christians taking reign in any government in order to live as Christians or to enforce some sort of Christian nation.

I fail to see where all this “defense” – which is really offense – amounts to represents Jesus or His Gospel.

Personally, I have no need to “defend the faith”.  I don’t see where we are instructed to do so.

Be witnesses, yes.

Love our neighbors, for sure.

Know Him…absolutely.

Defend your family and home.  Defend the defenseless.  Defend the poor and vulnerable.

We are not part of “a” faith or “the” faith.  And, God is bigger than any supposed defense we think we can muster up.

Thoughts?

 

Seeking Approval From Ghosts

About a couple of years ago, I read the book, I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers, by Tim Madigan. Mr. Madigan is a journalist who spent time interviewing the famed Mr. Rogers and found a friend in him. I highly recommend this book, if you want to read something that makes you reach for a tissue.

Within the book, through the friendship with Mr. Rogers, Tim was discovered a need for a certain level of approval. Mr. Rogers, being the kind of person he was, saw this and began to end his responses with, “IPOY”…which stands for, I’m proud of you.

Personally Speaking

My father was, by all accounts, a pretty decent guy.  He was pleasant, well liked and seemingly content most of the time.  There were issues, however, that kept him from being part of the household on a consistent basis.  So, from a young age, I remember my father either working long hours, or making a stop at a “local watering hole” before he came home. I don’t think he meant to be distant, but it did end up that way.

By the time I was nearly eleven, he had a massive stroke that left him in nursing care for the remainder of his life.  The man I barely knew had permanent short-term memory loss, so he needed 24 hour care.  He was not the same man, really.  In the long run, I never really got to know him.

Years later, as an adult, I unwittingly began seeking approval from others.  Men in authority, such as pastors or other leaders who would have been some level of paternal figure. It was not really a desperate thing, but it seemed to be a subconscious necessity.  It took me many years into my adulthood before I realized that I was seeking someone’s approval.

However, we are always approved.

Unconditionally, undeniably, unashamedly, unconditionally…with no regret, no reservations and without doubt…God approves of us.  No, not everything we do.

Everything we are.

His beloved children.  This is why Jesus went to anyone, from any walk of life, with any ailment, no matter their station in life, how they lived, smelled or looked…He would treat them with love and respect, placing a loving arm around them, covering what others would bring as exposed shame.

He never said He approved of what someone was doing, but He clearly showed He approved of the person.

He approves of you.

He approves of me.

Showing approval.

We still need approval, here on Earth.  We need to express and show approval.  You know, like when a little kids brings you his brilliant artwork.  Sure, it may look like mud-colored chaos on a piece of warped and water logged paper.  But, as a loving parent, you let them know how great their work is and hang it on the refrigerator for all to see.

One thing I have been trying to be diligent about…letting my two sons and son-in-law know that I am proud of them.  Yes, I let my girls know that, too.  But, I believe the impact of a Dad communicating this to his sons is important.  I don’t want them seeking approval from people who may wind up taking advantage of their efforts.

Once in a while, I will post something on my Facebook page about one or all of my boys, if not all of the kids.  I will explain how they are becoming fine adults, parents and citizens.  I have often closed these with “IPOY”.  When I talk with them, personally, I try to remember to let them know that I am always proud of them.

Story.

This is rather condensed, but I hope my point comes across.

An old friend was explaining to me about some stuff his son would write.  He told me his son has great insights.  However, from a theological standpoint, my friend had disagreements and let his son know what he felt was inaccurate.  Upon explaining this to me, he said that, perhaps, his son was seeking his Dad’s approval.  So, I just said that he should give his son his approval.

Not long later, he was reviewing another of his son’s articles.  He had some normal critique, but some of his critique was about to become rather, well, critical.  Under the advice of his wife, he left out those portions and his son’s response was very positive.  My friend actually sees a turnaround in his relationship with his son.

Dad’s approval for his sons means much. Mom’s approval for her girls means much. Parents approval for our children means much.  Grandparents approval for our grandchildren means much.  We may not agree with everything, we may have to correct or show the correct way.  But, we should always approve of them.

 

Approval comes from love.

Love says my desires are less important than others’ well being.  Love says my knowledge is less important than someone else’s effort.  Love says that my being right is less important than supporting someone going through a tough spot.  Love says that my agenda should be set aside for the betterment of someone else.

The ghost is gone.

There is no end to searching for approval from someone who is not there or who will never show proper approval.  For whatever reason, I finally came to realize that I was searching and how vain that search was.  God always approves of me and He is a proud father of all of us.

I now know He approves of me.  The ghost his gone.

We are His children and that is all there is to it.

If Jesus were to leave you a note, He might sign it…

IPOY

 

 

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One Warm Day

She looked out on the street and could feel the heat of the early afternoon sun as it poured through the window.  It was time to go get water.  The other women were back from the well.  She felt comfortable making the trip, in spite of the heat.

She didn’t mind the other women, really.  She didn’t dislike any of them.  It was just the comments since the last divorce.  Most of the comments were meant well…

“Oh, its a shame things went so badly for you, dear.”

“You know, if you had just made better choices…”

Then there were those that cut a little deeper…

“How many more men before you settle down.”

“What man would want a woman like that?”

Enough was enough.  It was better to endure the heat of the day, rather than put up with all the comments, whether direct or indirect.  Sometimes, there were looks, too.  She felt bad enough over her situation without the comments, even if some were meant with good intentions.

waterjarOff she went, jars ready to be filled.  It was about a mile, or so, up to the well her family had drawn from for generations.  As she walked, her mind wandered from one thought to another, as happens with any of us as we walk alone.  She pondered her life, she thought of the good friends she had, she wondered if God really cared for her and even wondered if those old jars would last just one more trip.

When she got to the well, she set down her jars, removed the cover and lowered the pail to dip for her first load of water.  As she raised the pail, she noticed someone walking in her direction.  At first, she didn’t think much of it…probably just another man coming to demand water. But, as the man drew closer, she noticed something different.

He dressed differently.  “Oh, no!  He’s a rabbi!  A Jew!  I have to hurry up and get out of here.  They hate Samaritans.”, she anxiously thought.

She began to hastily lower the pail to get the next scoop of water.  “He’s getting closer.  I’d better hurry.” But, no sooner could she formulate that thought, he was even closer.  He was close enough to talk to her…

“May I have some water, too?”, he asked.

He asked?  She thought. Usually, if a Jew lowers himself enough to say anything to a Samaritan, much less a woman, he snaps an order as if he were talking to a dog.  The fact that this rabbi is even in Samaria is unusual in itself.

With a suspicious tone while folding her arms in a guarded fashion, she answered him. “You are a Jew.  I am Samaritan.  We have nothing to do with each other.  Why are you asking me for a drink?”

He smiled, a warm, friendly smile.  It was the kind of smile a father would have looking at his beloved children.  She had no idea what to think of this guy.

He answered her, “You don’t know what God wants to give you, and you don’t know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would ask me for the water that gives life.”

She looked at him with suspicious, squinting eyes.  But, she had a reply.   “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where are you going to get this life-giving water? Our ancestor Jacob dug this well for us, and his family and animals got water from it. Are you greater than Jacob?”

She had no idea if this man was for real or just another mean-spirited Jewish leader about to give her a hard time.  Was he setting her up for a big put down?  He had more to say.

“Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again.  But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.”

Eternal life?  This intrigued her. She used her sleeve to wipe some sweat from her face as she pondered her next statement.  She brightened up a bit and told Him, ““Sir, please give me a drink of that water! Then I won’t get thirsty and have to come to this well again.”

The man smiled a warm, understanding smile.  He looked at her and gently asked her to go get her husband.

Oh, great.

This was a topic that did not sit well with her.  She hated explaining her situation. She especially hated the derisive remarks and judgmental statements.  So, rather than admit anything, she simply said, “I don’t have a husband.”

She figured she dodged that one.  No giving excuses.  No explaining the previous marriages.  But, this man was special…he seemed to know things.  He told her something a stranger would not know.

“You’re telling the truth. You don’t have a husband. You have already been married five times, and the man you are now living with isn’t your husband.”

Her mind went racing.  How did he know that?   Did someone tell him about me?  But, he seems to know.  Let’s see if he is the real deal.

She stood straight up and spoke confidently.  “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.  My ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say Jerusalem is the only place to worship.”

She figured he would just give another pat answer about Jerusalem, as she would expect a rabbi to give.  His answer was not what she expected.

“A time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.”

She was impressed, to say the least.  But, a little discouraged at the same time.  Like so many, she desired to see a savior.  She wanted to know the Messiah, because she knew the Messiah would have all the answers.  Then, she told the man, “When Messiah comes, He will let us know all things.”

He looked her directly in the eye and told her something that turned her life upside down.

“I am that one, and I am speaking to you now.”

At first, she couldn’t formulate any words.  She just stared at him for a few moments. Then, her eyes got wide and she began to get excited.

“Wait…what?  You?  Really?  Well, yes!  Yes, I think it is you!  Who else would know know what you know?  It’s you!  It’s really you!  I gotta tell somebody!  I gotta tell everybody! You’re Him!  He’s you!  Stay here…I’ll be back.  Don’t move!  They have to meet you.  They all have to meet you!  Let me grab my water jars…oh, heck…they’ll wait.  I will be right back!”

Off she ran, back to the village to gather as many people as she could.  She told everyone she could, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be the Messiah?”

Yes, dear woman.  He is.  As a matter of fact, you don’t know this, but He told His disciples that He had to go to Samaria.  Apparently, He had an appointment…with you. He had an appointment with your people, too.  You just saw love in a Person.

Love in a Person.

Jesus.

As His followers, we should show that same love.  The story of the Woman at the Well is one of the prime examples of how to treat a stranger, a sinner and a woman.  Jesus did not go to her with any more agenda than to introduce Himself to her and her people.

 

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Compassion in Action

Luke 13:10-17

10 One Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by an evil spirit for eighteen years. She was completely bent over and could not straighten up. 12 When Jesus saw the woman, he called her over and said, “You are now well.” 13 He placed his hands on her, and right away she stood up straight and praised God.

14 The man in charge of the meeting place was angry because Jesus had healed someone on the Sabbath. So he said to the people, “Each week has six days when we can work. Come and be healed on one of those days, but not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord replied, “Are you trying to fool someone? Won’t any one of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath? 16 This woman belongs to the family of Abraham, but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years. Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?” 17 Jesus’ words made his enemies ashamed. But everyone else in the crowd was happy about the wonderful things he was doing.

This passage is familiar, particularly with the emphasis that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath.  As I see it, this was the first part of the indictment.  It speaks to the rigidity the leaders held and enforced concerning the Law.

The Law was never meant to override the needs of people.  Jesus made this point clear, when He said, “Won’t any of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath?”

It’s like, let’s be real…you are able to take care of your animals on the Sabbath, but a woman gets healed and you have a fit because she was healed on the Sabbath.

Really?

They seemed to forget about all those provisional things for people that were also clearly mentioned in the scriptures.  It was the Pharisees who decided all that extra stuff.  They had over two thousand rules in order to obey the Law and much of it was not based on scripture.

Wow.  Sounds a lot like what we hear from much of the Church, these days.

Right after He basically tells them that they treat livestock better than people, He points out two things.  First, He says, “This woman belongs to the family of Abraham…”.  In other words, “Boys, she is one of your own.”  He was showing them that they can’t even take care of one of their own (much less, anyone else) because of their sense of the Law.

He continued, “…but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years.  Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?”

womansetfreeSet. Her. Free.

For eighteen years she suffered this affliction.  It bound her.  She was limited. Uncomfortable. Likely, in some pain, too.  She was not free.  Jesus set her free.

Imagine, being her.  No running.  No leisurely strolls. In pain. Being considered as “less than”, or at least, feeling that way.  For 18 years.

No one really knows what caused her problem.  This is probably the reason she was said to have been “crippled by an evil spirit”.  Was it stress?  Depression?  Hopelessness?  All of those?  It may have been an injury, but my speculation is that her malady was due to an attack on her soul.  The father of lies got to her.

Jesus saw the woman and called her over.  She was just there, bent over and probably uncomfortable.  He was not about to wait for her to ask.  As usual, He had compassion. He saw her in her misery, unable to stand straight.  He calls her over, places His hands on her as He says, “You are now well.”

This had some impact.  The “enemies” were ashamed because…

  • Jesus showed the compassion that they would not
  • Jesus pointed out they had eighteen years to show some compassion
  • He pointed out that they would take better care of their animals on the Sabbath than they did people.

1 John 3:17 (NLT)  If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person?

Let’s forget the financial reference here, for a minute.  Let’s consider the point.  If there is something we have or are able to do and we overlook or bypass someone who has a need we can fill, we might lack compassion.

Compassion.  To “suffer with”.  Empathy.  When religious dictates rule over the needs of people, empathy and compassion go right out the window.  This was never God’s intention or plan and Jesus demonstrated compassion.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to move forward with compassion.  If I have the ability to do something and come across someone that has a need, I want to be one of those who extends a hand of compassion and love.

When people reach out a hand…are we willing to reach and pull them up?

 

 

 

 

 

The Profession Obsession or the Confession Direction

I have a long time friend, Mike, I have known since we served together in the Navy back in the early eighties.  He and I have managed to keep in touch and we talk together frequently, mostly by text messaging.  Besides pre-pubescent level insanity befitting two guys in their mid fifties, we share epiphanies and inspirations and often learn from one another.  Here is the sum of what Mike opened with recently:

What direction is love in your life?  If your theology hinges on your love for God, then the blood and the cross eventually take second place.  This can produce a compulsion to work and brag about your love for God and thinking you have “levels of faith”.

Interesting.  Wouldn’t you say?

loudmouthSo much of the Church has gone the way of professing their love for God and the result is a misinterpretation of what it means to love God.  If it becomes strictly a matter of us loving Him, then the Cross means nothing.

It starts with the Cross…His love for us.

We read, “Love the Lord with all you heart, all your soul and all your mind.”  However, this has become something of a doctrine of our effort toward salvation and approval by God.  It is as if they promote a gauge of how much a person loves God, which is measured in words and deeds.  In other words, the more work you do and the louder you can shout and profess your love for God, the more approved you are and the greater the proof of your salvation.

If you ask me, this sounds tiresome.  How do these “professors” and their faithful followers keep up with this?  Well, it’s like that commercial for a brand of anti-depression medication, where the people carry a paper smiley-face mask with them.  They put on a facade.

Fake it?  Yes.  Put on a happy face.  Therefore, all this profession is a facade in front of others along with an attempt to impress God.

Impress God?  As if.

How can anyone impress the Creator of the Universe?  Peasants.

His love for us, however, outshines anything we can even attempt to do to impress Him. He isn’t impressed with us or anything we do.  He loves us.

Law is profession.handup

It takes no faith to profess something.  You can shout anything you want from whatever vast knowledge or belief you may or may not have.  Profession takes no faith.  There are plenty of pulpit-pounding purveyors of various doctrines out there who profess stuff they don’t understand or necessarily believe. Confession, however, does.

Love is confession

We confess that He loves us.  Since we know He loves us, we love Him in return.

Parents, your children’s love for you is out of response to your love for them.  You don’t demand or command that they love you.  They love you because they know you love them.

How much more does the Father love us?

The danger of enforcing profession.

When leaders profess love for God and enforce (encourage?) the profession of love for God by others, what happens is individual efforts to impress God with our love for Him.  What we may see is people straining to reach God, singing and shouting loudly during “worship service”, as if the louder and more exuberant they become, the more obvious it will be to God how much they love Him.  Many of these people are insecure in the idea of God’s love for them.

Another, probably bigger danger is the judgmental statements that start with, “If you truly love the Lord…”.  This forces people to profess and/or prove their love for the Lord.  It results in the facade of behavioral modification.

God.  Loves.  You.

Learn that.  Agree with it.  Believe it.  Know it.  Take refuge in that.  Just sit back and know that He loves you.  Know that His work on the Cross is sufficient.  Did He not say, “It is finished.”?  We don’t need to stress and strain or prove our love for Him…He loves us, no matter what.

When we embrace the fact that He loves us, our love for Him follows.  Then, we begin to act on that love, when He calls, commands or speaks to us…and we obey because we love Him. We do for Him out of our love for Him and our love for Him is in response to His love for us.

Knowing how loved we are prompts, propels and compels us to love and serve Him.

A very busy man in ministry was once asked how he did all that he did, with the travel and ridiculous schedule.  His reply, “I know that I know that God loves me.”

Let’s not gauge our spirituality or our standing by how much (we think) we love God.  Let’s not measure how much we love God by what we do, how we do it or how we behave.  This is backward.  Our love is incomplete, impure and has its share of conditions and reservations.

We need to go back to the Cross.

We need to remember how completely and unconditionally He loves us.

1 John 4:10 (NIV), This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This gives us a good starting point toward loving Him.  First – and always – His love, proven at the Cross. Then, our love for Him follows.  It is more organic than demanded.

 

 

 

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Ministry Vs. Invitations

Every church, it seems, has some sort of an “outreach” program.  From what I have observed, there are two main ideas of what “outreach” is.

joinusThe lesser version is where the target of outreach is a getting people into a church. Whatever the specific program, the idea is to add numbers to their gathering.  Most think this is good ministry and what they are doing is spreading the Gospel.  While most involved are genuine, they are missing the fact that what they are doing is attracting people to their church.

When Jesus said, “Go, therefore…”, there was no indication of any instruction that included inviting people to be among their number.  There was a commission to preach the Gospel.

Jesus demonstrated what it is to minister to people.  Of course, minister = serve. He taught, healed and He had the disciples distribute food (that He multiplied) to thousands. Very few of these people became part of the crowd that followed Him.  Yet, He never selected, segregated, cast away, shunned or denied anyone healing or a meal.

For some reason, we feel that if someone does not want anything to do with us or the message we are shoving down their throats, we may feel justified in having nothing to do with them anymore.

‘Tis ignominious thinking, there.

Stop inviting them to church!

Before you go to your corner and ponder whether you have sinned by reading my post, let me clear this up.  What I mean, here, is that we should not make outreach into a recruiting expedition.

We were never called to bring people to church.  We were never called to threaten people with Hell if they don’t yield to the message we are planting in their faces.  I fail to see how this is spreading “good news”.

What is “outreach”, anyway?  To be clear, you won’t find that word in the Bible.  We just added that one to our lingo, some time ago.  Basically, outreach is reaching beyond – so, it is not a mistaken word to add.  We should “reach beyond”.  This is what love would do.

It also means to – now, don’t be offset by the massive difficulty of this definition – to reach out.

But, as much as we use the word, outreach, we have allowed it to morph into something lesser.  It becomes less about ministering to people and more about marketing the local church.  We seem to want to reach out as long as we can pull them in.

Love does not pull.  Love draws.  Drawing is not manipulating or convincing…it happens more organically.  We cannot force it or manufacture it.  It is not our love that draws.  It is not us who draw.  Jesus draws.  It is His love, through us.handreach

We do have some effort on our part. If we are going to reach out, our efforts should be the same ones Jesus put forth.  Take care of people.

Feed, clothe and house the poor.

Welcome and love the disenfranchised.

Protect the weak from predators.

Serve the “less-than’s”.  Don’t let pride get in the way.

Make donations to or serve local food pantries or soup kitchens.

Raise money to help someone who has fallen behind, financially (unless you are loaded, then unlock that purse).

Have a shoulder available.  Sometimes people just need to vent to a non-judgmental ear.

If able, open home to someone who needs a home (teen having a tough time at home, pregnant teen, someone needing financial relief).  This has to be a well considered commitment – it can be a disturbance and upset to the household (we did this for a young woman and there were adjustments, but it was worth it.  Might tell that story, eventually).

Don’t forget, home first.

We also read to love others, especially those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).  While outreach is how we show our love to others, we must never forget loving one another. How we interact and take care of each other keeps us all going so we can feel free to reach out to the rest of the world.  Plus, people see how we treat each other and that speaks volumes. So, if a brother needs a “leg up”, another brother, who is able, should give him that boost.

Let’s be reminded…Jesus gave a new commandment…love one another.

Wear their shoes.

When Jesus saw the crowds, even when He was exhausted, He had “compassion on them” (Matt. 9, Mark 6).  To have compassion is to suffer with.  Let’s also consider, sympathy and empathy.  Jesus put Himself in their place…He felt their anguish, pain, anxiety and stress. He knew their loneliness, their shortfalls and their illnesses.  Rather than being all about our own agenda, we should listen to Him and allow Him to show us what He sees.

I, like many others, have been on the  receiving end of compassion as well as ignorance. There were times when I and my family needed some help and someone was there, without any of us asking.  Other times, I stood in “prayer circles”, explaining my trials during unemployment and was basically ignored, other than being prayed for.

The latter issue is huge.  There is too much “God bless you, be warmed and filled.”, which shows no love or compassion.  Too often, people of financial means essentially ignore the plight of a person in their lives who needs a boost.  No…just because someone has money should they dole it out to every struggling soul.  But, if someone has the means…well, John stated it well in 1 John 3…

16 By this we know [and have come to understand the depth and essence of His precious] love: that He [willingly] laid down His life for us [because He loved us]. And we ought to lay down our lives for the believers. 17 But whoever has the [a]world’s goods (adequate resources), and sees his brother in need, but has no compassion for him, how does the love of God live in him? 18 Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words]. (Amplified)

Less inviting.  More ministering.

Less preaching.  More serving.

Less apathy.  More compassion.

Less judgment.  More love.

I am no better at this.  I speak to myself, as well.  This year, I am praying to see what my hands can do.  I am tired of the same old – same old.  I feel it is time to rise up and be Jesus to people (especially in the current. political and “evangelical” climate).  For me, I am seeking just how that will go.  For now, I do what I can as opportunity is presented.

Let’s all seek ways to be Jesus to people.

 

 

 

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