The Power of God’s Pleasure

Following is an excerpt from an article of the same title by Steve Sjogren as posted on his blog.

All of us have gifts, whether we know Christ or not.

I have found that one of the most powerful ways to lead people toward Christ is to give them a chance to use their gifts in serving others. In using their gifts they will experience, to borrow a famous idea from the film Chariots of Fire,
“the pleasure of God.”
We would generally agree that leading people away from strange views and perspectives to a scriptural view of Jesus is extremely difficult. Once people have given themselves to a “cultic” view of Jesus, it is difficult to find their way back to a clear-cut biblical view of him.

Yet I have seen a number of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, both of those groups believe in the Arian view of Christ that he was only man and not God, come to a saving relationship with Christ through using their gifts to serve others.

Early on in my stint as a leader there was no way that I would have allowed a non-believer any shot at serving along side of other believers. But then along came a handful of Mormons who initially said they were interested in caring for those in need. Could they help in giving groceries and clothes away? After thinking it through we said they could, but they had to be paired up with older, mature believers who were grounded in the faith. Read the rest here.

I found this principle to be true when I was involved in leading The Alpha Course. New and nominal believers were often given small group co-leader positions.. they proved to be great in small group settings and brought a lot of life with them.. experienced believers often had the opposite affect as they spouted bible verses and had a hard time relating to new people. Giving people a chance to use their gifts in serving others is the heart of what leadership is.. at least what it should be.

An Emerging Perspective

A friend wrote asking me for input to questions around The Emerging Church.. what it is.. where it started.. what sets them apart.. and other questions. I am certainly no authority on this topic.. in a sense no one is or can be.. but I responded anyway.. I always seem to J ..I don't think that I have ever posted on this topic.. anywho, here is what I wrote:
  1. Each generation seems to want to have their own movement.. their own flavor of Christianity.. to be emerging is to identify with that sentiment.. it is to say that I am not happy with the way things have been in church and in Christianity. As a result an Us vs. Them mentality sometimes surfaces.
  2. Emerging theology tends to be a bit more accepting and less exclusive. I think that this is somewhat of a reaction to fundamentalism and some sects of evangelicalism.
  3. Like Protestantism, emerging churches tend to be different yet the same in some ways.
  4. The emerging movement seems to have it’s rock stars like Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll but these only represent certain viewpoints within the movement and are not authorities on emergent thought.. no one really is.
  5. “Missional” seems to be one of the words that you come across when an emergent person speaks.. I think that it is a word that speaks of integrating faith into everyday life.. I like that word.
  6. The Catch-22 of the Emerging Church is that it is becoming institutionalized and legitimate.. this will cause the “movement” to become something different.. like the Charismatic renewal of the 1970s did.. what started out as a Holy Spirit grass roots thing morphed into something that man and churches began to control.
  7. The Emerging Church is a part of the Church Universal (the Body of Christ) and as a result is simply just a different way to express your faith in Jesus. One can express faith in Jesus within this context or one of the many other ways that so many people do.
Of course my views are still emerging on this one. I would be interested in any thoughts on this topic as I am not sure that I really know what I am talking about.. nothing new there.

Grateful For What Really Matters

Susan Estrich begins her article titled Thanksgiving: A Holiday at War With Our Culture bemoaning the reality of what Thanksgiving has become and how challenging the holiday can be.. making a moist Turkey.. getting past the thoughtlessness of relatives and friends.. the demands of cultural thinness.. the success of nasty people.. aaahh.. enough to make a body depressed.. but Susan ends the article this way:
The challenge of Thanksgiving is not to make a better turkey, not to lose 10 pounds, not to get there first or faster or cheaper, or with the most money in your pocket or the most gold stars on your forehead. It's to remember that those things don't really matter, and to be grateful for what does.
We all know in our hearts what really matters.. we are all thankful for the tangible and intangibles of life that we hold so dear.. but sometimes the events of our lives can overshadow those things that we are thankful for.. pain can breed an inward foocus and cause us to forget what really matters.

Today.. on this day dedicated to the giving of thanks.. join with me and offer a prayer of thanks to God for those things that really matter.. and say a word of thanks to those that really matter to you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Suffering, yet not Ashamed

Today's Verse of the Day seems so appropriate for recent events. The passage reads:
I am suffering ... Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. (2 Timothy 1:12/NIV)
Yesterday, our dear friend Ann Glotzbach passed away.. you can read about her here. Her passing is painful yet bittersweet because of her prolonged suffering and pain these past years. Here is what the Verse of the Day website had to say about Paul:
As Paul faced very difficult circumstances near the end of his life, many of those he had led to the Lord abandoned him. But he was confident that the Lord would not abandon him! He had committed his life to Jesus as Lord. That Lord would ensure that the investment Paul had made would not be wasted. His life, his future, and his eternal destiny were entrusted to the Lord. He was confident that they were also secure in the Lord. He believed with every fiber of his being that on a special day known only to God, Jesus will return and every knee will bow and Paul's faith in the Lord will be joyously validated.
A few points from it that I would like to highlight:
  • It is hard on everyone when painful situations come.. sometimes people just don't know what to do.. sometimes they do nothing.. don't be too hard on these folks.. they do care.
  • God uses the pain in our lives to develop compassion for others. It is nothing short of amazing how God turned ruthless Saul into loving Paul.
  • Our hope cannot be found in temporal blessings. Our ultimate hope is in the Blessed Hope.. the Lord Jesus.. in the end we will see Him and many whom we have loved.
On a very personal note I have to say that this has been an extremely difficult summer and fall for my wife Ann and me. After two hospital stays of 3 and 5 weeks we are left with life in a wheelchair.. we have both been very sad.. the temptation to lose hope is immense.. it is in our face every moment of the day.. yet we persevere knowing Whom we have believed.. knowing that those bullet points above are true for Paul, for the Glotzbach family and for us. I close with the prayer offered at the Verse of the Day site:

Almighty God, I believe, but please strengthen my faith so that no matter what I may endure, my confidence in you will remain firm and my hope may remain vibrant. I entrust to you all that I am and all that I hope to be, believing fully that you will bring me through whatever lies ahead and bring me into your glorious presence with great joy. In Jesus' glorious name I pray. Amen.

We Shall Behold Him

I have been thinking a lot about hope these days. This Dottie Rambo song sung by Sandi Patty encapsulates our blessed hope like no other I know. It captures the hope that we have in our hearts at the thought of seeing Jesus.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

He's Been Faithful

In 1994 I was grieving the loss of my first wife when I first heard this beautiful song sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.. it helped get me through a difficult time in my life. My friend and co-worker Jeanne bought the cassette tape for me.. I think I played it three times a day. He's been so faithful to me.. He still is.

If you find yourself in a somewhat difficult season and are hurting so much.. or if you just want to express your gratitude for His faithfulness to you.. I suggest that you sing along.. the words are below the video pane.. and lose yourself in His faithful presence.

In My Moments Of Fear
Through Every Pain Every Tear
There's A God Who's Been Faithful To Me

When My Strength Was All Gone
When My Heart Had No Song
Still In Love He's Proved Faithful To Me

Every Word He's Promised Is True
What I Thought Was Impossible
I've Seen My God Do

He's Been Faithful
Faithful To Me
Looking Back He's Love And Mercy I See
Though In My Heart I Have Questioned
And Failed To Believe
He's Been Faithful, Faithful To Me

When My Heart Looked Away
The Many Times I Could Not Pray
Still My God Was Faithful To Me

The Days Are Spent So Selfishly
Reaching Out For What Pleased Me
Even Then God Was Faithful To Me

Every Time I Come Back To Him
He Is Waiting For Open Arms
And I See Once Again

He's Been Faithful
Faithful To Me
Looking Back He's Love And Mercy I See
Though In My Heart I Have Questioned
Even Failed To Believe
Yet He's Been Faithful, Faithful To Me