Being Caring Christ-Like Community

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Mark 10:13-16  (NIV) People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

In the last couple of weeks I have been sharing on the implications of our identity and purpose as followers of Jesus Christ. We have been called by God to live for Him—to make Him look great. How we express our purpose, of living for God, largely depends on our different contexts.

For starters, let’s ponder on these questions?

  1. If you were a pastor of a local church, what kind of people would you pray that they come to your church? What motivates that desire?
  2. Which kind of people do like to you associate with? What motivates your choice of friends?

In the story of Jesus blessings little children we see in the disciples’ response a reflection of many of us when it comes to living out our faith. As we know, Jesus’ actions almost always shocked everyone, even those closest to Him. His actions were unconventional and counter-culture. But there was also something predictable about Him in whatever He did; He wanted to please the Father. He touched and cleansed lepers, ate and drank with sinners, was anointed by former prostitutes. He reached out to those regarded as the dregs of the society. He loved those who rejected Him. He died for those who crucified Him.

In the Bible passage above, Jesus’ disciples felt that He should spend His time doing better things—meeting the important and influential people. But Jesus had a different idea. He chose to spend time (and bless) the children. Children were: vulnerable, often ignored by adults, powerless and had no social, political or religious influence. Therefore, according to the disciples, time spent with children was considered wasted. We demonstrate Christ-like character when we act the way Jesus acted—by choosing not to live by the dictates of our societal values but His.

The community in which our local church is located has very many children. We minister to hundreds of them every month by sharing with them the word of God, dancing with them, offering them a cup of hot porridge and bread. As church, Children’s Ministry is one of our local expressions of what it means to be a Caring, Christ-Like Community.

Reflection:

  1. Who are “the least of these” (cf. Matthew 25:40) in your community?
  2. What is an appropriate expression of what it means to be a Caring, Christ-Like Community in your context?
  3. What is God calling you (as an individual or body of believers in Jesus Christ) to do in your community?

 

Called to Be Influencers

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Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)  “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

Our Identity

“You are”

  1. The Salt of the Earth (verse 13)
  2. The Light of the World (verse 14)

Both of these images have a positive influence–salt as a preservative and enhancing flavor to the food, and light illuminating the world. They are both accessible in virtually anywhere in the world, to anyone, whether rich or poor.

BUT they also operate differently; salt has to disappear (dissolve) for it to be effective. So, one can say it works in a discreet, covert manner. On the other hand, light is necessarily visible: “people [do not] light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15).  Its influence is overt.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a calling to influence the world whether covertly or overtly. We are all challenged “to live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received” (Ephesians 4:1). In what ways can make your life count?

Our Mission

“Let Your Light Shine”

This is what we were called to do: to be change-agents, to be influencers. Just as light casts away the darkness that is around it, and salt enhances the flavor of the food, we are called to manifest God’s love, grace, mercy and justice in our various spheres of influence. God has wired and positioned us differently to accomplish this task. Apostle James says that our faith has practical ramifications. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). The woman named Tabitha (also known as Dorcas) lived as salt and light in her community. She “was always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). When she died, the widows she had helped were “crying and showing [Peter] the robes and other clothing that Dorcas   had made while she was still with them (Acts 9:39). For these widows, the death of Tabitha meant that their light had gone off. How are you manifesting the light of Jesus in your community? Just like salt can only be effective when it is out of the saltshaker, we cannot shine while we keep our faith private. Our faith must necessarily be expressed in the context of the community.

Our Purpose

The Glory of God

“…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

After a good meal, no one ever praises the salt, for the flavor it enhances, instead the praise goes to the cook. We do not shine, to attract praise to ourselves but to the ONE who called us. As we shared last week, we were created to live for the audience of ONE, to make God look great. This is our life purpose.

Our faith must necessarily be expressed in the context of the community.

The Hallmark of a Christ-like Community (II)

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Living for God’s Glory

1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Last week we looked at our identity as a Christ-like community. It is this identity (who we are) that defines our purpose (what we are here for). This week, we will focus on what we are here for? As someone put it we would like to examine whether what we are living for worth dying for. How do we, as people of God, measure our success? Do we go by the world’s parameters of money, status, titles? As a church is our purpose to have big congregations, a plethora of programs, big and state of the art buildings and technology? Although none of the above is in and of itself bad,  we cannot make it the heart of our existence–our purpose.

 

The Audience of ONE

The Word of God is clear about the purpose of the church (the people of God): “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out…”  This seems a pretty straight forward statement–and it is. But some of you might be asking, “yes, but how?” How do we declare God’s praises? How do we live for God’s glory? How do we make God look great in our lives and ministries? How do we live for the audience of ONE? This is a very difficult thing to do in our present generation that exalts “self” (or is it selfie) above everything else. How do we direct praises (fame) to God and not ourselves?

Your Context is Your Platform

Every single person and church community has a unique context which is a potential platform for living for God’s glory. Whether it is in an upscale urban setting, inner city slum, or rural setting you can live for God’s glory. You can make God look great whether you are working with professionals, single mothers, sex workers or orphaned children. The key thing is to discern where God has placed you and the opportunities (often disguised as challenges, or problems) your context offers you to shine for God’s glory.

Is it a Big Deal?

One might ask whether orienting our mission around the glory of God is such a big deal. Yes, it is. God is passionate about his glory. He declares in Isaiah 42:8 that “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” God forbade Moses from entering the Promised Land because Moses “you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy” before the people of Israel (Numbers 27:14). God takes His glory serious. The reason He created us, the reason he saved us, the reason the church exists is to live for His glory. That is our purpose.

 

The Hallmark of a Christ-like Community

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1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

We often wonder what it means to be an authentic church of Jesus Christ. How do you tell that this is truly a Christ-like community? Last week we had a seminar for leaders in our church and the focus of our discussions was what it means to be a Caring, Christ-like community. For two days we studied a scripture passage from 1 Peter 2:9. I learnt a lot as each member participated in the study. In this week’s devotional, I will share some of the lessons we discovered during our study.

But let’s look at the passage for a moment: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

This simple verse is loaded with profound truths of what it means to be a church. There are at least two as of the church that we can glean from it: the identity and purpose of the church..

The Identity of the Church: “You are”

There are four images used to describe the identity of the church:

  1. A Chosen People,
  2. A Royal Priesthood,
  3. A Holy Nation,
  4. God’s Special Possession

All these are incredible descriptions of who we are as the church of Christ. Contrary to the contemporary misconceptions, church is not about buildings, budgets or denominations. Church is all about people—called and chosen by God, and set apart to be His special possession. Church is not a human institution but God’s own creation. It is a dynamic living organism. It is a people saved by His grace to belong to Him. So, we have nothing to boast about.

But there is more to this: we are priests of the King. This is an interesting dynamic. Priest are servants of a special nature because they serve both God and the people. They are intercessors, bridge-builders, worship leaders. They stand before God to represent His people before Him. They are God’s gift to the people (Numbers 18:7).

Reflection

  • What should the priest’s attitude towards God be?
  • What should the priest’s attitude towards the people be?
  • What’s the church’s attitude towards God and the world?

Next week we will look at the purpose of the church according to this passage.

 

Mended Series: That Thing Called Pain

That Thing Called Pain

To The One Who Made My Heart Beat Again

What is pain?

When you ask a child at play, pain is the hot, throbbing sensation when the abrasions on his knees are rubbed. Pain is the hot, throbbing feeling when the disinfectant comes in contact with the wounds.

When you ask a mother, pain is the piercing sense of labor. The nerve-wracking feeling of delivering a child into the world sums up the pain that mothers undergo. No amount of anesthesia could ever cover up the agonizing discomfort.

When you ask a young woman about pain, she would recount you of the aching she feels because of a lost lover. She would tell you a blow-by-blow story of how they were happy but they ended up distant and strangers. She would tell you how she was hurt by love.

When you ask a man, his agony would tell you of a love gone by. He would tell you of…

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Your Attitude in Trials

Texts: James 1:2-182 Corinthians 1:1-11

Our attitudes, especially during tough times, are very important. They determine whether you soar above your challenges or sink under them. So how should we respond when we go through tough times?

  • Count it all joy

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2)

  • Be hopeful. Even in the hardest, gravest moments of your life; God is with you. He is for you and not against you. He will work out something good out of your troubles.
  • We can be joyful in trials because of the promise of the reward (a crown of life) for those who endure. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).
  • LET YOUR TRIALS BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR GOD TO DISPLAY HIS POWER. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
  • Ask God for wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).

  • Ask the Lord what He would want you to do in your situation
  • Believe that when you ask, God will answer you
  • Make decisions based on the wisdom you received from the Lord

This takes us to the next attitude…

  • Make the most out of your tough times

  • Apostle Paul’s example:

    • Paul wrote letters to churches
    • He preached the Gospel to the guards and those who met him
    • He maintained a positive outlook about his situation: “I am chained but the gospel is not chained” (cf. 2 Timothy 2:9)
  • King David’s Example

    • When he was a fugitive, running from King Saul, he provided leadership to those who sought for him.

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him (1 Samuel 22:1-2).

    • One more example:

You might be out of work (meaning that you have more time on you). There are a number of things you could do:

      • Pray
      • Read
      • Write
      • Dream of the future that you envision (yes, never stop dreaming)
      • Visit and encourage others
      • Volunteer in a local community-based charity
  • Ask the Lord to deliver you from the trial.

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray (James 5:13).

    • The Bible is full of examples of people who cried out to the Lord to deliver them out of their troubles—and He did. God has promised that when we call on His name, He will answer and rescue us from our troubles. And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me (Psalm 50:15)

 

  • Walk in faith.

    To walk in faith is to rely on God’s love, power and wisdom

    • The devil always wants to use trials to tempt us

What’s the difference between a trial and a temptation?

Using the example of Jesus Christ:

At the end of fasting for 40 days and nights, he was hungry and thirsty. The need (or desire) for food and water can be likened to a trial. But the enemy wanted Jesus to misuse His divine powers (in ways that were inconsistent with God’s word) to turn stones into food -this was a temptation

One of the tragedies of today’s Christianity is pragmatism, which basically goes like this: “If it works, then it’s OK.” We are told that the end justifies the means. But God is interested in both the means and the end. What we do and how we do it, equally matter to God.

The Lord’s purpose in trials is to make you mature—to become more like Jesus. However, Satan’s goal is to take advantage of your trials to tempt you to deny God. Faith makes you keep your focus on Jesus.

 

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GOD’S PURPOSE IN TRIALS

James 1:2 (NIV) Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds

  1. Trials are inevitable

I don’t like pain and I want to mute it at first as I can. Just like pain, tough times are a reality that is an equalizer. Everyone faces them.  It’s not something that one can wish away. We live in a generation that overemphasizes positive confession as if it’s a magic wand to attract what we want and shoo away what we do not desire. But no amount of positive confession will shield you from trials. To say that ”tough times are not my portion” is like a student confessing that “exams are not my portion.” To never want trials is like desiring to be promoted without undergoing training. The Bible says that “WHENEVER”, not “IF” “you face trials of many kinds.” Before He went to heaven, Jesus promised us that in this world we will have trials (John 16:33). Trials, like any training, are undesirable but necessary.

  1. Trials are diverse

The Bible says that they are of many kinds. Not only will you encounter tough times, you will do so in many areas and seasons of your live. For as long as we are alive and growing we will encounter challenges.  They could be related to your health, finances, relationships, ministry, profession, or anything else.

  1. You CAN benefit  from your trials – (James 1:3-4)

Trials are real; don’t pretend that they are not there. Many of them are painful, so we shouldn’t pretend to be happy when you are in pain. BUT you can be hopeful (and find peace in Jesus) – Phil. 4: 6-7 (more about attitudes next week). You can be hopeful and joyful because you know that the end will be greater. Any training worth its name is rigorous and tough (Heb. 12:7, 8)

Trials, like any training, are undesirable but necessary.

When people spend sleepless nights during times of examinations, it’s not because they enjoy sleepless nights but because you are looking forward to good grades at the end of the exam and a great career in the future. So, we are encouraged to joyfully endure trials because of the results they bring about in the end.

Trials are a like training institute. But we all know that training, even the best one, doesn’t guarantee success (otherwise only that who graduate from top notch schools would be successful). It is only when someone trains according to the instructions that they can succeed. So, don’t waste your pain; God is up to something.

What trials are you going through now? Trials are the pressure that tests the quality of your character.

Hebrews 12:11-13 (NIV) No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Are you feeling like trials are pushing you to the limit, that you are being stretched beyond what you can bear? Are your arms becoming “feeble” and your knees “weak?”  Do you feel like throwing in the towel? Ask the Lord for strength.

Instead let your response to trials encourage others to trust the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him. But you can’t do this on your own, God has to help you. Tough times won’t last because God’s grace will sustain you

GOD’S PURPOSE IN TRIALS IS TO MAKE YOU MATURE – TO BECOME MORE LIKE JESUS CHRIST

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