Getting out of my own routine and observing how Believers in third world countries follow Christ is always challenging for me. On my flight home from Africa last month, I wrote down several lessons that I don't want to forget. One that ranks near the top is: People who live to serve others overseas, generally hold on to their stuff a lot more loosely than Christians in our culture. Because of distance, inconvenience and expense, these servants don't take much of their stuff with them - they buy what they need locally which most of the time is of inferior quality.
On my way home yesterday from my trip to Zambia and Ethiopia, my mind was flooded with dozens of stories I couldn't wait to tell- then I remembered some wise words a friend told me after a previous trip of serving others, "you can't share too many stories or too much information with people, it's too overwhelming, and they won't want to listen. Pick 2 or 3 of the best ones and share them succinctly and enthusiastically". With that in mind, let me share with you some thoughts about my trip...
This week's challenge in our "Dying to live" study is to set aside time to fast for the purpose of growing a deeper relationship with God.To hear Jesus' commetary on fasting, it's not exactly an optional practice- Matthew 6:16 "When you fast...". Jesus expects us to fast (He didn't say "if you fast").
After a long leave of absence on the blog lines, I realized that our study on "Dying to live" is too important not to be talking about it. To over-simplify, the bottom line of this pursuit is to live in such a passionate way that we make a significant difference in our World.
If our entire Church was suddenly and completely removed from this community, would anyone notice? Would we be missed for our contributions to life in this city?
A conversation that I heard several days ago keeps rolling around in my head. The S.F. Giants short stop, Edgar Renteria, had just finished another forgettable game, going 0-4 for the 3rd night in a row. Up in his years(for a baseball player), and increasing in injuries and ailments,the reporter doing the post-game interviews succinctly,and coldly asked him, "Got anything left?". That had to have been an incredibly hurtful question, no matter how he might choose to answer it- his very identity as a professional ball player was being questioned.
What use to frustrate me to no end was when there were times (& believe me, there were plenty) I would set down to study for a class or to prepare a sermon, only to find dry ground. For whatever reason, the inspiration was just not there. At times panic would begin to sit in, fearing the prospect of facing a large hungry crowd with nothing to feed them.What a relief to finally learn that this experience is just one more part of the journey that Jesus takes us through to bring us to a place of total dependence on Him.
Last Sunday, while talking about our need to "hunger and thirst for rightousness", we brought up the idea of fasting. The Jews in the Old Testament were well acquainted with the practice of fasting, and Jesus spoke several times of it's place and practice. But for most of us it seems, it's not a very easy thing to practice- afterall, it's not a REQUIREMENT for ALL followers of Christ is it?
This last week we talked about Revelation 2 and the tragedy of losing your first love/letting your love for Jesus grow cold. Near the beginning of every year I speak on this topic, as much for me as for everyone else. It can become so easy to assume our love for Him stays consistent, but if it's not actively growing, it's most probably shrinking. It's not a pleasant experience to be telling Jesus just how busy I am and about all the things I'm doing (supposedly) in His name, all the while forgetting again that He cares most about my love for Him.
In these last few weeks I have been blessed to re-discover the real meaning of the Joy that is God's gift because of Christmas. A belief that I pretty much grew up with is that "Christmas Joy" comes from getting into the whole Christmas experience, i.e., enjoying beautifully decorated trees and homes, Christmas goodies such as fudge, pies, cut out cookies with frosting, Christmas music, etc., etc.. While all these things can bring a smile to our faces and a warmth deep within, Real Joy is, in no way, a by-product of even the best of Christmas traditions.