Category Archives: mission

Restaurants & Relationships

I’d like to disclose one of my strong personal preferences that actually drives a certain set of behaviors in my life: I will not go to a restaurant that has poor service. Let me clarify that…I will go once to that restaurant but I will not go back again. If I will be spending money to eat out then I not only expect the food to be to my personal liking but I also emphasize that the people who work there at least pretend to be glad I have come. Call it snobbery, call it presumption or call it reasonable if you choose. In the end, it’s my choice and this personal preference determines my actions… and I have no plans to change my standards. It is one thing for me to take such an elevated view of my individual tastes when it comes to eating out. It would be an entirely different issue if I allowed this same principle to determine my relationships. By the grace of God I have been made to understand that I must not walk out on people, refusing to return, because they don’t serve my personal tastes. Let me explain.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” – Romans 14:17-19

The Apostle Paul teaches us in Romans (chapters 14 & 15) that we owe each other a debt of love and a commitment to work through our personal differences in order to cultivate lasting, meanigful relationships. Specifically, he is speaking to Christians who clearly have opposite views on some peripheral issues within God’s Kingdom. Paul takes off his scholar’s hat for a moment and has to replace it with a black and white striped referee’s cap as he tells the followers of Jesus that they must think a little more deeply and try a little harder at maintaining the unity of Spirit in the bonds of peace with one another. The people to whom he was originally writing were very frustrated with each other over things like eating meat, observing Jewish holy days and whether or not Christians were able to drink wine. Paul clearly identifies stronger Christians as those who were liberated from fixating on religious technicalities and presumably binding traditions. The weaker brethren were seen to be those believers who could not feel secure unless they obeyed their scruples – and they expected everyone else to obey those personal tastes also. To the freed, stronger Christians Paul gave a warning for them to be careful how they exercised their spiritual liberty. To the weaker Christians he offered the command to stop judging the freedom of the stronger brother. As a pastor who has navigated these waters many times, I can almost hear Paul sighing as he writes those two chapters.

Have you thought lately about how your particular views/preferences/standards are affecting your relationships with others?  What does it take for you to give yourself permission to stop associating with another believer? Are you thinking of breaking fellowship with your church and finding one that better suits your personal tastes? Sometimes you can convince yourself that your individual preferences carry the weight of Gospel truth. They do not and we deceive ourselves if we assume that God always allows us to step away from others because we do not agree with them in non-biblical matters. Going back to the restaurant metaphor, when we come to moments of decision like these we need to slow down and consider whether the saturation of other available “spiritual dining establishments” makes it too convenient for us to move along from where we currently dine. Let’s be honest: in the Bible belt where many of us live, we can head out a few miles in a different direction to locate a new home church every time we discover that our current fellowship serves up the Sunday meal with some seasoning we do not find appealing. We glibly call it church-hopping but I think we might do well to consider that sometimes it is simply outright selfishness and sin.

Paul told the Romans in the verses above that God’s Kingdom can never be reduced to our personal scruples. God’s Kingdom involves you but it is never all about you. As followers of Jesus we need to seek the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to become more like our Savior in this area. Think about it: everywhere the Son of God went He was surrounded by people, words, ideas and events that failed to meet His own holy standards. Nobody thought like He did, everyone was truly “beneath Him” but they never felt that way. Interestingly, He just kept revealing His commitment & availability to those people. He pressed further into the needs of those people. He remained in places where He knew that His words, Kingdom-offers and saving mission would not be appreciated nor accepted. Jesus even washed the feet of the betraying Judas… but some of His modern day followers cannot even give the right hand of fellowship to other Christians who don’t carry the same English bible translation as they do. Jesus went to a party at the scandalized Zaccheus’ house while some of His 21st century followers won’t go to a local church whose music style doesn’t meet their personal tastes or whose denominational banner doesn’t mimic their own . Jesus asked the Father to forgive His tormentors while He was impaled to a cross – yet today some younger Christians arrogantly write off the older as irrelevant and some older Christians callously judge the younger as irreverent. Turf wars never begin in the church house. They find their origin in proud hearts.

I won’t be going back to yesterday’s restaurant where I took my family to eat after church. The food was pretty good but the way I was served was woefully lacking. To not ever go back is not a difficult decision for me. They won’t miss me and I can just go across the street to the place I am more familiar and where I am always appreciated and served. Yet I don’t view my relationships with others in this same light. Do you want to know why? Because they are not here to serve me in my relationships. I am here to serve them. I am not a consumer negotiating a transaction with them. I am a follower of Jesus as they are and we are part of a forever-family. When that driving principle takes up home in our hearts we will love more selflessly, work more thoroughly, stay more lastingly and hope more enduringly. Set up your personal criteria for restaurants any way you may choose. Be a little more deliberate and humble when you are considering Kingdom relationships.

 

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Jeff Lyle,
Lead Pastor of Meadow Baptist, Lawrenceville, GA

@Transtruth

5 Tips for Living On Mission with God

For us to live on mission with God and allow Him to do His work through us means that we must be attentive to how ‘we see life.’  It will help if we can see the whole of life in the context of sowing and reaping… understanding the importance and implications of this Biblical principle in the context of everyday relationships.

Sowing and Reaping1. Forget shortcuts

Don’t look for substitutes, cramming schemes, and quick-fixes when sharing the gospel.

2. Focus on sowing

Live to contribute, not consume… to invest, not get… to serve, not be served.  We are usually too harvest-driven, too focused on reaping.

3. The fruit is the seed

The Spirit’s fruit produced in my life is the seed planted in someone else’s life.  The Spirit’s fruit in me grows out of a good root system.

4. The field is not my solitude

The field of others is located a great distance from the solitude and isolation of self-interests.  I can’t live for self and others simultaneously.  Note: My interests may not be evil within themselves… only if they keep me from my purpose for being on earth as one who worships God.

5. My fulfillment in life will be the sheaves I bring forth with rejoicing

Praise the Lord!  It is after we go and sow in tears… that we come and reap with joy, bringing our sheaves with us… those we have influenced to follow Jesus.  In this experience, we find fulfillment and the joy of obedience.

 

by Pastor Bob Cook | facebook |  bio
The Church at Grace Park

The Representative

family-cross-silhoutteI spent the first few days of my two week suspension bitter.  The internal investigation had been little more than a formality.  The company I work for accused me of negligence and rules violations which caused a derailment.  My union representative, in my opinion, didn’t present the best defense.  I sat in the investigation watching both sides sling accusations trying to catch each other in a lie while both ignored the statement of events.  I didn’t feel like I had been treated fairly by the company or represented fairly by the union.  Neither had seemed to take my statement into account or had much faith in my ability.

It wasn’t until I was reading through the Sermon on the Mount that I realized I had no right to throw stones.

Matthew 5:16 says, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify you Father which is in Heaven.  As a Christian, I am God’s representative to the world.  I work for Him and on occasion have been called upon to defend my faith.  I have the Bible as a guideline with which to live my life.  All I really have to do obey, have faith in His ability, and let my light shine.  But how often did my light truly shine?  How much time did I spend in His word so I was familiar with the guidelines?

 All I really have to do obey, have faith in His ability, and let my light shine.

Matthew 5:44 says, But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.  Through the Bible and the Holy Spirit, He has taught me what to say and how to react in a given situation; not just for my own good, but for His glory.  But how often did I listen?  How often did I rely on His ability instead of counting on my own?  I would get caught up in worldly views and arguments instead of concentrating on my only true job – representing God.  When someone attacked my beliefs, did I heed Matthew 7:1 – Judge not, that ye be not judged?  Or did I take it personally and attack theirs.  Instead of relying on Matthew 7:12a – Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, when mud was slung, I slung it back.

As a Christian, I am God’s representative to the world.

Most importantly, when someone was curious and asking questions about God, how many times had I chosen that moment to be quiet?  My suspension was a glowing reminder of one thing – I have been a poor representative.  This is not a job that is at stake or loss of some income.  These are souls with an eternity of consequences.  We are to represent God before the world, with the same love and conviction Jesus Christ will represent us before God.  I will continually fall short, but my life is committed to Jesus Christ and I will try with every breath I have left.  How ‘bout you?

Article by C.S. Depew

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It Goes Without Saying

Gospel PaintingWhen the Partners for the Gospel was started, it was meant to be a helpful and encouraging tool for us and others in the ministry.  As I read the articles posted each week by my Christian brothers, I would call this a great success for which I am grateful to be a part.  Since we are all believers, our sharing of the Gospel especially to each other often goes without saying.  But in the last few weeks, I have felt under conviction because of exactly that…it has gone without saying.  There are believers and non-believers alike that visit our site, and every single one of us need to hear the Gospel message daily.

Jesus’ commission to the disciples after the resurrection was simple, and non-discriminate.  Matthew 28: 19 commands, Go ye therefore, and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  Mark 16: 15 says, And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.  Luke 24: 46,47 tells us, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And in John 21: 17, Jesus is speaking to Peter.  He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me?  Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?  And he said unto Him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

I sometimes forget that any Scriptural advice or Biblical teaching I may offer without the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is little more than a twelve step program the world could find in any number of places.  2 Timothy 3:16 says, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.  All Scripture is profitable because all Scripture, from the Old Testament stories to the New Testament parables, point to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection.

Isn’t it amazing that the one thing about Christianity that seems the most unbelievable to the world is the only thing that gives us credibility in the world.  

Christ paid the price for our sins when He went to the cross.  He wasn’t dragged or forced you know, He went willingly and obediently so you and I can be perfect and righteous in the sight of God.  That is what the world needs to hear and I am thankful to Patrick, Michael, Bryan and the others for “preaching and teaching all nations.”  We don’t have to be eloquent or educated to be obedient.  Jesus did the work and provided the message…He told us to “Go.”

Article by C.S. Depew

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Be Evangelistic this Christmas

A story I read tells about a little boy and girl singing their favorite Christmas carol in church the Sunday before Christmas. The boy concluded Silent Night with the words, “Sleep in heavenly beans.” “No,” his sister corrected him, “peas, not beans.”

This little bit of humor reminded me that sometimes people don’t understand our message as well as we believe they do. The Bible tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14), and that this Word was and is Jesus (John 1:1-18). Christmas is about the coming of Jesus, God’s “Word,” and what better time to talk about it than during the holidays?

The Christmas season is always a busy time of year for a lot of folks but it also serves to remind us we have a mission to accomplish. We have been commanded to testify of the coming of Christ and share with others what Jesus has done for us. Christmas provides at least three opportunities for aiding in this command:

First, people are generally more charitable during the holidays. The Salvation Army begins to take up residence on every busy street corner and store front during this time of year because they know that people like to give during the holidays. In Christian theology charity has been understood as “the friendship of man for God.” Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christmas is a great time of year to share with others the charity and goodwill of God the Father who gave up His Son that we may have eternal life.

Second, people are generally more open to religion during the holidays. In spite of the recent “war on Christmas” that has reduced Christmas to holiday trees and merry greetings, what other time of year will you hear songs of the incarnation in retail stores and shopping markets? Even people that aren’t professing Christians tend to “get a little religious” around the holidays. Christmas provides a great opportunity to talk about the purpose for the coming of Christ with regular acquaintances.

Third, people are generally more available during the holidays. One of my favorite aspects of the holidays is gathering and spending time with family that I just don’t get to see very often. Whether we’re sitting around the table together, watching television after having eaten a large meal or just enjoying passing conversation over coffee and tea, Christmas provides doors of opportunity for conversation between friends and relatives.

This Christmas season as you go about your busy schedule of planning meals, buying gifts and visiting loved ones, remember the reason for the season and tell someone about the charity of God, the visit of His Son and the hope of eternal life in Christ. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Article by Michael Waits

@michaelwaits

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Rose-Colored Glasses

It’s amazing how many people feel Christians look at the world with naïve optimism.  I was fortunate enough to assist with a Christ-centered addictions program for two years.  Week after week I watched people come to the program once or twice and never return.  One man even stood up and said, “You’re not giving these people any real help.  When they are down in the gutter, they need someone they can call on to drag them out.  Sitting here in a church and praying isn’t going to help them in the real world.”

Oh, how wrong he was.  Many of those people came to church on Friday nights hoping to find a magic cure:  “do this, this and that and presto – the gutters of the world will be a distant memory.”  The glorious truth is they were closer to a cure than they ever realized.  I believe addiction is the result of a conscious or unconscious attempt to deal with the sin-riddled world around us.  It starts with a drink, pill, food, etc. that temporarily blurs the vision, numbs the senses and disarms the moral compass within to give some comfort from the harsh reality of the world in which we live.   They make things, at least for a while, more bearable.

Addiction is the result of a conscious or unconscious attempt to deal with the sin-riddled world around us.

Now, here’s the rub.  As Christians we try to help people with these addictions without realizing we do the exact same thing.  John 14:16 says, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.”  In John 14:26 Jesus says, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

Why is the Holy Spirit called a Comforter?  Because He is sent to help make things more bearable.  The Comforter sent to us by God clears our vision, heightens our senses and guards our moral compass so we can see beyond the harsh world in which we live and see the world that was intended and will be again.  The rose-colored glasses we wear do not blind us from the reality of the world.  They allow us to look at those who have fallen into the gutters of this world and see children of God.  Our Comforter allows us to reach out to those around us and give them true hope in Jesus Christ and, for the first time, let them see themselves through the eyes of The King.

 

Article by C.S. Depew

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Getting to the Point

There are a lot of things to debate and dissect in the Christian life today.  There are multiple denominations, Bible versions and doctrines.  Everyone from scholars and theologians to new Christians have different views and interpretations of Scripture.

Some argue these things because they truly believe their views are correct and they do not want fellow believers to be deceived.  Others use these things to create trouble, or to set themselves apart from everyone else.  I too have gotten caught up in debates over Scripture for any or all of these reasons until I read Titus 3:9; But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

I felt very convicted about how I had lived my Christian life – I had spent most of it spouting out views and opinions to prove how unwavering my faith was.  But if we are to spread the good news of the Gospel to the world and lead people to Christ, does it make sense to debate with other Christians the things that Paul called unprofitable and vain?  I could just imagine God looking down saying, “You spent so much time arguing this thing and you both missed the point.”

 I want to take as many people with me to Heaven as I can.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  The study of God’s word is a wonderful and necessary pursuit.  To read Scripture with a humble heart is exactly what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says, Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.  But Revelation 22:13,14 says I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.  Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

At some point, we will pass out of time into eternity.  Time will not stop.  It will cease to exist.  With no other plans to make, bills to pay, things to fix or schedule to keep, I will bow down at the feet of my God and Creator.  I will hold the hand of my Lord and Savior.  And I will hug my Father with the joy of a child and say, “I love you.”  And to be honest, I want to bring as many people with me as I can.  I want them to experience eternity being washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.  I would keep writing, but I don’t know how much time I have…

Article by C.S. Depew

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