Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Following Jesus?

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in." Hungry not only for bread- but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing- but naked of human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a home of bricks- but homeless because of rejection.

(Mother Teresa )

As followers of Jesus, how do we represent Him in our personal lives to those who are hurting?

Is this the primary ministry of our churches and ministries or are we more concerned with building bigger buildings or raising more money?

If this is the standard that is required of us as Christ followers, why aren't we more concerned about the "least of these?"

Why do we spend our money on second homes when some people don't even have a place to live? Why do we lavish ourselves with designer clothes and shoes when destitute parents aren't able to provide adequate clothing for their children?

Why do we preach love and grace in our churches, but we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to those who are hurting and broken?

Why do we rip each other apart with hurtful words when we have been given mercy?

Why do we withhold love and respect from those who are different from us?

If these questions make us uncomfortable now, just imagine how we will feel when Jesus, who gave everything for us, asks us why we weren't willing to give to others.

As His hands and feet in this world, why are we presenting Him as a stingy, self-absorbed, angry God who doesn't care?

In the light of eternity, what will it matter if you are president of a charity when you steal the home, food, and clothing from people in need to build your own empire in the name of God? I wonder what you will say when He looks deep into your soul and reveals your greed and deception for everyone to see?

Perhaps we need to throw out all our religious strategies and traditions, and start to follow Jesus. But wait, if we go to that extreme, we may also be homeless and poor . . . or it may lead us to a cross.

Brenda Branson, Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 8, 2008

Invisible People

Invisible People

I recently attended a church where they were beginning a new evangelistic program called “Just Walk Across the Room.” It is a very good series developed by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church. The emphasis is on getting to know the people around you so you may have an opportunity to invite them to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

What could be wrong with that? Nothing . . . unless you think the end justifies the means. I wonder if our evangelistic strategies really please God, or if He is more interested in the motives of our hearts as we reach out to people around us.

When you decide to befriend someone, is it because you really care about them (as Jesus did) or because you feel better about yourself for inviting them to church? Are you motivated by the amount of money or status they have, or do you choose them the way you choose fresh produce—only the unblemished, most beautiful ones will do? How much time and energy would you put into a relationship if you knew that person would never be interested in knowing Jesus or attending your church?

When the goal has been met and your conquests have been enlisted, do you continue to nurture these relationships or do they quickly become invisible people as you move on to make other converts?

What does it mean to be invisible?

  • When the pastor leans across your seat to greet the person sitting next to you, but doesn’t even make eye contact or communicate with you, it may mean you are invisible.

  • When a clique of well-dressed church ladies walk right past you, making no eye contact or polite greeting, and spend the next half-hour talking among themselves in the same room while you sit quietly alone, it may mean you are invisible.

  • When your relatives who attend the same church walk past you without saying “hello” week after week, it may mean you are invisible.

  • When you’ve missed attending church for several weeks and no one calls to see if you are okay, it may mean you are invisible.

As I think about the invisible people in my own church, it grieves my heart that many of them have come and gone without notice and we have missed knowing some amazing people. When people are treated as objects or as a means to an end, they will be quickly discarded unless they have something special to offer such as status or money.

Here’s what it says in James 2 (The Message):

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir, this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind?

To our shame, we do treat people differently in our churches. People who are too fat, too deep, too loud, too quiet, too poor, too flashy, or too much of a misfit are often ignored and judged. Perhaps we need heavenly glasses to see all the invisible people, to see the value in those who have been deemed insignificant, and to see everyone the way God sees them.

For all the invisible people who feel discarded and ignored, God sees you! He sees the real you—the person deep down inside your skin that others have missed, the person with gifts and dreams and love to offer, the person He created you to be. Don’t spend too much time grieving the sting of insensitive people who claim to know God; instead, look up and celebrate the incredible life God has birthed inside you and ask Him to help you see others with the same delight He has when He thinks of you.

God, give me eyes to see those whom you love and ears to hear the cry of their heart even before they say a word so that no one remains invisible or insignificant.

Brenda Branson Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved