Outreach 5

Colossians 4:2-3

One of our church members was going through a difficult time with her health and called me to ask for prayer. The message was spread among church members that prayer was needed. A few days later I spoke to the woman who had been ill and she said that she felt the power of pray working with her.

From the moment she knew people were praying things got better and she felt comforted and stronger. She had confidence in the effects of prayer.

The letter to the church at Colosse offers a key way to be part of ministry. To what should believers devote themselves? How will others benefit?

When talking about doing mission and outreach through our church there are some members who are disappointed because they are not able to take part in most mission and outreach projects. Whether it is an issue of finances, age or physical abilities, they may not be able to participate in the hands-on work of missions.

Not all people are called to be missionaries. And that’s a good thing, otherwise there would be no one left in the church. There are many aspects to ministry, not all of which involves leaving home. In this passage we are encouraged to devote ourselves to prayer. This is a ministry we can all be involved in.

The first direction is that we should be watchful and thankful in our prayer. We should watch for occasions when God is needed to help others. We should offer thanks for what we have.

Our prayers should also extend to those individuals who are doing mission work. Our prayers should be for their safety and well-being, but we should also pray for their success. We should pray that God will open the doors of those in need so that the work of the missionaries will be accepted and be fruitful for God’s glory.

Through prayer we can all be part of mission and outreach in the kingdom of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Pray for the success and safety of a mission team you know of.

Outreach 4

Isaiah 58:6-7

From time to time the idea of fasting comes up. The concept is that a person should go without eating solid food for a day, or several days during the daylight hours, so that the person might focus on spiritual matters. The belief is that the absence of food sharpens your mind and allows for a more focused connection to God. Every time you feel hungry during a fast you should offer a prayer and concentrate again on God.

I have always had trouble with fasting. I suppose I am just a glutton at heart. But Isaiah offers some insight into fasting. What kind of fasting does God desire? How do these acts of kindness serve as a fast?

The strict concept of “fasting” is giving up food, but the general idea of a fast is that we give up something. The first part of Isaiah 58 is a comment on the attitudes of the Israelites. Isaiah claims that people wonder why they have fasted when there seems to be no response from God. According to Isaiah, God is saying that their fast is not sincere and perhaps a bit superficial.

If fasting is giving up something it is possible that we may need to give up something other than food. We may need to give up our own desires and comforts to allow God’s work to be done. We may need to give up our own ambitions so that we can do more for others who are in need.

If we do nothing to help the needy and the poor aren’t we permitting the chains of poverty and want to confine them? If we do nothing to promote justice aren’t we keeping the oppressed in the yokes of injustice?

Just as abstaining from food sharpens our focus on God, giving up on our own pleasures and comforts can help us remain focused on those who need our help. The fast we are called to may not be a fast of food. It may be that we need to give up ourselves so that our focus can be on helping those living in true need.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you do something to help the needy today?

Outreach 3

Romans 1:16

During a bad spell in my employment history I had to take a job as a bagger at a local grocery store. For good or for bad I must confess I was a bit ashamed of my job. Here I was in my thirties with a college degree and years of professional work experience and I was bagging groceries alongside teenagers at their first job.

Although we may not use the words “I am ashamed” when we talk about our faith, often our actions seem to indicate that shame. So many Christians will not speak of their belief in God or discuss the salvation they know through Christ. They claim that it is a private matter and there is no need to discuss it. But the truth is just the opposite.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome he explains a great deal about his own ministry and his bold ability to share the message of Jesus. How does he feel about the gospel? What value does it hold?

These words from Paul are words that are meant for more than just the emerging church in Rome. His words are meant for every believer in the world. None of us should be ashamed of the gospel.

If we are loved by God, valued by the Almighty Creator of the universe, if the Lord loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus Christ to suffer and die on the cross for our salvation, shouldn’t we be jubilant in that knowledge? Shouldn’t we be shouting this news from the rooftops?

And yet we do not. And when given the opportunity to share our story and our faith with others, those who NEED to hear this story, we shrink away from the chance. We act as if we are ashamed of what God has done for us.

It may be fear that keeps us mute. It may be a mistaken belief that faith is strictly a private affair. But it can be interpreted as a sense of shame over what God has done.

If we value God and our faith, we should be willing to go into all the world to proclaim our faith and tell the good news of Jesus.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be certain that your attitude and actions do not convey a sense of shame about he gospel?

Outreach 2

Joshua 1:9

My father once shared the story of a car ride he took with another man. He said the car was a mess, rattling and falling apart with one headlight pointed at the side of the road and the other shining in the trees. The driver was all over the road, weaving back and forth.

Seeing my dad’s anxiety the driver assured him, “Jesus is my co-pilot.” But Dad thought, “I believe Jesus jumped out of this car a few miles back.”

As Joshua took over leadership for the Israelites he certainly had his own worries. What assurance does God give him?

When we’re pinned down and asked directly about the idea of God’s presence, just about every faithful Christian will confess that they believe God is with them at all times. If we really stop and think about it and if we really believe what we are supposed to believe, then we should be confident that God is with us at all times.

But so often our attitudes and behavior can demonstrate just the opposite. If we are confronted with the unknown or with challenges and troubles we immediately begin fretting over our situation and our circumstances. When troubles come we feel all alone.

If we are called on to do work for the Lord, we hesitate. So few people are willing to do any type of outreach work for church because of the fears they have in that work.

It is uncomfortable and frightening to go into new neighborhoods, especially under-privileged neighborhoods, and try to help the needy. We fear that we will be victims of crime. We fear that we will not be at all successful in helping those in need.

The words God spoke to Joshua are words meant for us as well. “Be strong and courageous.” The Lord will be with you wherever you go.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be strengthened to do the Lord’s work?

Outreach 1

1 John 4:19-21

Driving through our old neighborhood the other day we were reminded of the experiences we had with the people who lived next door. We didn’t always get along with them and we weren’t always happy with the way they kept their yard. It isn’t always easy to get along with other people.

But John has a message for us about loving others. Why do we love? What is required to love God? If we love God, who else must we love?

So often Christians like to talk about love, but they come up short when it is time to actually show love. We can celebrate the love of God and we can believe in love as long as it is an abstract idea.

When it comes time for showing love, for actually expressing love to the people who are in our lives, we often fail. We may find it too difficult to really love a person who is very different from us. We may be repelled by a lifestyle, how they dress or how they groom themselves. We may find it far too easy to judge them and find them lacking in what we value.

But we are called on to love our brothers. And the brothers we are called on to love are not just those people in our own community, but people all around the world, even those who are completely different and alien to us. John points out that these people, these brothers, are persons we can see with our eyes. We can bear witness to their plights and their troubles.

And yet, if we can not love these brothers who are in our lives, how can we possibly love the person of God who is unseen and far beyond our mind’s comprehension?

It is interesting that John begins this passage with a vote of confidence. God initiated this love. He loved us first. Perhaps, if we remember that God was able to love us, then we might be able to love others.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you show love to your brothers?