Vol. 11, No. 7
If you want to draw someone from among your family members or among your friends into the Christian faith, what is the most appealing thing you could say?
A clue is this chain of events described by the Apostle John:
“The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” John 1:35-37*
“One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed).” John 1:40-41
The most appealing draw of the Christian faith centered in the person of Jesus is, wait for it, Jesus! Knowing and being known, loving and being loved by Jesus is the deepest of all human experiences.
Consider your own knowledge of Jesus, your own embrace of and experience of Jesus. Your relationship with Jesus probably began when someone spoke up to you about him.
When you speak up and name Jesus to those who know and love you then you offer them a believable word, the word they may trust and that opens the door for their own loving and following of Jesus.
Let Jesus speak through you of himself to the family and friends in your life that they may know him too!
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
I recently came across these fine words from the poem, Patient Trust, by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. These are the first two verses:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everythingto reach the end without delay.We should like to skip the intermediate stages.We are impatient of being on the way to somethingUnknown, something new.And yet it is the law of all progressthat it is made by passing throughsome stages of instability -and that may take a very long time.
While I keep hoping that the pace of life will slow just a bit my time continues to be filled with a full share and more of ministry opportunities. In addition, when I think about the process of church transformation, or any kind of transformation for that matter, there are definitely “some stages of instability.” I understand instability, in this case, to mean those times when we are not sure what God is doing, but still believe God to be working. And, while we believe God to be working, sometimes it’s surely hard to see it! Hopefully, whether we find ourselves in personal, church, job or family related transition, it will not take a “very long time.” In the middle of it, however, it may not take long to feel “very long.”
Trusting God at all times, as the psalmist reminds us, rightly includes the periods of being in the middle, in the intermediate and in times of instability. May God bless our days with the ability to savor “the intermediate stages” filling them with worship, prayer, meditation on scripture and in simply taking a deep breath. Let us not miss the journey for being impatient to get to the destination. May our “trust in the slow work of God” only deepen as we experience and share in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Anne Clifton H
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Building One Another - Vol. 11, No. 5
Is not the essence of Valentine’s Day to affirm your love to the people in your life?
When it came to the love of the Thessalonian Christians, the apostle Paul wrote, “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.” I Thess. 4:9* Indeed we have been. Take a moment and read all the ways:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another... Romans 13:8
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love one another… 1 Peter 3:8
This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:11
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1 John 3:23
Friends, let us love one another… 1 John 4:7
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another... 1 John 4:12
It’s difficult to miss the point! May what Paul asks of the Thessalonians be true of us, “And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.” I Thessalonians 4:10
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Thursday, February 2, 2012
Advancing your aims in any working environment is a challenge today and it certainly is in the practice of ministry. I once participated in a citywide survey that asked me to list the essential factors in a pastor’s life that contribute to fruitfulness and effectiveness. I listed a number of items such as growing faith, personal initiative, vision, and people skills. Afterwards, I felt quite proud of my answers until I read that a friend in the same city had replied, “Able to handle all the stuff that comes at you!”
I thought, “He’s right! What was I thinking?”
While I was indeed thinking about qualities that make a big difference in ministry effectiveness for any of us, my friend was correct also. Ministry - and even life itself today – has a lot of things coming at you. So, how do you combine our two winning answers?
To move forward with new ideas and fresh initiative we must neutralize the factors that work to neutralize us!
- The pressure of present demand. I suspect if you began this day without a “to do list,” no specific list of things to accomplish, you would find yourself busy all day. The phone will ring, someone will drop by wanting to talk, you will remember some deadline is past due, you hear the ping of a new email every few minutes, and so on. You could go to work every day with no plan in mind and stay busy the whole day just reacting to what comes at you. This is typical for most people in our culture.
- The comfort of present demand. The truth is while there may be an uninterrupted flow of people and task demands on your life, you probably like it. You are accustomed to it and would not know what to do with your day without it. All of us get into routines that may or may not be particularly fruitful beyond the busyness of the moment. The routine itself becomes so comfortable that we lose the spark that initiates new vision and new ideas.
- The anxiety a new vision may produce. Ministry – indeed all of life – frequently presents us with the simple choice to move forward accomplishing a new vision, dream, or idea or hold back due to the anxiety that the new vision creates. You may need to phone a person with a request but the idea of the making the call makes you nervous. You may have to follow up with people who are so wrapped up in their own worlds that they aren’t getting back to you. Hence, the thought of constantly knocking on their doors puts you off, so you don’t do it. When you yield to the anxiety of bringing a new vision into reality, your motion is neutralized.
- Fatigue. As I travel around the country and ask the simple question, “How are you?"
People are pushing it. For some it comes of the desire to do more or make more. For others, the difficulties of our economy mean new increased levels of coping. It is irrational to speak of transformational vision and considering new initiatives, concepts, and methods when you are so wiped out that the very idea of generating fresh initiative makes you nauseous.
- Social Media. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and interactive websites, as well as texting and email are here to stay. Whether you enjoy using them or not, if you want to communicate with people you will have to make the jump to one or more of these forms. At the same time it is easy to find yourself checking Facebook or your email every hour or every few minutes.
For an interesting experience of one person who took a break from social media, check out http://news.yahoo.com/90-days-without-cell-phone-email-social-media-015300257.html.
What to do? The factors that may limit our fruitfulness, what is called “productivity” in the business world, are only going to grow in their intensity. Finding ways to manage them will move us from being neutralized to increasingly fruitful in our Lord’s vineyard.
- Perform a self-audit. All of us have different ways of handling these five issues that may neutralize our fruitfulness. Think through each of the issues in regard to the realities of your own life being as brutally honest as you can be. For instance, focus on taking care of yourself. Get enough rest. Take the weekly Sabbath to be with your Lord, family, and friends. Work smarter, not harder.
Or, make social media a part of your day like mealtime. Set a time, perhaps in early and late morning and late afternoon, and set a time limit. As it has been said, “If you don’t control your calendar, your calendar will control you.”
Unlike New Year’s Resolutions that are often casually expressed and typically unaddressed, choose one of these issues and seek to rise above it.
- Spend time with centering friends. It really helps to be supported and stimulated by a few others who are people of imagination, initiative, and loyalty. The Quakers speak of “centering down” as we re-center our lives around our Lord. Who are the people in your life who help you re-center – not only in your relationship with your Lord but in the ways you handle the issues that threaten to neutralize your capacity and that of your ministry to engage in new endeavor? Their primary role is to function as a backboard with whom you may bounce ideas and chew over problems. The idea is for you both to join together as a team in actual leadership. They ask questions such as “Why not?” and “What if?” while encouraging you and helping you to bring a vision into reality.
- Stay close to the Lord who loves you. The concept of Sabbath is a centering practice we see for God’s people throughout scripture. The core issue is simple. The demands of life today – and frankly the demands of life at any time in history – will always seek to crowd out the intimacy of our friendship with God. Yet it is that very friendship that has the greatest capacity to help us handle the pressure of present demand, to rise above it, overcome our anxieties, get the rest we need, and manage the social conventions of our day.
With Joy -
E. Stanley Ott