Church Goes Out 5

Matthew 9:27-29

I usually make a phone call home when I am leaving the hospital after visiting someone. That way, if there is something I need to pick up, I can get it on my way home. This saves an extra trip on someone’s part.

Just as we need to be open to simple side trips in our day-to-day dealings, we need to have our eyes open for ministry opportunities when we are involved in the work of the kingdom of God. Today’s passage was the first healing of a blind person I came across. I use it as an example of all of Jesus’ healing of the blind.

How is Jesus described in verse 27? What does he ask in verse 28? What happens?

If you scan through the Gospels and look for examples of Jesus healing any blind person I believe you will discover one consistent concept. Every time Jesus heals a blind person, whether the blind person asks for it or not, Jesus is on his way somewhere. Jesus is out doing ministry when he gets interrupted or interrupts himself so that he might stop and do more ministry.

As we prepare for our own ministry we may have specific tasks in mind. We may set a specific goal of helping this group or that, of building this thing, of collecting this many canned goods, and so on. But like Jesus we must be open to the distractions of other people’s needs.

As we go out to do ministry we will likely encounter other ministry and outreach opportunities. We must be open to these encounters.

In today’s passage we see the persistence of the blind men’s faith. But we also see that Jesus was on his way somewhere and was willing to stop to heal them.

We need to be like Jesus. We may have goals in mind for our ministry or our work, but we need to be willing to be flexible. If we see a need we should respond to the need. That is part of ministry, not necessarily completing a single task that you have in mind, but being available to help wherever and whenever needed.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can help you be more flexible in your ministry?

Church Goes Out 4

Matthew 15:25-28

Our two oldest children are looking for a job. We have been spending time helping to direct them and guide them in the process. We have also shared our experience with job searches to help them along their way.

One of the keys that is hard to internalize is the persistence you need when applying for jobs. I believe that at least one of my jobs was given to me just so that I would stop calling and bothering them.

If we can be that dogged in our job searches, then we can also be that persistent in living out our faith. After all, our faith is much more important than our work.

In Matthew we have an account of a woman who will not leave Jesus alone. While traveling Jesus encounters a Canaanite woman. Such a label means that the woman was not Jewish, but Samaritan – an enemy of the Jews. She asks for healing for her demon-possessed daughter, but Jesus ignores her.

What does the woman do? How does Jesus respond in verse 26? What does the woman’s comment in verse 27 tell us about her? What does Jesus finally do?

It can be a bit shocking to hear Jesus make such disparaging comments to the Canaanite woman. He ignores her. He lets her know she is not part of his flock. And then he basically calls her a dog.

But none of this discourages the woman and she persists in her requests for healing for her daughter. Some say that it was her willingness to accept the insult of being called a dog (verse 27) that made Jesus more willing to help. But I believe it is her continued and persistent faith that did it.

No matter how much she was ignored and insulted, her daughter’s healing was the most important thing on her mind and she would not allow anything to deter her. That example of faith impressed Jesus.

And so we have an example for ourselves. If an outsider, someone not of Jesus’ flock, can demonstrate extreme faith, then why can’t we?

This woman’s faith serves as an example to each of us. We should be willing and able to live out our faith, to go out into the world, to overcome challenges and difficulties, with a powerful faith that allows us to be persistent in serving God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How strong is your faith?

Church Goes Out 3

Jeremiah 1:7-8

A family friend of ours had a job at a steel mill. He worked there for years and years, but he told me that whenever someone at the job asked him a question he would explain that he was a new hire and didn’t know anything. It was his way of getting out of any responsibility.

Unfortunately, so many Christians take the same attitude when it comes to their faith. So many people claim that they cannot do this or that, or they just don’t know how to do something. Someone else should do it.

It’s nothing new. The prophet Jeremiah provides an account of his call into the ministry. God told him that God had made him to be a prophet before he was even in the womb, but Jeremiah claimed that he was unable to speak. Jeremiah said that he was only a child.

What does God command? What promise does God make?

There is no denying that doing the work of God has great rewards and benefits. And I am not talking about our heavenly reward. When we share the love of God with others, when we help the needy, when we save the lost, there is a tremendous joy of knowing that we have been an instrument in the hands of God.

But there is also no denying that when we are called to do the work of God it can be very frightening. We are often asked to step outside of our comfort zone and do what we have never done before. It can be intimidating.

But what we must remember is that when we are called to do the ministry of the Lord we are not alone in our work. Just as Jeremiah had the promise of God’s presence, we also have that promise. God will be with us when we serve Him. He will not leave us vulnerable.

Like Jeremiah each one of us has been formed by the Lord, and God knows the work He has planned for us. He will set us to doing the work that He has designed us to do. And He will be with us in our efforts. He will rescue us from harm. He will strengthen us in our labors.

What we must do is trust in God. And when we have learned to trust, then we must step forward and dare to serve God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Where is God calling you to serve Him?

Church Goes Out 2

Romans 12:11

Several weeks ago my mother experienced a hernia which caused intestinal blockage, the result of which was intense pain. Elderly and confused, she was struggling with her situation and when she was taken to the hospital we had no idea a simple surgery could straighten things out.

My sister and I spent a stress-filled night in the hospital sitting up all night long at her bedside until we could meet with a doctor in the morning. It is times like that when we realize that our love for another person has no set amount of time, no limit in hours.

How long do you care for a loved one? The love continues forever.

Such is the case with our faith and our approach to loving God. How long do we have a fervor for God’s kingdom and the work of God’s love? It is never-ending.

What does Paul say about it in his letter to the Romans?

We can grow tired in our daily labors. We can grow weary with our jobs. Taking care of our homes can be a burden. Planning meals can become tedious, and we may reach that point when we simply want a break from it all.

The same can be felt in our spiritual walk. The challenges of being a Christian may seem to be too much for us. We may feel that there is only so much we can do to serve the Lord.

And those who commit to doing work for God can grow frustrated and tired with the lack of results – or at least tangible, visible results – of serving God. We can often feel that we have done all we can and there is nothing left to be done.

Still others commit to a certain amount of time. They serve the church or do ministry for a set number of years and then step back. It’s time for others to take on the work.

But Paul encourages all believers to hold on to that fervor and zeal in serving God. We need to spur ourselves on continually, allowing God’s love and Holy Spirit to charge us up and move us forward.

There is no end to the love we should have for the people of God. Our ministry is a ministry of a lifetime. We should live out the love and mercy of God all the time and in places.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How do you keep your spiritual fervor?

Church Goes Out 1

Luke 17:20-21

One day while teaching in the public schools I was frustrated with the behavior of many of my students. Gathered with other teachers in the lounge I complained about the kids and suggested that maybe the schools should offer a class on how to behave in public. Another teacher said, “You should be teaching that as part of your class.”

I should indeed have been teaching that. As an educator I was responsible for more than having my students learn about nouns and verbs and sentence structure. I was part of their development and should have directed them on what was acceptable and what was not acceptable.

The same attitude can be taken with our faith. We can all commiserate on the state of the world today. We can all complain that there is hatred and war and violence and an abundance of sinful behaviors that go against our Christian theology. But what will do about it?

So many Christian believers have a concept of the kingdom of God being that great and glorious day when Jesus returns on clouds of glory and God smites the wicked. He will set the goats on one side and the sheep on the other, and there will be peace on earth. But when will that day come?

How about now? Our faith is more than a relationship with God that guarantees our own salvation. Our life as Christians involves stepping out into a hurting and broken world, a world of challenges and anger, and being a force of love.

In Luke we have an account of Jesus being confronted by the religious leaders of his day. What do they ask? How will we NOT find the kingdom of heaven? Where is the kingdom of heaven?

What a profound and earth-shaking revelation. The days of peace are not a far off dream of those who love God. The kingdom of God can exist here on earth right now, today, if we will simply be agents for the Lord and live out the love of God.

Where is the kingdom of God? It is not a distant hope that we must wait for. The kingdom of God, that time of peace and love and compassion, exists right now in our hearts. We must live as children of God today, no longer tolerating sinful behavior – not even in ourselves – and sharing the love of God with all people. Then the kingdom of God will be with us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be part of the kingdom of God?