Keeping the Vision 5

Romans 15:5-7

I can’t help but feel a little guilty when I see someone else working harder than I do. In the past few weeks we have had some church dinners and we have cleared away the Christmas decorations. All these events required several people pitching in and doing what they could to get things accomplished.

I was not the hardest working person in all of these situations. In actuality there were likely only one or two people who really put in extra effort. But instead of feeling jealous or guilty we should celebrate the fact that this person or that was able to do something – find a ministry – in which they could excel.

It takes a great deal of people, in fact all of us, to accomplish the work of God’s kingdom. Each of us is blessed with certain gifts and abilities. Each of us has various interests and areas of expertise or skill. When all of these come together any job can be accomplished.

Paul has something to say about the diversity of work in the church. What does he want for the believers? What will be the result of a spirit of unity? What should we do? Why?

If we will live out the love of Christ in our faith walk, if we will do things for the ministry of the world, we must be willing to do our part in what needs to be accomplished. We cannot sit idly by and allow everyone else do the work of God. But we should also not be the persons who try to do everything on our own.

True ministry, truly doing the work of God’s kingdom, requires that every one of us step forward to do our best. God is able to give us the endurance we need to get things done, and when we know we have done work for God we are blessed with a sense of encouragement.

We must work toward a sense of unity in our places of worship. When we all join together in ministry we are giving glory to God in a unified voice. Accepting our place in the work of the kingdom and accepting the work of others brings praise to God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What must you do to celebrate your own ministry as well as the ministry of others?

Keeping the Vision 4

John 21:18-19

This passage is one that I heard when I was young and which has rattled around in the back of my mind for some time. It seems to be a gloomy, depressing prediction from Jesus, a reminder that we will not always be in control of what we do. Sure, Jesus was talking specifically to Peter, but I have often thought of these words as I consider growing older. (It seems to speed up with every passing year!) The day will come when I won’t be able to dress myself or go where I want to go.

But is Jesus talking about getting old and frail? It would seem unlikely that this is what he is addressing here.

He has just had a conversation with Peter about taking care of Christ’s sheep. Jesus was giving Peter the command to care for the believers. Now he talks about going where he doesn’t want to go. And then he concludes the whole thing with the statement, “Follow me!”

In light of all that we have looked at so far this week – considering where we fit in with ministry, believing in ourselves, trusting in the guidance Jesus gives – we may be able to see these words are more about our faith life and less about getting old. When we were young in our faith, when we were immature in our beliefs, it is possible we did not give much consideration to the things we could do to serve God and help others.

But as we mature in our faith, as we grow deeper, we may find ourselves doing things we had never considered doing before. We may find that we are needed at the hospital bedside even though we would rather not be around those who suffer. We may find that we are called on to pray for others when we never thought of ourselves as good at praying. We may find that we need to give up something we WANT so that someone else can have what they NEED.

We need to estimate what it is we are able and willing to give to ministry. How do we fit in? And we may find that as we grow closer to Christ we will be willing to do those things we were not willing to do before.

What we must trust in is the fact that Jesus has invited us to follow him. And if we follow him we can trust that it is the hands of Christ that lead us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Where will you go in ministry? Is it a place you do not want to go?

Keeping the Vision 3

John 8:12

In these winter months when the days are dark early, we usually turn on our garage light in the afternoon and leave it on until late at night so that all of our family members will have some illumination in all of our comings and goings. We have timers on many of our lamps for the same reason. As the day gets dark the light switches on automatically so we can walk in the light.

In this passage from John we again have Jesus teaching a crowd of followers. How does he describe himself? What benefit do the people get when they follow Jesus?

Our lives may have many dark spots in them. We may have times of fear and worry, times when we are challenged to keep moving on. But Jesus brings us light so that our darkness can be illuminated and driven out.

But Christ is talking about something other than the light we might see from a lamp. He is talking about the light of God’s love and wisdom. Jesus is that embodiment of the love of God. He is the living light of God’s grace and wisdom.

As the light of God, then, Jesus shines this light of God on all those who believe in him and follow him. When we follow Jesus – that is, when we try to live and act as Jesus did – we receive this light from God.

Just as Jesus shines the light that is from God, so we as believers should also shine the light. We should receive the light of God’s wisdom and grace that flows through Christ, and then reflect it out into the world so others may come to know the tremendous love of God.

Unfortunately many houses of worship, churches and religious groups have a number of members who are more than willing to bask in the light of God but do nothing to help shine that light to the world. They are more than willing to let the light of Christ shine on them, but they take no part in helping the light shine on others.

As believers we must estimate the cost of our ministry. We must determine how and where we will work to help shine God’s light in the world.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What will you do to help shine the light of Christ?

Keeping the Vision 2

Romans 15:14

We all need some encouragement now and then. It is heartening to have someone list your strong points and have a little confidence in you. When you are feeling weak and lonely, when you think you are destined to failure, it is good to hear some positive words.

In the story of “Winnie the Pooh,” Pooh’s friend Christopher Robin tells him, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” Good words for the little bear and good words for each of us to hear about ourselves.

In his letter to the Romans Paul gives some encouragement to this group of new believers, people he has never met. Of what is Paul convinced? What can these people do?

We can imagine that the new Christians in Rome may have felt a bit uneasy with this new religion they were dealing with. They really had no great leaders yet to put them on the right path and help them through the challenges they were facing.

But Paul had some faith in these believers. He was convinced in his heart that these people were good people. They had within themselves the right spirit, the right attitude, sufficient knowledge and ability to help each other along the way. This young church did not need Paul; they had one another.

Now the question is for us. Do we have what it takes to be good people? Are we of sufficient character and wisdom to be able to correct those who have gone astray from the holy path of faith? Do we have the competence to teach one another and the new believer in what it takes to be a Christian?

I believe the answer is, yes. If we can rely on the spirit and grace of Christ, if we can center our lives on Jesus, we will have what it takes to move forward in our Christian living and to help others in this path of faith. When it comes to being a good Christian it may be that you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to help others strengthen their faith?

Keeping the Vision 1

Luke 14:28-30

Are you prepared for the rest of 2012? Do you have everything in order for all the things you will face, all the struggles and the good times, the challenges and the joys? Most importantly, are you where you need to be with your faith and what you are going to do as part of God’s kingdom?

That’s a lot of questions and a great deal to think about, but that is what it takes sometimes to get through life, especially a life of following Christ. This passage in Luke is part of what Jesus said to a large crowd of people – probably including his disciples – who were following him as he taught. What does he say about a person who wants to build a tower? What might happen if a person is not prepared for what is in store?

Naturally, such an approach is good advice to anyone who is planning a big venture. If you are thinking about building a house, adding on to your current home or remodeling you will need to know what the cost is going to be, and you will need to decide if you have the resources to get things done. The same is true of buying a car, getting groceries, planning a trip, and so on.

But it is also true about our faith and our involvement in being faithful. That is, after all, what Jesus is getting at. This crowd of followers may not have given enough thought to all the commitment required in following Jesus. What might be expected of them? Will they need to change the way they think and act?

As we enter into a new calendar year it is a good time to examine ourselves and our own commitment to Jesus. As believers we need to estimate the cost of what it will take to be truly Christian. We may need to make changes in our lives – changes in how we look at our finances, changes in our attitudes to others, changes in what we do at work and how we act in public AND private.

Jesus encourages us to estimate the cost of what we will do. We must estimate what it is we are willing to give and give up for God. We must look at what we are willing to do in order to serve God and further His kingdom.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What new thing will you do for God in 2012? Do you have the resources – money, time, spirit, attitude – to get it done?