Sep 30 2010

Out Live Your Life - Pray First; Pray Most (Chapter 15)

Chapters posted will be made available on the Lisa & Eric page for one week.  To purchase Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado, click here. All author royalties from the book will go towards building water wells in Uganda

Chapter 15

Pray First; Pray Most

But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.

—Acts 12:5 (nlt)

King Herod suffered from a Hitler-level obsession with popularity. He murdered the apostle James to curry favor with the populace. The execution bumped his approval rating, so he jailed Peter and resolved to behead him on the anniversary of Jesus’ death. (Would you like a little salt with that wound?)

 

He placed the apostle under the watchful eye of sixteen Navy Seal sorts and told them, with no tongue in cheek, “He escapes, you die.” (Quality control, Herod style.) They bound

 

Peter in chains and secured him three doors deep into the prison.

 

And what could the church do about it? The problem of an imprisoned Peter stood Goliath-tall over the humble community. They had no recourse: no clout, no political chips to cash. They had nothing but fear-drenched questions. “Who’s next? First James, then Peter. Is Herod going to purge the church leadership?”

 

The church still faces her Goliaths. World hunger. Clergy scandal. Stingy Christians. Corrupt officials. Pea-brained and hard-hearted dictators. Peter in prison is just the first of a long list of challenges too big for the church.

 

So our Jerusalem ancestors left us a strategy. When the problem is bigger than we are—we pray! “But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him” (Acts 12:5 nlt).

 

They didn’t picket the prison, petition the government, protest the arrest, or prepare for Peter’s funeral. They prayed. They prayed as if prayer was their only hope, for indeed it was.

 

They prayed “very earnestly for him.”

 

One of our Brazilian church leaders taught me something about earnest prayer. He met Christ during a yearlong stay in a drug-rehab center. His therapy included three one-hour sessions of prayer a day. Patients weren’t required to pray, but they were required to attend the prayer meeting. Dozens of recovering drug addicts spent sixty uninterrupted minutes on their knees.

 

I expressed amazement and confessed that my prayers were short and formal. He invited (dared?) me to meet him for prayer. I did the next day. We knelt on the concrete floor of our small church auditorium and began to talk to God. Change that. I talked; he cried, wailed, begged, cajoled, and pleaded. He pounded his fists on the floor, shook a fist toward heaven, confessed, and reconfessed every sin. He recited every promise in the Bible as if God needed a reminder. He prayed like Moses.

 

When God determined to destroy the Israelites for their golden calf stunt, “Moses begged the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, don’t let your anger destroy your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with your great power and strength. Don’t let the people of Egypt say, “The Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt for an evil purpose.” . . . Remember the men who served you—Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. You promised with an oath to them’” (Ex. 32:11–13 ncv).

 

Moses on Mount Sinai is not calm and quiet, with folded hands and a serene expression. He’s on his face one minute, in God’s the next. He’s on his knees, pointing his finger, lifting his hands. Shedding tears. Shredding his cloak. Wrestling like Jacob at Jabbok for the lives of his people.

 

And God heard him! “So the Lord changed his mind and did not destroy the people as he had said he might” (v.14 ncv).

 

Our passionate prayers move the heart of God. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Prayer does not change God’s nature; who he is will never be altered. Prayer does, however, impact the flow of history. God has wired his world for power, but he calls on us to flip the switch.

 

And the Jerusalem church did just that.

The church prayed very earnestly for him.

The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. (Acts 12:5–8 nlt)

The apostle, who once wondered how Christ could sleep in a storm, now snoozes through his own.

 

Let’s give this scene the chuckle it deserves. An angel descends from heaven onto earth. Only God knows how many demons he battled en route. He navigates the Jerusalem streets until he reaches Herod’s prison. He passes through three sets of iron doors and a squad of soldiers until he stands in front of Peter. Brightness explodes like a July sun in Death Valley. But Peter sleeps through the wake-up call. The old fisherman dreams of Galilean sea bass.

 

“Peter.”

No response.

“Peter!”

Zzzzz.

“Peter!!!”

 

Do angels elbow or wing people? Either way, shackles clang on the floor. The angel has to remind groggy Peter how to re-robe. First your sandals. Now your robe. Doors swing open in succession. And somewhere on the avenue to Mary’s house, Peter realizes he isn’t dreaming. The angel points him in the right direction and departs, muttering something about bringing a trumpet next time.

 

Rightly stunned, Peter walks to Mary’s house. She, at that very hour, is hosting a prayer meeting on his behalf. His friends pack the place and fill the house with earnest intercession.

 

Peter surely smiles as he hears their prayers. He knocks on the door. The servant answers and, instead of opening it, races back to the prayer circle and announces:

“Peter is standing at the door!”

“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” (vv. 14–15 nlt)

I confess a sense of relief at that reading. Even the early followers struggled to believe God would hear them. Even when the answer knocked on the door, they hesitated.

 

We still do. Most of us struggle with prayer. We forget to pray, and when we remember, we hurry through prayers with hollow words. Our minds drift; our thoughts scatter like a covey of quail. Why is this? Prayer requires minimal effort. No location is prescribed. No particular clothing is required. No title or office is stipulated. Yet you’d think we were wrestling a greased pig.

 

Speaking of pigs, Satan seeks to interrupt our prayers. Our battle with prayer is not entirely our fault. The devil knows the stories; he witnessed the angel in Peter’s cell and the revival in Jerusalem. He knows what happens when we pray. “Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strong places” (2 Cor. 10:4 ncv).

 

Satan is not troubled when Max writes books or prepares sermons, but his knobby knees tremble when Max prays. Satan does not stutter or stumble when you walk through church doors or attend committee meetings. Demons aren’t flustered when you read this book. But the walls of hell shake when one person with an honest heart and faithful confession says, “Oh, God, how great thou art.”

 

Satan keeps you and me from prayer. He tries to position himself between us and God. But he scampers like a spooked dog when we move forward. So let’s do.

Humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. (James 4:78 nlt)

The Lord is close to everyone who prays to him, to all who truly pray to him. (Ps. 145:18 ncv)

 

When the children of Israel went to battle against the Amalekites, Moses selected the mountain of prayer over the valley of battle (Ex. 17:8–13). The Israelites won.

 

When Abraham learned about the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, he “remained standing before the Lord” rather than rush out to warn the cities (Gen. 18:22 niv).

 

Advisers informed Nehemiah that Jerusalem was in ruins. He laid a foundation of prayer before he laid a foundation of stone (Neh. 1:4).

 

Paul’s letters contain more requests for prayer than they do appeals for money, possessions, or comforts.

 

And Jesus. Our prayerful Jesus.

 

Awaking early to pray (Mark 1:35).

Dismissing people to pray (Matt. 14:23).

Ascending a mountain to pray (Luke 9:28).

Crafting a model prayer to teach us to pray (Matt. 6:9–13).

Cleansing the temple so others could pray (Matt. 21:12–13).

Stepping into a garden to pray (Luke 22:39–46).

 

Jesus immersed his words and work in prayer. Powerful things happen when we do the same.

 

Peggy Smith was eighty-four years old. Her sister, Christine, was eighty-two. The years had taken sight from the first and bent the body of the second. Neither could leave their house to attend church.

 

Yet their church needed them. They lived on the Isle of Lewis, off the coast of Scotland. A spiritual darkness had settled upon their village of Barvas. The congregation was losing people, and the youth were mocking the faith, speaking of conversion as a plague. In October 1949 the Presbytery of Free Church called upon their members to pray.

 

But what could two elderly, housebound sisters do? Quite a lot, they determined. They turned their cottage into an all-night house of prayer. From 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., two nights each week, they asked God to have mercy on their city. After several months Peggy told Christine that God had spoken these words to her: “I will pour water upon him who is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.”

 

She was so sure of the message, she urged her pastor to conduct a revival and invite well-known evangelist Duncan Campbell to speak. The pastor did, but Campbell reluctantly declined. Peggy received the news with confidence. “God hath said he is coming, and he will be here within a fortnight.” God changed Campbell’s calendar, and within two weeks the meeting began.

 

For five weeks Duncan Campbell preached in Barvas parish. Large crowds gathered in four services at 7 p.m., 10 p.m., midnight, and 3 a.m. The move of God upon the people was undeniable. Hundreds of people were converted. Drinking places closed for lack of patrons. Saloons emptied, and the church grew. The Isle of Lewis tasted the presence of God. All because two women prayed.

 

So:

Let’s pray, first. Traveling to help the hungry? Be sure to bathe your mission in prayer. Working to disentangle the knots of injustice? Pray. Weary with a world of racism and division? So is God. And he would love to talk to you about it.

 

Let’s pray, most. Did God call us to preach without ceasing? Or teach without ceasing? Or have committee meetings without ceasing? Or sing without ceasing? No, but he did call us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

 

Did Jesus declare: My house shall be called a house of study? Fellowship? Music? A house of exposition? A house of activities? No, but he did say, “My house will be called a house of prayer” (Mark 11:17 niv).

 

No other spiritual activity is guaranteed such results. “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action” (Matt. 18:19 msg). He is moved by the humble, prayerful heart.

 

In late 1964 Communist Simba rebels besieged the town of Bunia in Zaire. They arrested and executed many citizens. A pastor by the name of Zebedayo Idu was one of their victims. They sentenced him to death before a firing squad and placed him in jail for the night. The next morning he and a large number of prisoners were herded onto a truck and driven to a public place for execution. With no explanation the official told the prisoners to line up and number off—“one, two, one, two, one, two.” The ones were placed in front of the firing squad. The twos were taken back to the prison. Pastor Zebedayo was among those who were spared.

 

Back in the jail cell, the prisoners could hear the sound of gunfire. The minister took advantage of the dramatic moment to share the story of Jesus and the hope of heaven. Eight of the prisoners gave their lives to God that day. About the time Pastor Idu finished sharing, an excited messenger came to the door with a release order. The pastor had been arrested by mistake and was free to leave.

 

He said good-bye to the prisoners and hurried to his home next to the chapel. There he discovered a crowd of believers urgently praying for his release. When they saw the answer to their prayers walk through the door, their prayer service became a praise service.

 

The same God who heard the prayers from Jerusalem heard the prayers from Zaire. He’s still listening. Are we still praying?

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ.

(Colossians 4:2–3 nlt)

 

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you created all that exists, and you sustain all through your infinite wisdom and boundless power. Yet you invite me to come to you in prayer, boldly and with the expectation that you will hear and answer me. Teach me, Lord, to take full advantage of this privilege, especially in regard to reaching others with

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   How would you describe the way Moses prayed to God in Exodus 32? In your own words, recount how Max describes the way his Brazilian church leader prayed. In what ways are your prayer times different from these descriptions? What could you do to become more fervent (passionate) in prayer?

 

2.   What typical tactics does Satan use to keep you from prayer? How can you counter these with your own prayer strategies?

 

3.   What is the role of prayer in the life of your church? How could you adjust your approach to prayer in your church to make it more meaningful?

 

4.   Tell about a time when your prayer life seemed richer than it is now. What was different then?

 

5.   What could you do to reenergize your prayer times? What postures could you take? What lists could you use? What prayer activities could you try? What scriptures could you use as prayers? Who could join you for prayer as an inspiration?

Ideas for Action

          Do a study this week on Jesus and prayer. Use the following verses from this chapter and other examples of Jesus praying or teaching about prayer to guide you:

 

Matthew 5:44; 6:6–13; 14:13, 23; 19:13; 21:12–13; 21:22; 24:20

Mark 1:35; 6:46; 9:28–29

Luke 6:12–16; 9:18–20; 18:1–8; 18:9–14; 22:39–46; 23:33–34

John 11:41; 17:1, 9, 20

 

         You may already pray before every meal and at the start of every day, but this week pray before you do these other things as well:

before you start your car

before you exercise

before you do the first thing you always do at work

before you turn on your computer

before you pick up the phone

before you go into a meeting

before you walk back into your home at the end of the day

before you turn on the television

before you open a book

before you go to sleep

before you __

Reprinted by permission.  Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference by Max Lucado, 2010, copyright date, Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, Tennessee.  All rights reserved

Sep 29 2010

Stories That Just Make You Say, "WOW, God!"

It may have happened yesterday or 20 years ago ... it's a story that almost leaves you speechless where your only response may be "Wow, God!".  In some cases it could the be the story of your life ... that defines you.  What's your "Wow, God" story?

To hear Beth's "angel in the bookstore" Wow God story, click here

Sep 29 2010

Out Live Your Life - Stable the High Horse (Chapter 14)

Chapters posted will be made available on the Lisa & Eric page for one week.  To purchase Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado, click here. All author royalties from the book will go towards building water wells in Uganda

Chapter 14

Stable the High Horse

God has shown me that he doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit.

—Acts 10:28 (cev)

Molokai, a ruby on the pearl necklace of the Hawaiian Islands. Tourists travel to Molokai for its quiet charm, gentle breezes, and soft surf. But Father Damien came for a different reason. He came to help people die.

 

He came to Molokai because leprosy came here first. No one knows exactly how the disease reached Hawaii. The first documented case was dated around 1840. But while no one can trace the source of the disease, no one can deny its results. Disfigurement, decay, and panic.

 

The government responded with a civil version of Old Testament segregation. They deposited the diseased on a triangular thrust of land called Kalaupapa. Surrounded on three sides by water and on the fourth by the highest sea wall in the world, it was a natural prison.

 

Hard to get to. Harder still to get away from.

 

The lepers lived a discarded existence in shanties with minimal food. Ships would draw close to shore, and sailors would dump supplies into the water, hoping the crates would float toward land. Society sent the lepers a clear message: you aren’t valuable anymore.

 

But Father Damien’s message was different. He’d already served in the islands for a decade when, in 1873, at the age of thirty-three, he wrote his provincial and offered, “I want to sacrifice myself for the poor lepers.”

 

He immersed himself into their world, dressing sores, hugging children, burying the dead. His choir members sang through rags, and congregants received communion with stumped hands. Because they mattered to God, they mattered to him. When he referred to his congregation, he didn’t say “my brothers and sisters” but “we lepers.” He became one of them. Literally.

 

Somewhere along the way, through a touch of kindness or in the sharing of a communion wafer, the disease passed from member to priest. Damien became a leper. And on April 15, 1889, four days shy of Good Friday, he died.

 

We’ve learned to treat leprosy. We don’t quarantine people anymore. We’ve done away with such settlements. But have we done away with the attitude? Do we still see some people as inferior?

 

We did on our elementary school playground. All the boys in Mrs. Amburgy’s first-grade class bonded together to express our male superiority. We met daily at recess and, with arms interlocked, marched around the playground, shouting, “Boys are better than girls! Boys are better than girls!” Frankly, I didn’t agree, but I enjoyed the fraternity. The girls, in response, formed their own club. They paraded around the school, announcing their disdain for boys. We were a happy campus.

 

People are prone to pecking orders. We love the high horse. The boy over the girl or girl over boy. The affluent over the destitute. The educated over the dropout. The old timer over the newcomer. The Jew over the Gentile.

 

An impassable gulf yawned between Jews and Gentiles in the days of the early church. A Jew could not drink milk drawn by Gentiles or eat their food. Jews could not aid a Gentile mother in her hour of need. Jewish physicians could not attend to non-Jewish patients.

 

No Jew would have anything to do with a Gentile. They were unclean.

 

Unless that Jew, of course, was Jesus. Suspicions of a new order began to surface because of his curious conversation with the Canaanite woman. Her daughter was dying, and her prayer was urgent. Yet her ancestry was Gentile. “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel,” Jesus told her. “That’s true, Lord,” she replied, “but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table” (Matt. 15:24, 27 nlt).

 

Jesus healed the woman’s daughter and made his position clear. He was more concerned about bringing everyone in than shutting certain people out.

 

This was the tension Peter felt. His culture said, “Keep your distance from Gentiles.” His Christ said, “Build bridges to Gentiles.” And Peter had to make a choice. An encounter with

 

Cornelius forced his decision.

 

Cornelius was an officer in the Roman army. Both Gentile and bad guy. (Think British redcoat in eighteenth-century Boston.) He ate the wrong food, hung with the wrong crowd, and swore allegiance to Caesar. He didn’t quote the Torah or descend from Abraham. Toga on his body and ham in his freezer. No yarmulke on his head or beard on his face. Hardly deacon material. Uncircumcised, unkosher, unclean. Look at him.

 

Yet look at him again. Closely. He helped needy people and sympathized with Jewish ethics. He was kind and devout. “One who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2). Cornelius was even on a first-name basis with an angel. The angel told him to get in touch with Peter, who was staying at a friend’s house thirty miles away in the seaside town of Joppa. Cornelius sent three men to find him.

 

Peter, meanwhile, was doing his best to pray with a growling stomach. “He became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat’” (vv. 10–13).

 

The sheet contained enough unkosher food to uncurl the payos of any Hasidic Jew. Peter absolutely and resolutely refused. “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean” (v. 14).

 

But God wasn’t kidding about this. He three-peated the vision, leaving poor Peter in a quandary. Peter was pondering the pigs in the blanket when he heard a knock at the door. At the sound of the knock, he heard the call of God’s Spirit in his heart. “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them” (vv. 19–20).

 

“Doubting nothing” can also be translated “make no distinction” or “indulge in no prejudice” or “discard all partiality.” This was a huge moment for Peter.

 

Much to his credit, Peter invited the messengers to spend the night and headed out the next morning to meet Cornelius. When Peter arrived, Cornelius fell at his feet. Peter insisted he stand up and then confessed how difficult this decision had been. “You know that we Jews are not allowed to have anything to do with other people. But God has shown me that he doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit” (v. 28 cev).

 

Peter told Cornelius about Jesus and the gospel, and before Peter could issue an invitation, the presence of the Spirit was among them, and they were replicating Pentecost—speaking in tongues and glorifying God. Peter offered to baptize Cornelius and his friends. They accepted. They offered him a bed. Peter accepted. By the end of the visit, he was making his own ham sandwiches.

 

And us? We are still pondering verse 28: “God has shown me that he doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit.”

 

Life is so much easier without this command. As long as we can call people common or unfit, we can plant them on Kalaupapa and go our separate ways. Labels relieve us of responsibility. Pigeonholing permits us to wash our hands and leave.

 

“Oh, I know John. He is an alcoholic.” (Translation: “Why can’t he control himself?”)

 

“The new boss is a liberal Democrat.” (Translation: “Can’t he see how misguided he is?”)

 

“Oh, I know her. She’s divorced.” (Translation: “She has a lot of baggage.”)

 

Categorizing others creates distance and gives us a convenient exit strategy for avoiding involvement.

 

Jesus took an entirely different approach. He was all about including people, not excluding them. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14 msg). Jesus touched lepers and loved foreigners and spent so much time with partygoers that people called him a “lush, a friend of the riffraff” (Matt. 11:19 msg).

 

Racism couldn’t keep him from the Samaritan woman, demons couldn’t keep him from the demoniac. His Facebook page included the likes of Zacchaeus the Ponzi-meister,

 

Matthew the IRS agent, and some floozy he met at Simon’s house. Jesus spent thirty-three years walking in the mess of this world. “He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!” (Phil. 2:6–7 msg).

 

His example sends this message: no playground displays of superiority. “Don’t call any person common or unfit.”

 

My friend Roosevelt would agree. He is a leader in our congregation and one of the nicest guys in the history of humanity. He lives next door to a single mom who was cited by their homeowners’ association for an unkempt lawn. A jungle of overgrown bushes and untrimmed trees obscured her house. The association warned her to get her yard cleaned up.

 

The warning was followed by a police officer’s visit. The officer gave her two weeks to do the work or appear in court. Her yard was a blight on the street, maybe even a health hazard.

 

Roosevelt, however, paid his neighbor, Terry, a visit. There is always a story behind the door, and he found a sad one. She had just weathered a rough divorce, was recovering from surgery, and was working a night shift at the hospital and extra hours to make ends meet. Her only son was stationed in Iraq. Terry was in survival mode: alone, sick, and exhausted. Lawn care? The least of her concerns.

 

So Roosevelt recruited several neighbors, and the families spent a Saturday morning getting things in order. They cut shrubs and branches and carted out a dozen bags of leaves.

 

A few days later Terry sent this message to the board of the homeowners’ association:

Dear Sirs,

I am hoping that you can make the neighborhood aware of what a great group of neighbors I have. These neighbors unselfishly toiled in my yard.

Their actions encouraged and reminded me that there are still some compassionate people residing here, people who care enough to reach out to strangers in their times of need to help lessen their burdens. These residents are to be commended, and I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for their hard work, positive attitude, and enthusiasm. This is all the more amazing considering my grandfather was a rabbi, and I have mezuzah at my front door!

Roosevelt’s response was a Christlike response. Rather than see people as problems, Christ saw them as opportunities.

 

May we consider a few more Cornelius moments?

 

You and your buddies enter the cafeteria, carrying your lunch trays. As you take your seat at the table, one of the guys elbows you and says, “Get a load of the new kid.” You have no trouble spotting him. He’s the only student wearing a turban. Your friend makes this wisecrack: “Still wearing his towel from the shower.”

 

You might have made a joke yourself, except yesterday your pastor shared the story of Peter and Cornelius and read this verse: “God has shown me that he doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit” (Acts 10:28 cev).

 

Hmmm.

 

The guy in the next cubicle wears boots, chews tobacco, and drives a truck with a rifle rack. You wear loafers, eat health food, and drive a hybrid, except on Fridays when you pedal your bike to work. He makes racist jokes. Doesn’t he notice that you are black? He has a Rebel flag as a screen saver. Your great-grandfather was a slave. You’d love to distance yourself from this redneck.

 

Yet this morning’s Bible study included this challenge: “God has shown me that he doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit” (v. 28 cev).

 

Now what do you do?

 

One more. You are the superintendent of an orphanage. In dealing with the birth certificates, you come across a troubling word: illegitimate. As you research further, you learn that the word is a permanent label, never to be removed from the certificate.

 

This is what Edna Gladney discovered. And she couldn’t bear the thought of it. If legitimate means to be legal, lawful, and valid, what does illegitimate mean? Can you imagine living with such a label?

 

Mrs. Gladney couldn’t. It took her three years, but in 1936 she successfully lobbied the Texas legislature to remove the term from birth documents.

 

God calls us to change the way we look at people. Not to see them as Gentiles or Jews, insiders or outsiders, liberals or conservatives. Not to label. To label is to libel. “We have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view” (2 Cor. 5:16 nlt).

 

Let’s view people differently; let’s view them as we do ourselves. Blemished, perhaps. Unfinished, for certain. Yet once rescued and restored, we may shed light, like the two stained-glass windows in my office.

 

My brother found them on a junkyard heap. Some church had discarded them. Dee, a handy carpenter, reclaimed them. He repainted the chipped wood, repaired the worn frame. He sealed some of the cracks in the colored glass. The windows aren’t perfect. But if suspended where the sun can pass through, they cascade multicolored light into the room.

In our lifetimes you and I are going to come across some discarded people. Tossed out. Sometimes tossed out by a church. And we get to choose. Neglect or rescue? Label them or love them? We know Jesus’ choice. Just look at what he did with us.

 

You [Jesus] are worthy to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

and with your blood you purchased men for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation.

(Revelation 5:9 niv)

 

Father, you have used all types of people for your holy purposes: prostitutes, murderers, persecutors, liars, thieves, swindlers, the illiterate, the ignorant, the blind, the lame. Grant me the grace to treat everyone I meet as someone for whom Jesus died and rose again. Let there be no unwholesome or unholy distinctions in my eyes and no unworthy favoritism in my actions. Rather, make me into a vessel through whom Jesus shines. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.

Questions for Discussion

1.   What was the social pecking order when you were growing up? How about today? Who is at the top, who is at the bottom, and where are you in the order?

 

2.   In what situations do you hear offensive labeling? Have you found yourself inadvertently following suit? How can you be a leader of change in this environment?

 

3.   Recall a time when you were in a situation similar to that of Peter in Acts 10. When have the customs or behaviors of another culture or race felt uncomfortable or even offensive to you? What would be your reaction if God called you to take up the habits and practices of another group so you could reach out to them?

 

4.   Why did Cornelius not look the part even though he was a Christ follower? What surface judgments do people use today to measure spirituality?

 

5.   How could you make time for some marginalized Christians in your life?

Ideas for Action

 Make a new rule for the next two months: No one sits alone. When you enter any room, resist the urge to sit where you always sit and with the people you always join. First, scan the lunchroom or the boardroom, the stands or the sanctuary, the cafeteria or the theater, and find someone who is sitting alone. Then choose to sit with the marginalized. After two months you might consider making the rule permanent.

 

 Attend a worship service in a church with a predominantly different ethnicity or culture than your own. Adapt to that environment—do what they are doing as much as possible. Take note of what you admire about their worship and church life. Consider how it feels to be the odd man out. See what happens when, like Peter, you experience God within a different cultural setting.

 

 

 

Sep 28 2010

The Story of Your Life - "One Less" - Greg & Sheila's Story

 

Matthew West a new album coming out October 5th called "The Story of Your Life" ... songs inspired by letters from people just like you.  Today we catch up with Matthew and connect him with a a family whose adoption story touched Matthew and inspired a new song.  Greg and Sheila's story is below ...

 

One Less

 

Greg & Sheila

Humboldt, TN

 

My wife and I started an adoption of a little girl named Lily in August of 2007. We were able to finally bring her home in November of 2009! I am the senior pastor of a church in TN and the adoption became a process embraced by our whole family of faith. As a part of the adoption my wife moved into an apartment there in that country so we could foster our now 8 year old daughter. We spent 7 months apart from one another. It was the most difficult test we have faced as a couple. The pain that marked those seven months was quickly replaced when we finally made it home. The joy we shared when we arrived here reminded me of what it must be like when one of God's children finally make it home. We left Guatemala with no fan fare and a few tears. We arrived at our home with church members lining the street with banners, cheering, and sharing great relief.

 

Matthew’s commentary:

 

“Defend the cause of the orphans…” Isaiah 1:17

 

I was inspired by the hundreds of stories from people who were so passionate about adoption.  What a gift for a family to open up their arms and welcome in a child with no home!  Every adoption story is truly the proof that God is involved in the details, even the smallest details.  I wrote the first verse to show how at the same time, in two different parts of the world, God is hearing the cries of two hearts, and little do they know they are about to be joined together by a God who can orchestrate the impossible.

 

There are so many orphans in the world today, that the mission of giving them all a home to the human eye seems more like a mission impossible.  But, as I read one story after another about a child finding a home, I found myself saying, “That’s one less, one less, one less broken heart in the world tonight.”

 

You may not be in a position to adopt an orphan in your life right now, but there are many ways to carry out the command of the bible to care for the orphans.  Personally, I have a friend who is in the process of adopting a little girl from Russia and he and his family are in need of financial support to do so.  Many friends and neighbors are helping support this family’s effort financially so this little girl can have a home.  Ask God to show you how to care for the orphans.  Every time you help, that’s one less…