Our passionate pursuit

 A watching world has had much to see from the church.

Think of all the scandals that have emerged from churches in recent years. Infidelity seems to be a recurring theme. Sexual abuse keeps lurking. Then there’s the money.

I don’t blame people outside the church for keeping a scrutinous eye on church leaders. There’s been too much wrongdoing for anyone to ignore. While many unbelievers gladly denounce the church and its leaders, many believers set out in the opposite direction.

It seems like every time some pastor or church leader steps down due to spiritual failings someone knew beforehand. People knew and church systems protected the leader. Instead of seeking what is right, churches sought what would keep their congregation running.

In today’s devotional reading, presumably, the apostle Paul instructs the younger preacher Timothy. The younger has a strong faith. He may be a bit shy and nervous about the work he has to do, but he has had a faithful family and mentor that have shown him the way of Jesus.

He may not be ready, but he is prepared.

Paul warns Timothy of the trappings of wanting to be rich. It’s not that riches are problematic in and of themselves. It’s our desire to have them that entangle us. “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation,” Paul said. That’s a word of caution for church leaders today, too.

And not just leaders. To all who call themselves believers. We can’t serve two masters. Many have tried and the result is what the world sees in us. Whether it’s the master of money, power or status, they all lead us to temptation. So, Paul admonishes Timothy to pursue righteousness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.

We can tell what we are pursuing. You can tell what I’m pursuing, for example. That is, whether I’m pursuing righteousness or not should be noticeable. Now, that makes some people uncomfortable. You might think, “That sounds like judging.” You’re right. If you’re making an assessment of my life’s pursuit, you’re judging me.

But you’re not judging my soul. You’re judging the fruit of my walk with God. Only God can judge my soul. But the fruit of my pursuit of God’s kingdom is for all people to see.

Yours, too.

I know many people want to see the church crumble. It almost brings them joy when a new scandal surfaces. Someone like that might not care to see any other aspect of the church. But I want to make sure the world sees the fruit of our pursuit of righteousness.

There’s no need to put on a show or call attention to ourselves. It should be obvious, though, what is most important to us as God’s people. Not money, control, power or even our own comfort. Instead, let’s show the world the difference the love of God makes. We’re prepared for this.

Stay blessed…john

Grasping truth

Learning, of course, is important. With regard to our walk with God, learning more about faith, the Bible and theology has great merit. We need more theological conversations and reflection. That begins with Bible study.

But it can’t end there.

I want people to connect to God through scripture. To see the love of God portrayed throughout the Bible so they, so you can better recognize God’s love around you. You’ll notice that’s more than head knowledge. Again, head knowledge is meaningful and helpful. It is not, however, our final goal.

The world has known many people with great biblical knowledge with no Christ-centered perspective. We don’t need more of that.

What we learn about God moves us. The love of God transforms us.

Take Peter, for example. He was a disciple of Jesus. Even though he didn’t always say the right thing and even denied knowing Jesus, Jesus sent him out as an apostle. Peter preached and thousands of people followed Jesus.

Not bad, right?

Peter walked and talked with the Word of God, Jesus. He heard scripture explained in a way none of us ever will. He knew the word.

But that would never be all Christ called him to know. Christ would not have built his church on head knowledge alone. Peter would need God’s authority, God’s anointing and God’s power to live into his calling.

As God’s church today, you and I have those gifts. They are gifts bestowed to us as the body of Christ. Let’s be clear. You don’t need God’s authority, anointing or power to be a country club. So, if that’s the kind of church we’ve been, we’ve been doing it wrong. God doesn’t need the church to just be a place of learning either.

We need the transformation.

In Acts 10, Peter has a moment of transformation. He was led to visit Cornelius, a devout man of God. He was not Jewish, but he had a vision from God. The Lord led him to Peter. When the two met, Peter said something profound.

Cornelius expected Peter to share what the Lord commanded him to say. And Peter did that. First, though, he said this, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.”

At this point, not everyone sees that truth. Not everyone believes or accepts that idea. So, it’s outstanding that Peter would say that. Before this meeting, he hadn’t fully understood what God wanted to accomplish. A literal translation of what Peter said could be: This truth I am grasping, that God is not partial.

In other words, he was still learning, still grasping the breadth of God’s mission and truth. But that’s not head knowledge. It began with teaching, but was now blooming to a new level of faithfulness and understanding.

May God open our hearts the same way. As we read scripture, may it be that we allow ourselves the room to grow in faithfulness and understanding, too. Let’s be ready to let the love of God change our hearts and minds about what we think about other people and maybe even ourselves.

Stay blessed…john

Reaching Out or Caring Within?

Which is more important, discipling the people you have in church or reaching new people?

I try to affirm any question because, like it’s always said, there are no wrong questions. Even the questions that seem out of place or misguided can lead us to greater truth.

Eventually.

It’s like taking the long, long, long way home. Again, we can get to truth through those. And it’s when we do that we realize we should’ve been asking better questions all along.

So, is discipling the people you have in church or reaching new people more important? It’s a misguided question. How do you complete a breath if you only breathe in or breathe out? You need both. There’s no question.

How I’ve seen this play out is the overarching attitude that people take. On one hand, we should dedicate all our resources to the people who show up every week. They’re the ones who are here. They’re the ones who pay the bills. Yes, people have told me that we “owe it to them” to give them all our attention.

On the other hand, we should steer everything we do to those who are not yet here. They are the future. Our sole purpose is to preach the good news to those who have not heard it. The people already in church should grow up and get over themselves.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve heard that, too.

You might suspect I lean one way or the other. I consider myself a wobbler. I know there is a Spirit-filled purpose in both discipleship and reaching out. One moment I’m writing a devotional meant to deepen our discipleship. The next moment I’m having a conversation about life and faith with someone outside the church.

One is not more important than the other. Now, your spiritual gifts may lead you to emphasize one aspect. That’s great. That means you know what you’re spiritual gifts are and you’re learning how to use them.

God told the prophet Isaiah, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Did you notice what God did?

He expanded Isaiah’s vision. Most likely, someone like Isaiah considered himself to be God’s mouthpiece to God’s people, Israel. And that’s what Isaiah did, he spoke to the people of God. The people might have thought God’s Messiah would share the same sole commission.

But the Lord’s plan included more. It was too light to only do one thing. So, Messiah would be a light to all nations. Is one more important? Of course not.

So, when it comes to our shared ministry, let’s not take the long way home. Here are a couple of questions that take us a little deeper.

As the church, if we aren’t reaching out to new people, how do we suppose God wants to reach them?

And if we aren’t discipling, what are we inviting people to join?

Let’s reflect on those questions and see where God leads us.

Stay blessed…john