Thursday, April 26, 2012

Making a Difference

What does it take to make a difference? I'm not talking about make someone smile today, although that is a worthy micro-goal. But to really impact lives requires something more. If we look at those who have had an impact, either large or small, some commonalities begin to emerge. These common links among people of influence throughout the centuries are our topic for the day.

1. A Cause - If you don't have something bigger than yourself to live for, than you will never reach higher than your own stature. There are many thousands of "famous" people in the world. Fame is a different animal than impact. Many famous people are just that...famous, but they havn't translated that fame into impact because they have not embraced a cause. Oh, everyone has their favourite charities. Most of the time it is because they want the tax break at the end of the year. Charities are different than causes. A charity is something to which you give money. A cause is something for which you give yourself.

2. Passion - You shouldn't choose a cause, a cause should choose you. What about this broken world breaks your heart? There are many good causes, but unless the cause has a grip on your heart you will not have the impact that you desire. The Bible says that our eyes affect our hearts, and that is the truth. That's why commercials of stray puppies or starving children work. You can't have passion for something unless you see the need. Now, you and I both know that the greatest need of humanity is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That is a cause for which all Christians should develop a passion. In addition to this, however, both New Testament and Old Testament Scriptures encourage us to engage in "good works" toward the "least of these." This too, requires passion.

3. Dissatisfaction - Impact requires a deep dissatisfaction with the way things are. This is where passion comes from. When we see that something is broken and decide that we just can't stand by and watch things continue to go wrong, that's the seed of passion sprouting up out of the ground. So what is it that you can't let go on any longer? What troubles you? What about the needs of others keeps you up at night?

4. Action - Passion and a cause accomplish nothing without action. There is so much talk today; and talk, and talk, and talk. The latest generation thinks that action is clicking a mouse and joining a group on social media. That may make someone feel good but is twenty miles away from real action that creates positive change.

5. Reason - Motivation is an important factor in this topic. If we are motivated by our pride the subliminal message we send to others is, "I'm going to fix you." That's not good. If our motivation is others, eventually our love for ourselves will win out when the going gets tough. The truth is, you like yourself a whole lot more than you care about anyone else's needs. When it comes down to where the rubber meets the road, the glory of God is the only motivation that lasts. Basically we want to say, "I care about others and want to make an impact because I want God to look good in their eyes. I want them to be drawn to the beauty and goodness of God."
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

The Christian Army - Here to Occupy

Luke 19:10-13 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. 

It is interesting to me that Jesus did not say "Battle till I come." That's what most of us think of when we think of the Christian life. We know that we are soldiers. 2 Timothy 2:3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. We know that we are in a war.  2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)  1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; We know that we have been given armour, a uniform to wear. Ephesians 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. But even with all of this, we find that we are an occupying army.

We have seen this occupying concept in the history of our own country, from the occupation of parts of Europe after WWII to the most recent years of ongoing occupation and counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. What we really have to understand is that we are soldier/statesman (ambassadors) from another Kingdom. As such, we have the power to defend ourselves from the enemy (the world, the flesh, and the devil). But the real warfare is for the hearts, minds, and souls of those who inhabit the kingdom of this world.

We are not here to set up permanent bases. This world is not our home. We are not here get all of those who inhabit this kingdom to adopt the speech, attitudes, and actions of our Kingdom. We are the salt and light. We are the ones that are different and from a different place. We are here to preserve souls and enlighten hearts. The people of this kingdom need to know about our King and how they can become citizens of the Kingdom of Light. So many Christians want to fight each other and everyone else and forget that God has called them to be salt and light.

Doing good is part of this salt and light process. Our armies at this hour are not only fighting the bad guys, but also providing security and resources to rebuild hospitals, roads, and schools. Jesus said,  "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."  Matthew 5:16 Why is it that we in our rush to correct the evils of this world (and there are many) and to evangelize (and that's essential) do we forget that Jesus said that if we do good works the people of this kingdom will come to glorify our KING? That seems to me to be an important missing link.

Now I am not advocating what is known as the social gospel where needs are addressed to the exclusion of the message of the cross. What I am saying is that God has given us good works as a key to winning the hearts and minds so that we may preach the gospel to the souls.

Will all the people of this kingdom end up coming over into the Kingdom of Light? No, but if we do our job as soldier/statesman many will.

Now let's switch gears. The word that is translated "occupy" in this verse very literally means "to busy oneself with, i.e. to trade." In other words, God is telling us to do business here until Jesus, our King, comes back. God has not called us out of the world to some compound on a hill or even to a Christian sub-culture where we don't rub shoulders with those to whom God has sent us. Jesus said, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil."  John 17:15

We have a business. Like Jesus, it is our "Father's business." We must use our time, talents, and treasure to serve the interests of our King and His Kingdom until He comes back. Souls are our business. People matter to God let us make sure that they are a priority for us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Speech of the Ambassador - Gracious

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Ok, so this verse tests my limits. It is hard to be gracious in our speech. I can think of several instances:

It is hard to be gracious in the face of the vocal and opinionated. Especially if they are wrong. Often we feel that in order to be heard we have to either take the argument to a more personal and inflammatory level, or raise the volume of our voice. In the language of  social media we start using BOLD AND CAPTIALS to get our point across. At other times because our opponents speak in forceful certainties, we think that we have present our arguments in terms of cement rather than presenting a well thought out and nuanced argument. Nuance is the language of the diplomat, the ambassador, and that's what Jesus has called us to be. Oh, to be sure there are areas in which we cannot hedge, but there are plenty of times that a gracious word will do far more good than an intractable stand.

It is sometimes difficult to be graceful when confronted with our own mistakes, wrongdoing, or sin. The first instinct is to lash out at the individual bringing our problem to our attention. I suppose this has a lot to do with pride. We don't like to admit that we sometimes are just plain wrong, and we are never inclined to make apology and amends. It is, however, as or more important to be graceful when we are wrong as it is to be gracious when we are right.

It is a great challenge to be gracious when in the presence of the ill informed and ignorant. When people just don't have the facts or misuse what little information they possess as a premise for a greater misinformed argument, it takes all you have in you not to get up on a chair, point your finger and say "You're dead wrong!" But we, as the ambassadors for Christ have to pick our battles. My father used to say, "Choose the hill you want to die on." Does it really matter if their opinion of politics, music, your church, or the local restaurant is way off base? If we go into full 'correction' mode on these and other issues, it may lose us an opportunity to correct their view of Jesus at a later date. Their perspective of Jesus is the main issue. First things first, always...even if you have to let a few things slide by to be addressed at a later date.

Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.