Steve Sjogren, the man who helped launch the Vineyard church, has gained some notoriety for his outreach ministries. The first one most people think of is his toilet paper outreach.Talking about it, Sjogren once said, "You hand them a roll of toilet paper and say, 'Have some Christian toilet paper.' They might ask, 'What makes it Christian toilet paper?' I say, 'Because a Christian is giving it to you.'"The ministry is giving someone something they need. The reason is because the person is a Christian.In Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse he gives good, holy advice. What should control your heart? Why? What should we have as part of our personality, dwelling in us richly? How shall we do all that we do?Simple, yet profound. The answer is easy, but oh so hard to achieve. We are to live our lives – whatever we do, whether in word or in deed – with peace in our hearts. The word of Christ, that is the instructions and guidance of holy living, should be rich inside us, a big part of our personality as we go about our business – teaching, admonishing, singing.We are members of one body, the body of Christ, the whole collection of all who believe in Jesus. We are to live peaceful lives, performing ordinary duties but guided by the teachings of Jesus. All that we do should be done in the name of Christ.We can go about our lives – go to work, visit with friends, watch TV – but do it all with the teachings of Jesus in our hearts and with an attitude of peace. Then, in our common, everyday lives, people will see the actions of Christ’s love because we are being guided by Jesus in all that we do. We will bear witness to God’s love, not through profound words and actions, but through simple and humble deeds. God’s love can be shown even through toilet paper.DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to help peace rule in your heart?
Even as our children get older and older, there are times when a storm blows up in the middle of the night and Peggy and I are awakened so that we can offer assurance. When times are troubling it is helpful to have someone whose feet are on the ground, someone clear-headed and calm. This passage from the Book of Acts is near the end of the book. Paul has had a long ministry and has learned to be a great leader in the faith. Even as a prisoner on a ship, a ship in the throes of a storm, Paul was able to help others.
What does Paul want the men to do? What encouragement does he offer? What is important in the way Paul offers the food? What is the result?
The things we look for during a thunderstorm are the same things we look for when life has its storms. When we are fearful or alone it is good to be in the company of someone who can give us a calm perspective, who can reassure us and remind us of our strengths.
That same kind of personality is helpful even when the storms of life are not raging. At times life does not present a tempest, just uncertainty. There are many people who question what will happen in the future. What will I do? How shall I live?
As Christians firm in our faith, we can offer guidance to others. It doesn’t have to be a crisis for you to be that calming, reassuring influence. Simple confidence in the Lord can be a great help to those who do not have that relationship. And more often than not, it is simply your attitude rather than actions or words that impress and influence others.
Paul was firm in his faith. He knew God was with him. Through his attitude he was able to encourage all who were with him, saving them all from destruction. It was not dramatic. There was no pulpit pounding or emotional speech. He simply displayed his own confidence and others followed.
DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you live out your faith so others are inspired by your behavior?
The lyrics to a song from “Casting Crowns” ask the question, “What if the family turned to Jesus and stopped asking Oprah what to do?” It makes me chuckle every time I hear it, but it also makes me ask the same question. Not to pick on Oprah, but it can sometimes seem that our culture is desperately seeking answers, and they are looking everywhere but the church.
Like so many other concepts, this one is not a new idea. A young, First Century believer named Timothy received a letter of instruction and encouragement, words that can apply to any of us.
What is he told to do in verse 2? What warning is issued in verses 3 and 4? What four instructions are given in the final verse?
It could be easy to disregard these words because you can claim you are not a pastor. You are not in ministry. These words are instructions to ministers. Timothy may have served as a church leader, but these words are indeed for every Christian because every Christian is in ministry.
The words that strike me are “be prepared in season and out of season.” This could be poetic wording, a clever and beautiful way of saying that you should always be ready. But if we think of Jesus suggesting that the harvest is plentiful and the workers few (Luke 10:2), then it might be referring to a different kind of season. It may be referring to the season of harvesting souls.
When is the harvest time for souls? It could be in the autumn. It could be in the spring. It is whenever the lost person turns to you for spiritual advice. Will you be ready for your season? Will you be ready by living a good and holy life, a life that bears witness to Christ, at all times?
We are called to be ready in season and out. That is, we should be shining examples of Christians whether someone is looking at us for direction or not, because it is the right thing to do and we never know when a lost soul will turn to us.
DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to be ready in season and out?
I don’t know about your house, but we have tiny gnomes in ours.
They take small things, like car keys and eyeglasses, and hide them until we are sufficiently exasperated. Then they put them out in the open, in plain sight.
Well, I’m kidding, of course. But how often have you spent time searching for something only to find it was right in front of you all along? Those who heard Jesus were presented with a similar situation.
What did the Pharisees ask? How does it NOT come? Where is the kingdom of God?
Maybe we should ask ourselves, what is the kingdom of God? Most people would imagine it to be that time when Jesus has returned to earth, all evil and suffering has been done away with, and we all live in peace and happiness. We can see the kingdom of God as some far-away time, an idyllic time, something we can all hope for and look forward to, but something that is far in the future.
Yet Jesus changes all that. The kingdom of God, according to Jesus, is not that time that we look for in omens and signs. It is not something that we can achieve by carefully obeying the strict religious rules that govern behavior. Instead, the kingdom of God is within us.
So, the kingdom of God must be a way of feeling, a way of thinking, a way of acting. The kingdom of God must be caring for others, loving others, forgiving others, and praising God.
That time when death and suffering and sadness are gone does not have to be in the far distant future. It can be now, if we could all learn to live out the commands of Jesus – love God; love your neighbor. If we could be transformed by a new mind, if we could live a life of worship, then we can experience the kingdom of God because we will be part of the kingdom of God. If we can learn to share our love and awareness of God with others we can bring the kingdom of God to ourselves and those around us.
DAILY CHALLENGE:What does the kingdom of God look like to you? How can you live so it becomes a reality?
Peggy and I have recently been discussing work hours, days off, family time, and so on. As a pastor and family it is not always easy to set hard and fast hours or days for work. Sometimes the job becomes all-consuming.
In this passage Paul is writing to the early church in Rome, a people who are suffering tremendous political oppression. What does he urge them to do in verse 1? Why should they do this? To what does he compare this act?
What should they resist? How can they avoid conforming? What is the result?
In a society where believing in Jesus is a crime punishable by death, it may be difficult to bring yourself to worship. But the Roman church was urged to see that living a life of belief, risking death, was a form of worship. All of their life was worship.
For those of us in this free society who attend worship services on weekends, things may seem different. When does worship end? Does it end with the final song? Or do you tune out when the message is over?
Just as God is not confined to a building – a church building – but exists in all places, so also our worship should be offered in all places. The act of worshiping God – praising, communing, adoring and serving – should not be limited to the worship service, the one hour a week set aside for the church service. This is certainly a great place and time to set your mind to worship. It is a great place and time to be intentional in your praise of God. But worship should have no limits.
The service of the candle-lighters (used to be called “acolytes”) is actually a very significant part of worship in a church. They bring the light into the building – a reminder of God’s presence. Then they take the light out of the sanctuary – out into the world.
This simple act should be a reminder to all of us that we are to go out in the world and continue worshiping God in all we do and in how we act in the world. Our bodies and all we do should be living sacrifices, a spiritual act of worship.
DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do each day to remind yourself to worship God?