Significance Through Service

As followers of Jesus in Post-Christian America, it’s essential that we dedicate ourselves – and our beloved church cultures – to imitating His actual example. There are myriad reasons why the spiritual narrative of America has become so highly toxic to the cause of Christ in recent years, many of which we cannot control; but what we can control is our posture and focus!
As Christian individuals and institutions are being squeezed by our increasingly secular society, it’s more important than ever that we believe and act like Jesus and His early followers.  They also lived in cultures of antagonism; being ridiculed and even persectuted by those who stood opposed to the truth of God…or by those who added heavy burdens on top of it…or by those who subtracted from it to make it more popular.  The Church of the New Testament saw God move in unprecedented, miraculous ways when they focused on the basics of Christian living; and avoided the distractions of false pursuits.  There are a lot of those.
One of the reasons I think we often have such trouble connecting with the world around us is that, collectively, we seem to have lost the point.  We’re often so wrapped-up with our manmade cultures (buildings, programs, doctrines, strategies, hierarchies, etc.) that we become lousy representatives of our King, becoming irrelevant to the world we’re called to engage…and when we do engage, we often mistakenly lead with critical words rather than loving hands!  It’s time for the people of God to lead with acts of transformative compassion & hope…just like Jesus did.  

Always remember that your church is not the mission; the people who don’t show-up are the mission, and the church is the people who embody the presence of Jesus to them.  

This is why I love partnering with local churches for Catalyst projects.  We get to mobilize church people by getting them out of their comfort zones to address the felt needs of the poor in their own communities…sharing Jesus with their hands and hugs, which often inexorably leads to His words of hope and truth being shared as well!  
This Spring, we’re building new partnerships with several churches & ministries – Abundant Life Church in Happy Valley, Grace Point Community Church in Tigard, Highland Helpers in Beaverton, and other prospective partners. They join the ranks of awesome existing partners like Community of Hope Lutheran in Wilsonville, Stone Creek Christian Church in Oregon City, Living Hope Fellowship in Aloha, Tigard Christian Church, and others.  We celebrate the vital role that God has given Catalyst for these partnerships, and we rejoice in the opportunities we have to equip God’s people for works of service!” (Ephesians 4:12)
“Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world…It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you…Who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear.” (Excerpts from 1 Peter 2, 3)

Empty Handed

Sometimes I wonder where God is.  

Why sometimes I can feel Him strongly, and other times I feel alone.  Why sometimes when I read the Bible I’m filled with purpose and hope, and other times I’m distracted and anxious.

I’ve been feeling somewhat distant from God for a few days, while seeking Him.  Can you relate to that?  I’m reminded that our feelings are not “us,” they’re something that happen to us.  And that there are psychological and spiritual forces at work in us that we’re mostly unaware of.  I was also reminded of God’s amazing grace, the love that seeks to save and nurture souls like mine and yours that may not actually deserve it.  The relentless passion He has to keep pursuing us even in spite of the inbred and learned methods we develop for resisting Him.  Like my favorite old hymn, 

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that save a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found.  Was blind, but now I see.”

Such a loving, caring, wise, wonderful Father!  

Remember that God is always leading us into the future He envisions for us…even when we don’t feel like He is.  As we submit ourselves daily to His preferred reality, aka “His Will,” we see His blessings unravel all around us. This is about trusting and obeying His word and His power…repeatedly releasing our grip on the worldly alternatives we have believed will give us worth and hope.  The more we do this, the more our hands are free to hold-on to Him who CREATES worth and hope that supersedes this world, with a fierceness that is unimpeded by self-serving counterfeits.  But don’t expect the world to applaud you.

When we allow ourselves to be tricked into believing lies, or mired-down in pits of remembered disobedience – either by our own self-flagellating shame or by direct attack from the accuser of our souls – we can find ourselves far away from the hope and peace and joy He promises.  Not because He moved, but because we did.  This is the place of intimacy where He meets us hand-in-hand.

The abundant life of Jesus is free, but it is not cheap….it costs every false desire and preference we have.  But when we lay them all down and come to Him empty-handed, this is when we receive what we truly seek…what we truly need.  You can trust Him!

1 Peter 4:19
“If you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.”

Luke 9: 23-24
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

Mark 10:29-31
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

James 4:7-10
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”