Monday, September 25, 2017

Green Eggs and Ham and the Great I AM by Eileen Knowles

"There’s massive tension in overseeing a “come and see” ministry in a “go and tell” church." Danny Franks

“Come and see” is actually a training ground for missionaries who “go and tell.” Connect the here to there, and you might find that those still out there will show up in here." Danny Franks

I read the above thoughts recently in an article called "Here" Must Connect to "There" by Danny Franks.

Over the last few days I've been thinking about this tension between here and there. It's a good tension to have.

Of course we want to encourage folks to come and see. Of course we want the guests who walk down our sidewalks and through the doors of Rock Bridge to have a good experience. But, that's certainly not the end goal for "being" the church.

Going and telling should be our heart. We should be moving towards living out the message of Jesus in our lives every day, in every way, and at every opportunity.  Our words and our actions out there have the potential to leave a bigger impact for the Kingdom of God than what we do in here on a Sunday morning.

I love how the author of the article refers to here as training ground. Those being trained and equipped here must also feel compelled to get up and go out there... to the battlefield.

All these here and there thoughts I've been having lately made me think of the children's book Green Eggs and Ham.  Yesterday morning, before church, I went down to our basement and dug this old classic out of a box.  I've held onto a few books my son enjoyed when he was younger so he can eventually pass them down to his kids.

Here's the crazy thought I had as I reread the exchanges between Sam-I-am, the character who was crazy about green eggs and ham, and the unnamed character in the book that wanted nothing to do with green eggs and ham. Sam-I-am was a disciple maker...not for Jesus but for green eggs and ham.

Sam-I-am was on fire for green eggs and ham. He enjoyed them so much that his heart was for this other character in the story to experience, to taste and see, their goodness too  Okay, so maybe Sam-I-am had a thing or two he needed to learn about discipleship etiquette. His approach certainly lacked subtlety and gentleness... but his heart was definitely in the right place.

Things Sam-I-am got right:
  • Sam-I-am didn't keep the good news of green eggs and ham all to himself. He connected the here to the there.
  • Sam-I-am positioned himself in this other character's life.
  • Sam-I-am engaged this man in conversation at every opportunity he got.
  • Sam-I-am never gave up on this man or in the hope that one day this individual would taste and see for himself the goodness of green eggs and ham.
And, we all know the wonderful ending to this story. The man Sam-I-am had been "doing life with" eventually becomes a believer in green eggs and ham too!

"Say! I like green eggs and ham!
I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat.
And I would eat them with a goat...
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good, so good, you see!
So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them anywhere!
I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you, Sam-I-am!"
--  Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss

"Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! " Psalm 34:8

"I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
 I will be filled with joy because of you.
 I will sing praises to your name, O Most High." Psalm 9: 1-2

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Do You Want More Faith?

Do You Want More Faith?

We are told in 1 Peter1:7 that our "faith is far more precious than mere gold." Why is our faith so important to us and to God?

My wife said this to me the other day, something we have both been reminding ourselves: Change your thinking, change your life. This is so true...  how we think affects our lives dramatically.

And Faith IS how we think. It is the lens we choose to see through, and affects everything in front of us.  When I get offended with someone or lose trust in them, every future interaction is now tainted with suspicion and an expectation of more hurt. Or what about a product or company? When we lose confidence in it/them it totally affects how we will interact in the future. We may be wrong, but it doesn't matter. Having faith in something affects everything.

It works the same with our faith in God. If our trust and confidence in Him is strong, we can be hopeful and unshakeable. But when our faith wavers, when we "lose faith" in Him and His love for us, we move into a dark place of fear and confusion.

So how do we work on our faith?
How do we get that infectious, positive, rock solid faith that some seem to have?  Let's look at a powerful discourse between Jesus and His Disciples in Luke 17:3-10.
"Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

Do you see what happened? Jesus' disciples were confronted with a radical expectation of forgiveness, and they realized it would take a faith they did not have. I can imagine them thinking: "How can we forgive that much? How can we do that? We don't have that kind of faith!"

Look at Jesus' response:
6 “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,” the Lord said, “you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
7 “Which one of you having a servant tending sheep or plowing will say to him when he comes in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 Instead, will he not tell him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, get ready, and serve me while I eat and drink; later you can eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did what was commanded? 10 In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are worthless servants; we’ve only done our duty.’”

Jesus responded not with how, but with VISION and PERSPECTIVE.

VISION:  We need a vision that faith MAKES A DIFFERENCE.  Jesus is telling us that if we will only trust God, mountains in our life will move! But, if we don't get a vision that life will be better WITH FAITH, we will never pursue itAnd I don't think He means a faith or trust that is strong and unshakeable. I believe mustard seed faith is that barely-hanging-on, quaking-in-my-boots, Lord-I-hope-you-show-up faith. Faith that reaches desperately for the love of a good heavenly Father, but has no clue how He is going to respond or come through.  I think that is OK with God!

Jesus wants us to believe that it will be worth it to follow Him in trust. God is not asking us for super-hero faith. Just get a vision that any faith will make things better and will release God's love and grace into our lives.

PERSPECTIVE:  Jesus is telling us to remember that we deserve NOTHING. Our obedience toward God is not something God is ENTITLED to reward.  He so often does so because He loves us.  But we must not move into entitlement and presumption toward God when we begin to trust and obey Him.  If we do, we dangerously box Him into our expectations of reward, and I guarantee you God does not work well within our boxes.

We must remember the CROSS. We are saved by grace, and unworthy. We are saved because of the lavish love of our God and His Son. Every good thing that we trust God for and ask God for must come with a view of His grace to us in Christ. In fact, we are actually guaranteed hard times and trials that are ordained in love for our good.  When I can trust God from His love and with a right view of grace, I can endure the times of trial and suffering, and I can rejoice in them and accept them as a part of His plan for my good as well.

VISION grows our desire for faith, and PERSPECTIVE allows us to persevere in our faith. That's what Jesus' answer was for His disciples. See what God wants for you, and see His great love for you, and your faith will grow!

Do you have a vision of how much better your life would be if you walked in faith?
More peace, more joy, less fear, more love from your Father?  Do you have a perspective of grace and lavish love, that allows God to be God and do things His way, not yours?

Get that vision!  Fan the flame of desire for more faith, and watch your life move onto the path of intention and see God answer you with greater faith!