What Now? 9

Colossians 2:6-8

I rarely have the Lord’s Prayer as part of the Sunday service. I know this disappoints many members in the congregations, but I think it is more important that we learn to pray in our own words and pray from the heart.

The Lord’s Prayer was the first prayer I learned as a child. I remember the day I finally memorized it – probably when I was about seven years old. I knew all the words but I couldn’t tell you what any of it meant. When I hear the Lord’s Prayer being said in church I wonder every time if people know what they are saying or if they are simply speaking what they have memorized.

The letter to the believers in Colosse offers some encouragement. As believers in Christ, what are we to do? What should be our attitude? What should we guard against?

Belief in Jesus requires more than just the words declaring that we believe. If we will be truly Christian in our faith then we must live out what that means. We must make the Spirit of Jesus and the Holy Spirit of God part of who we are and how we act. All of the lessons from Jesus should be what our faith is founded upon, and these should give us the strength and ability to live out our faith.

How do we live out our faith? We do so by being merciful to others. We live out the love of God by welcoming the non-believers into a life of belief, a life where they may have a genuine connection and relationship with Jesus. We live out our faith by doing what we can to help those in need – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

A relationship with Christ means that we let the teachings of Jesus guide us and govern us in what we do. Would Jesus ignore that poor person? Would Jesus forget about the person in the hospital, the widow alone at home?

Of course he wouldn’t. So we shouldn’t either. We should take the time to be with those who need our presence and our compassion.

Our faith is all about living in love and not about memorizing prayers, mindlessly reciting responses, or singing familiar songs without paying attention to what the words mean. Our faith is about bringing others into that place where we hold our love for God and one another in common.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you find someone who needs you today and go to them?

What Now? 8

Romans 14:16-18

A sore spot in many churches today is the implementation of modern styles with the use of current music and unique ways of preaching – like video clips, pictures, discussions and hands-on activities. Contemporary music and worshiping without sitting in pews is foreign and unacceptable to many traditional believers. Usually the solution is to separate – have a traditional service AND a contemporary service – but that seems to go against what we read in Acts 2 of having everything in common.

In his letter to the emerging church in Rome Paul offers some guidance. What does he urge in verse 16? What is our faith NOT about? What IS our faith about?

We have seen that the early church brought a change to the way things were. The changes started with Jesus, who went against tradition and tried to show what was at the heart of faith. Like the old religion we too can get lost in our traditions. We can fall back into the same tired old ways of going about our faith. But we need to keep ourselves out of the stagnation of the old ways of doing things.

I am not promoting that every tradition needs to be jettisoned from the church. Rather we must approach our faith – old traditions and new behaviors – with a spirit and heart that is focused on serving God. Instead of allowing our faith to fall asleep we need to let the Holy Spirit breathe new life into us so we can actively live out God’s love and reach the lost.

Being welcoming to the new believer can be considered unclean by many. Changing our ways to accommodate those unfamiliar with church can be unacceptable. But we cannot allow what is done with good intention to be considered evil. Faith is about more than ritual and tradition.

If contemporary music is used in worship, not to entertain but to reach a person at their level of experience and comfort, then there can be nothing wrong with that. If the worship service deviates from traditional methods to present God’s word in a new and dynamic way that new believers can identify with, then there can be nothing wrong with that. Our faith needs to be about sharing righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What is something new you can bring to your faith life?

What Now? 7

Mark 7:5-6

I have heard it said on several occasions that the problem with today’s world is young people just don’t know the old gospel songs. The thinking is that if we could all practice religion the way it was done years ago everything would be good. I can’t believe that if everyone could learn the words to “On That Great Getting’ Up Morning” the world would be a better place. Our faith needs to be real and true, founded in our hearts and lived out in our actions in whatever form our current society calls for.

In this reading from Mark Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders of the day. What was the problem? How did Jesus respond?

The last word in Acts 2:44 is koinos. It is Greek and means “common” – as in, the believers “had everything in common.” But the same word is used in Mark 7:5 (and many other places, such as Acts 10:14, Romans 14:14, and Hebrews 10:29) and means “unclean.”

We may be able to infer that sharing something with others, having something in common, was an unacceptable – unclean – practice among the Jewish religious leaders. If we look at Jesus’ response to the criticism of the Pharisees we can see that many who held to the old religion were focused on the ritual, the appearance, of holiness. Such an approach was a selfish approach. The emphasis was on the individual achieving purity, and such an approach was elitist, separating the faithful from others.

Jesus brought a new approach to faith. The rituals were not as important as the heartfelt actions and commitment to God and this went against tradition.

As we consider the question “what now?” in our faith, as we ask ourselves what we will do now with our belief in God, we must examine a new way of living out our faith. We must honor God with our hearts; that is, we must do good work, express mercy and kindness, commit ourselves to sharing love even if (especially if) we must change how we behave. We very well may need to shake up the way we act as Christians. We may need to move from inactivity to action – actively expressing God’s love in what we do.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you honor God with your heart and not just your lips?

What Now? 6

Acts 2:43-45

For several years my wife’s parents had a doormat that said, “Oh, no. Not you again!” It was not your usual welcome mat, but everyone understood it to be a joke. Unfortunately so many people who are not part of a church have difficulty coming into a church because they don’t feel welcomed. They feel that churches should probably have a mat that shouts “not you!”

Such was not the case with the early church. What did the believers experience? How did these believers behave toward one another? How did they help others?

The Holy Spirit had come upon the believers on the day of Pentecost and given them great power to do the work of God. They were moved out of the doldrums and out of the stagnation of waiting and doing nothing. The church was alive with the work of God.

People were welcome in the new church. New members were being added daily, and the needy were being helped by this group of believers. And this was a new approach to religion and faith.

It was no longer a religion that required personal holiness and special rituals that only some could take part in. This was a faith of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And they were together, joined in spirit, in communion with one another and of the same heart and mind.

And Jesus was with them in spirit as well. With his presence, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, those people who were on the edges of society, the poor and sick, were being helped.

This is a wonderful part of our heritage, but it is not something that must stay in the past. Our churches today can be alive and powerful in the kingdom of God if we will all be of the same heart and mind, focused on helping others. We as individuals and as a church can experience the same type of awe, can see the same types of miracles, if we can hold our faith in common – not just with one another, but with Christ as well.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to share the same spirit of Christ?