The Well

Reading a book recently by an author I respect and enjoy led me to pause and rusty wheels began to turn. Every generation has certain general characteristics in which one can be proud or, well, not so proud. Without getting bogged down in those details, my generation (20s-30s or Millennials) have one characteristic I find positive and appealing: the desire to see justice prevail and poverty thwarted. This plays out well in the church because of a definite thread throughout Scripture highlighting God’s heart for the poor and unjustly treated. Reading the book I mentioned earlier, the author spent significant time citing statistics bringing to light serious social issues in the world. He pleaded for believers to care and act.

The problem that seemed to rise from these pages as well as many others is a theme often left out of the passionate pleas to action: sharing the gospel. While it may sound old-fashioned or pushy, it is the reason we go. Jesus Christ is the reason we care.

John 4 tells a magnificent story of cultures colliding at a water well of all places. At about noon (the wrong time to be at the well) Jesus met a peculiar woman who most likely visited the well during off hours to avoid troublesome conversations. She had no idea the encounter that day would change her life, especially when she approached the well and saw a Jew sitting close by. The Jews and Samaritans had longstanding cultural issues but Jesus was about to break those at the local watering hole. The story unfolds and Jesus challenges the woman with a simple statement, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

We must not forget to carry eternal water when we dig temporal water wells in villages that need fresh drinking water. We must not forget to carry the gospel when we carry the sick to treatment. We must not forget to give the Bread of Life when we give bread for sustinence. Otherwise, we missed the point that Jesus made. He could have given her a nalgene bottle that never ran dry but essentially nothing would have changed.

It is good to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and the sick. Jesus commanded us to do these things. But our purpose is to share Him as we do them. See let us not cease in doing good and never rob the good of its platform for eternal change – through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

On my way home

Sitting at the airport after being away from home for so long is excruciating. It is almost as if I can see my family and reengage life as it was meant to be. However, what stands before me is a long flight filled with bumps, delays, people I don’t know and some I do. There will be times when food is served, water is plentiful and possibly even a diet coke. Other times I will feel parched and frankly the restrooms just aren’t comfortable. We will be marched through business class and from a distance glance toward those who ride in the most style. At times, especially when attempting to sleep, I will long for that comfort.

During the early hours of the morning, caught between 30 minute naps, I know I will long for the comfort but jammed into coach with just enough leg space to gently press into the seat in front, I will attempt to sleep. How I long for comfort…

Life is not much different. It is often a long flight succumb to the will of many around you. Some will make noise while others quietly ignore you. At times, you are blessed with abundance and at times you will be parched. No matter what section or seat you have, we so often want one that is just above that seat. As life moves along and seems to become more complicated, we long for more comfort. it is easy to forget the point of the journey. The flight isn’t really about me at all. I am merely a passenger. I have been placed in my seat for a reason, to influence those around me. Being consumed with the quest for a better space and more comfort distracts me from the reason I’m flying. I can easily make it about me, with the best motivations.

So how do I learn to be content with my seat? Well, I think it begins by taking my headphones off and simply looking to my left and right. I don’t want the middle seat but really, it provides the best place to influence others. I don’t want to ride in coach but then again, I am surrounded. I guess I am learning to look again. I am learning to listen again to the stories of others waiting for the right moment to introduce them to the God who can change their story. Their story needs to change and then we both can turn to the other passengers and keep the story moving. It has worked for thousands of years and it is God’s way. He chooses me and you.

I’m on my way home and it is a microcosm of my real journey. May we all tell our story, His story well.

Go Away

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
                                                                                                Matthew 28:19-20

Most of us have heard at some time or another the simple yet profound definition of insanity: to do the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Yet we often find ourselves trapped in the system we’ve constructed that is familiar, comfortable and lacking results. The American Church at large finds itself here far too often. Over the past 40 years in America, we’ve concluded that the best way to influence culture and share the message of Christ is to create grand centers for life and existence in Christian community. There is little doubt of the purity of motivation behind this constructed system. Create large buildings with massive amenities; bring powerful speakers with powerful messages; organize music and environments to be comfortable and moving; and do it all to reach the world for Christ. However, the results have been disappointing.

The Church today continues to lose influence in the culture. Massive buildings with coffee shops and restaurants have resulted in a festering ground for Christian bacteria. Language begins to morph into Christian speak. Our shirts become billboards of cheesy slogans and even our picture frames display Scripture verses. We replicate all of culture’s best at a substandard par and separate ourselves from culture increasingly more. Wrigley’s mints just aren’t good enough, ours need to have a cross and Scripture reference. In essence, we’ve stopped going and those who are without Christ quit coming.

One of the final statements Jesus makes on earth is found at the end of Matthew 28. The first word of verse 19, “Go”, is best translated, “as you are going.” Jesus told His disciples to go about life and as you do, make disciples. There is so much to pick apart here but I really want to focus on the word “Go” or “as you are going”. We, the Church, have spent so much energy trying to get those far from God to draw close to us. Yet Scripture so clearly calls us to go. We spend so much time making our services friendly to those not following Christ yet often my car barely turns off before the garage door clangs shut.

Before the Scripture even reaches the words “make disciples”, it tells us to go. For our context, maybe the words should read, “go away” or “go home”. Speaking in broad general terms, I believe so much time is spent getting the dark to come toward the light. Yet it seems that influence means taking the light into darkness.

Discipleship begins by going away. It is time to leave the church premises and enter the neighborhoods, walk the streets, play in our front yards, and invite those distant people next door into our homes. The culture is looking for a message of hope, purpose and community. What are they seeing as we go?

Think about these things…

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”  Philippians 4:8-9