Sunday, September 28, 2014

Family Religion: Identifying the Head

Here is the sermon outline for September 28th, 2014 sermon.

Family Religion: Identifying the Head
Ephesians 3:14-19; 5:21-29

Household Religion
If our faith leads us to believe that we are part of God’s family as the church, then our families should reflect our faith
Our families should seek to preserve unity among its members through working together toward a single purpose, having attitudes that result in peace, tending to one another with our words
The next part of Paul’s “family rules” speaks to households
Ephesians 5:21-24 & 33b speak to wives in relation to their husbands
Ephesians 5:25-33a speak to husbands in relation to their wives
Ephesians 6:1-3 speak to children in relation to their parents
Ephesians 6:4 speak to fathers in relation to their children
Ephesians 6:5-8 speak to servants/slaves in relation to their master
Ephesians 6:9 speak to masters in relation to their servants/slaves
Paul is explicitly speaking to the rules of households, how they should treat one another
What does “head of the household” mean?
The head of the household in a family religion is not who makes the decisions or provides for the financial needs
Those are tasks that can be done by anyone in the household - Proverbs 31:10-31
Who should make the decisions - the wisest person, the person with the most knowledge in a given area, the one who understands the best what is needed
Who should provide for the financial needs - the one who can do the most for the family financially
In our culture, family is not structured the same; we cannot lock a 21st century family into a first century family model, if we even understand it properly

Headship redefined
In terms of family religion, the head of the household fulfills the duties that are described as the husband’s role
loving their wives
giving up self for her
washing her by the water
presenting her as holy and blameless
nourish and tenderly care for her
The head of a household  in a family religion is the person who is responsible for:
Seeing that everyone experiences Christ’s love
To be an example of Christ’s self-sacrificing love
Nurturing and caring for everyone in the household
Providing for everyone’s sanctification in the family
To guide everyone in the family toward holiness
So who should do fill this role
It is not always the husband
The face of family has changed somewhat
But it wasn’t set in stone in the Bible either
Proverbs 31 shows a wife fulfilling that role
1 Corinthians 7:14 - a believing wife sanctifies the unbelieving husband
2 Timothy 1:5 - it is Timothy’s grandmother and mother who fulfilled this role
The one who should be the head of household in a family religion is the most spiritually mature one who steps out and accepts responsibility to lead the rest of the family


Sermon Notes

Household Religion
If our faith leads us to believe that we are part of God’s family as the church, then our families should reflect our faith
Our families should seek to preserve unity among its members through working together toward a single purpose, having attitudes that result in peace, tending to one another with our words
What does “head of the household” mean?

Headship redefined
In terms of family religion, the head of the household fulfills the duties that are described as the husband’s role
The head of a household  in a family religion is the person who is responsible for:
Seeing that everyone experiences Christ’s love
To be an example of Christ’s self-sacrificing love
Nurturing and caring for everyone in the household
Providing for everyone’s sanctification in the family
To guide everyone in the family toward holiness
So who should do fill this role
It is not always the husband
Proverbs 31 shows a wife fulfilling that role
1 Corinthians 7:14 - a believing wife sanctifies the unbelieving husband
2 Timothy 1:5 - it is Timothy’s grandmother and mother who fulfilled this role
The one who should be the head of household in a family religion is the most spiritually mature one who steps out and accepts responsibility to lead the rest of the family

Household Religion
If our _faith_ leads us to believe that we are part of God’s family as the church, then our families should reflect our faith
Our families should seek to preserve unity among its members through working together toward a single purpose, having attitudes that result in peace, tending to one another with our words
What does “______________________” mean?

Headship redefined
In terms of family religion, the head of the household fulfills the __________ that are described as the husband’s role
The head of a household  in a family religion is the person who is responsible for:
Seeing that everyone experiences Christ’s love
To be an ___________ of Christ’s self-sacrificing love
___________ and ____________ for everyone in the household
Providing for everyone’s sanctification in the family
To _________ everyone in the family toward __________
So who should do fill this role
It is not always the __________
____________ shows a wife fulfilling that role
________________ - a believing wife sanctifies the unbelieving husband
_______________ - it is Timothy’s grandmother and mother who fulfilled this role
The one who should be the head of household in a family religion is the most __________  ___________ one who steps out and ___________________to lead the rest of the family

Gideon, Minecraft, and One Bad Summer

I was asked to preach at the Bishop's Retreat last week. Here is the text of that sermon.

Gideon, Minecraft, and One Bad Summer
Judges 6:11-14

We have all been where Gideon was: confronted with God's messenger with the word we were called to do a great thing. We are here today because we have all shared in this experience. There is comfort in knowing that we have this miraculous moment in common. Then why did the idea of standing up here this morning weigh so heavily on me?

I had a bad summer. I had a couple of events  in Spring that made me wonder if I was any good at what I do. I was in a funk when Annual Conference rolled around. At Annual Conference, we were confronted with the need to change direction if we wanted to be strong in the near future.

I hear the burden of doing something to change direction in order to continue our rich heritage and tradition. But in the emotional place I was, I heard, "you aren't doing enough and what you are doing isn't good enough."  Before the end of Annual Conference, my funk was even deeper. I was feeling even  more inadequate. I felt I was being sent back to my appointment not knowing if I could do any good. And my state did not improve over the summer.

I love doing camp and had a great year. I had a longer than usual vacation. But by the end of summer, I was not in a better place. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, I was asking myself - have I wasted the last 20 years of my life doing something I will never be effective doing? Am I adequate enough to continue being a pastor?

Gideon asked this same thing of God. How can I, someone farm boy from a backwater clan in a backwater tribe.

It had taken a lot of struggle with the ideas of failure, expectations, and how much the opinions of others matters. I am still having to work through issues of pride, success, and comparing myself to others. I discovered by accident at the right time the book Fail by J.R. Briggs. The book touches on many of the same issues I was dealing with. I also had to work through some baggage with friends and colleagues. And then I read about Microsoft buying Minecraft.

I am a nerd. A geek. One of those people some of you laugh at on Big Bang Theory when you have no idea what they are talking about. One aspect of my nerdiness is that I’m a computer gamer. I have been a gamer since computers could fit on a desk. Minecraft is one of the biggest upsets in the computer gaming world since it began. It was a simple project that became an international and cultural giant. The person behind the creation of Minecraft is Marcus Persson, a Swedish nerd and game designer. He became a multi-millionaire almost over-night. Last week, Microsoft bought Minecraft for 2.5 billion dollars.

Marcus Persson, or Notch as he is known in the gamer culture, put out a statement about the purchase of his company and the game he designed. In it, he talks about how he is just a game designer. He just likes to make games. He never set out to make a world-changing, cultural icon. He never wanted to become a symbol of something, which he has. He said something else, about failure:

I wanted to try to do new things. At first, I failed by trying to make something big again, but since I decided to just stick to small prototypes and interesting challenges, I’ve had so much fun with work.

In those words I realized something: I wasn’t having fun anymore. I had been put in a position where people who don’t know me were making judgments about what I am capable of and it hurt me. I felt that expectations had been thrust toward me that do not reflect my nature, gifts, talents, or passions. I was overburdened by the symbol I perceived people had made me out to be.

And then there’s Gideon. The farm boy from a little backwater town. One day God says to Gideon, “I want you to do something great. I want you to deliver my people. I think you have what it takes to do this. Get it done.” Twice, in fact, God’s servant calls Gideon a mighty man. Here is the picture of this mighty man: he was fearful, wishy-washy, indecisive, and had a problem with commitment. He isn’t our picture of a mighty person with the might to deliver God’s people. God reminds Gideon of this. God says, “I will take care of the victory, you take care of what you can.” If you really know the story, the only thing Gideon had to do was break a pot. God took care of the rest.

Colleagues, my bad summer is over. I’m better, but I’m not good yet. I still have wounds and sore spots in my spirit. But I realized something through all of this. I’m not adequate to be a symbol of something. I’m not adequate to achieve the task of transforming the United Methodist Church. I’m not adequate to achieve the task of turning the course of the Oklahoma Annual Conference. I’m not sure if I’m adequate to do a great thing in a local congregation. But I wasn’t called to do those things.

God called me to be mighty in the might that I have been given. My gifts, talents, and personality make me uniquely equipped to do ministry in the way God prepared me to do. I am only adequate to do what God has purposed me for and gifted me to do. My might is made known in the lives that I touch individually. My might is displayed in the affirmations and encouragements that I can give, usually one life at a time. I’m called to help build disciples one person at a time. Maybe 4 or 5 at a time.

But it’s assuring to know that Jesus did it that way. Jesus didn't look at saving the world when he looked into the eyes of the people he changed. He didnt think about saving the world until he climbed onto a cross and accomplished that once for all.

Friends, brothers and sisters, we are not called to be more than what God has made us to be and become. It is so easy for us to get caught up in the idea that im not doing enough, im not good enough. The might you have been given by our God and our Lord and the Spirit is what you can do. To do more than that is to step into a role that you may not have been called to. Go, do mighty things in the might you have been given. Let God take care of the rest.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Alcohol and the People of God

The Bible has been used to justify or condemn many argued point. And rightly so. When believers are confronted with a situation that the revealed word of God has spoken to, there is a need to speak boldly to that issue. Sometimes, though, we encounter a situation or an issue that isn't clearly justifiable or condemned.

Alcohol and drinking alcohol seems to be one such issue.

Before I attempt to lay out a Biblical argument regarding alcohol, I want to deal with some myths that I have heard related to the subject.

Myth #1. Water wasn't healthy enough to drink so wine was drunk regularly.
Wine was a common drink at meals and there was a thriving wine industry in Israel. But you also have to taken into account that wells and cisterns were common for water. There are many accounts of wells in the Bible itself. Isaac's wife was selected when she drew up water to give someone a drink. Jesus even talks to a woman at a well about drinking the water there.

Also keep in mind that rivers and creeks were clean enough to drink. It may not have been "crystal, clear, mountain spring" looking. It may have been a little muddy. But water was still healthy enough to drink.

Myth #2. Jesus only drank unfermented wine.
The Hebrew and Greek words for "wine" in the Old and New Testaments cannot be clearly divided between unfermented and fermented. Since Jesus isn't shown in the Old Testament, we can only look at New Testament use of "wine" And there are  references to occasions where Jesus may have drunk wine. Of the 3 cases where it is possible that Jesus drank, we don't know what he did.
  • Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) - Jesus was there. There was wine being served. When the wine ran out, Jesus transformed water into wine. The wine is attested to be "the good stuff". 
  • Last Supper - Without getting into a detailed argument, it is likely that this was the Passover meal (in at least the Synoptic Gospels). The Passover tradition required the use of wine at multiple points in the course of the liturgy/meal. The head of the table drank as part of the liturgy/tradition. 
  • Feasts with Matthew and Zacchaeus (Luke 5:29-30; Luke 19:1-10) - I put these together to represent Jesus attending feasts held in his honor. The people hosting the feasts were wealthy individuals. They invited their "non-religious" circle of friends. We can gather that Jesus developed a reputation because of this. Jesus was accused of being a drunkard by the Pharisees (Matt 11:19) meaning he associated with people in places where alcohol was being consumed.

Myth #3. The Bible only condemns drinking alcohol.
The Bible has been used to justify an abstinence only policy regarding alcohol. In my own family of tradition, the Methodists have been famously involved in abstinence movements. And many have tried to make abstinence a "gospel truth". But we must fairly consider all of the texts where alcohol is dealt with to answer this consistently.

  • There are 234 mentions of wine in the New American Standard translation of the Bible. 
  • There are 21 uses of the phrase "strong drink".
  • Hebrew has 12 words used to talk about wine or strong drink.
  • Greek has 5 words it uses to talk about the same.
  • Of all of the uses, one Hebrew and one Greek word are used the most often. The bulk of the references to "wine" in the Bible are these two words
There are clearly condemnations against drunkenness and getting drunk in both the Old and New Testaments.
  • You have examples of the evil that comes from drunkenness (Noah, Lot).
  • You have instructions to avoid drinking too much - Proverbs 23:20; Isaiah 5:11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:18.
  • There are arguments supporting that the leaders of the church are to avoid alcohol completely in1 Timothy 3:3, 3:8.
  • We have the text in Romans 14:19-5:3 regarding the weaker among us; by an example we should avoid alcohol.
But the Bible also uses wine in symbolic ways or neutral ways.
  • God's wrath is seen as a cup of wine poured out for enemies to drink.
  • Solomon compared love to the effects of wine.
  • The Holy Spirit's coming on the disciples was attributed to "new wine"

But of all of the references to wine in the Bible, the most common use is one of acceptance.
  • There are 59 references to wine being use as part of meals.
  • There are 27 references to the abundance of wine as examples of God's blessing.
  • 20 references state that God's curse for disobedience is losing wine and strong drink.
  • 25 times wine is referred to as an offering or sacrifice to be brought to priest.
In all of the references to alcohol, almost 60% are accepting of it.
 
So What?
If the Bible appears to accept alcohol, does that mean we accept it and its use in all its forms? No, the Bible merely states that alcohol was a part of the culture in which it was written. There is good evidence that alcohol has been a part of every culture in which the story of God's people has taken place. 

Alcohol is also a part of our culture. Just like the people in the story of the Bible, we have to find a way to live with it and the people who consume it. The church in many places has drawn a line of absolute condemnation against alcohol, the places that serve it, and the people who consume it. That is how God's people in more recent history have dealt with alcohol.

If we look closer at the New Testament, though, Jesus didn't draw that line. He ate and drank with sinners, he attended their festivals and feasts, he even brought the wine to one. He didn't separate himself from them and cast scripture at them to change their ways. He sat with them, listened to them, ministered to them, and above all else loved them.

It's NOT about ME!
When we address the issue of alcohol as Christians, we should always approach it from the point of view of "what does this mean to others?" Romans 14 sounds like it is saying we should be "good examples". But it goes much deeper than that.
14:1 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. (New Living Translation).
14:2, 5,6 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables... In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. (New Living Translation).
If we examine this closely, we find a couple of important points. People at different levels of faith live out their understanding of faith in different ways. Because we are surrounded in the church by people who are different than we are, we need to respect one another in those differences. This is not a matter of believer vs. non-believer or righteous vs. sinner. In this passage we are talking about everyone being believers.
14:10, 12-13 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God...Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. (New Living Translation).
This is a matter of "disputable" things. We do not get to judge one another in these matters. Paul was convinced that some things that were deemed "sinful" before being in Christ, are not "sinful" for him. 
14:14a  I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. 

The issue of unclean vs. clean was, for some Jews, a matter of importance. In Christ, Paul is free to eat things that are unclean (Acts 10:14-15). The non-believing world sees our faith as a set of restrictions. They have gotten the impression that all we care about are the things people can't do. They see us living with nothing but "Thou shall nots".

We who know Christ in maturity know that we live with a wide range of freedom. People of weak faith, new faith, or immature faith live "on the fence". By living out our freedoms in Christ, we can cause others to lose what little grip of faith they have. You are free to drink alcohol within your tolerance and ability to remain sober minded unless by doing so someone may compromise their beliefs.

That's Not Fair!
I can hear people making that "argument". But for believers there is something very important we have to keep in mind.
Romans 14:7-8  For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.  If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
When we committed ourselves to Christ, we accepted his rule and reign as complete. His word is law and his will is our path. His law and path are simple - love God, love others, love self last. What "I" want comes after we consider what God wants and what it will do to another. 
Romans 14:13,15,17-19, 15:1-2
13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
15 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.
 Putting others needs before our own pleasure is a kingdom rule.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Seeking Maturity Part 5: Loving Yourself

Yesterday I examined Micah's calling to God's people that we are to show love through Mercy, Justice, and Living Evangelism. It seems that, according to Micah, unless we get out and show other people a tangible, meaningful love through acts of mercy, justice, and living evangelism, our worship will be empty and meaningless.

John Wesley, when encountered by people passionate about growing mature in their love of God, formed then into groups to help grow one another. Wesley gave them three rules to live by:

avoid doing harm
do as much good as you can
be intentional about discovering God's love in as many ways as possible (most of the time with others)

These societies became the Methodist church. These rules are part of our basic DNA. At this present time, they are a recessive gene in many places. But we can recapture these essential traits. We can show love in these three ways through these three rules.
 
We love people around us by avoiding to cause them harm but also changing the systems that do harm
We love people by sharing with them when they are in need without love-less baggage
We love people by displaying the love of God that we have experienced that they might experience it themselves

Love Yourself
Jesus’ states that loving God and loving others is the framework that our life in him is built upon.
But loving yourself is instrumental in that framework:

Love God - with your heart, mind, body, soul
Love others - as you would love yourself
You have to show Godly love toward yourself

Paul speaks about how his life is torn between the spiritual pursuit of Christ and the necessary giving of himself to others. In living or dying, Christ has to be exalted in his entire life - body, mind, heart. In living each day there is a choice to conduct our lives in a way that is worthy of the Gospel

When we look at the statistics of how people care for themselves, something interesting is revealed. The members of churches are just as unhealthy in our choices of how we care for our lives as those not in  church.
In terms of Body we are just as obese, don't exercise, have heart disease and diabetes
In the realm of Mind we gossip, consume pornography, veg in front of television
In our Heart we experience depression, bitterness, lack of forgiveness
Our souls cannot grow and mature in spiritual pursuit of Christ if we feed it in these ways

Whole-Life Spiritual Care
Paul speaks many times on the weakness of the flesh. In the history of the church this led to dualism, or a sense of the body is bad and mind/spirit is good. But Paul had a healthy respect for the body. For example in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Paul stresses that we need to honor God with our bodies. Paul also focuses on the sexual nature of our bodies, but notice that he mentions food (13). These are both physical "needs" that tend to get overbalanced in our contemporary culture. Basically, Paul says the body is one way in which we honor God.

By not caring for our bodies, we limit our physical ability to honor God. Choosing to live a healthy life is an act of stewardship of the fundamental gift that God gives us. God gave us our bodies at birth and gives us the use of our bodies in salvation. God will also give us a resurrected body in the next life.

Paul also seems to know that the mind is controlled by what we allow into it. Philippians 4:4-8 seems to say put in what is good and gain peace of mind. Stop for a minute and think about how you exercise your mind.

What we allow ourselves to think about is how our mind is exercised.

Our culture is known for its junk food. But we are also famous for the mental junk we feed ourselves. If we want to have a healthy mind and live in true peace of mind, we have to control what we think about.

The seat of our emotions may move around, but our emotions lead us around. We tend to center emotions in the heart. The Bible doesn’t refer to the heart like we do.The heart is the source of motives or intentions as well as feelings. Emotions are given by God. They are not evil or weak by their own nature. But emotions are corrupted by sin just as our body and minds are.

What we allow our hearts to dwell on determines how healthy our heart will be
If we focus on the hurts or wrongs that people have done against us, bitterness and anger will develop
If we focus on our own worthlessness or failings, depression will develop
If we focus on our inabilities or insecurities, apathy will develop

Our heart also prepares us for action. What we feel will, usually, lead to a motive that will lead us to an action. If we develop a different heart focus, our actions will go in a different direction. And then our life will go in a different direction. In Galatians 5:16-26 there is a list of healthy emotions that we can pursue. Essentially, our unhealthy “passions” do not have to control our emotional life, which in turn will produce a life of actions.

Our soul is fed by heart, mind, and body. It is hard to separate the soul of the Bible from our understanding of soul. It is easiest to say that the soul is our identity - the essential element of who we are. But it is shaped by how we live, the choices we make, the feelings and passions we dwell upon. 

Our spirit and soul are linked to make relationship with God possible. But our spirit communicates only  what our soul has been focused upon. If we pursue corrupted passions, dwell on the thoughts that are destructive, or treat our bodies with contempt, then our spirit communicates sin. If we pursue healthy emotions, nurture thoughts that conform our minds to God, and live in our bodies as stewards, our spirit communicates righteousness.

Our lives are not just daily calendars with objectives to be met. Our lives are the complex interaction of heart, mind, body, and soul. The choices we make, the passions we pursue, the feelings we harbor, the thoughts upon which we dwell, the information we take in all shape our souls, our identity. As we live out a healthy existence in heart, mind, body, and soul, we are loving our whole self. As we love our self, we are better able to love God and love others
 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Seeking Maturity Part 4: 3 Ways Churches Love

Love in all its ways
Loving God requires showing love to all people in tangible and meaningful ways.
If we desire a maturing relationship with God that goes beyond heart or mind to a perfected love, then we must have heart to hand and hand to heart love for others.

The people of God have been called to show love in three tangible, meaningful ways.
 Micah 6:6-8 (New Living Translation)
What can we bring to the Lord?
    Should we bring him burnt offerings?
Should we bow before God Most High
    with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer him thousands of rams
    and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
    to pay for our sins?
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah calls upon the people of God to put tangible, meaningful love before even worship. Jesus said a similar thing.
Matthew 25:34-40 (New Living Translation)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’
Loving God in the most meaningful way means exhibiting real acts of love toward others.

3 Areas of Love

For the people of God, there are 3 distinct areas of love that seem to be a focus point: justice, mercy, and living evangelism.

People of faith get the basics of mercy very well: doing good things for others. But so often, we pair doing good with things that don't reflect true love. We will do good things but attitudes of pity, shame, stereotyping, or judmentalism may be part of those acts.

Mercy is not just doing good for others because they have a need. Mercy is the act of caring for another person because they are another human being. But Matthew 25:40 adds to the definition of mercy. Mercy is the act of caring for another human being because they matter to God.

Our culture has corrupted the meaning of justice. In our culture, justice means revenge in most cases. It is the concept of punishing people when it is perceived that they did something wrong, usually by wronging us.

A biblical understanding of Justice is about the systems we live in, the connections we share with one another.
Deuteronomy 10:17-18

17 “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. 18 He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing.
Justice according to the Law is the system of ensuring that no one is treated wrongly. If we partner mercy with justice, we begin to see that the hungry, the homeless, the sick and imprisoned, the abandoned and forgotten are in need of justice. In our world there are millions in need of justice. There are millions who do not have anyone looking out for them.


The lost, the lonely, the forgotten
The mentally ill, the homeless, the elderly
The abused, the neglected, the ugly of society
God calls us to change the systems that work against these people. God empowers us to do acts of tangible, meaningful love for these people that they might live with dignity. And we should feel joyful about this task only because God cares for them.

Finally, evangelism may not seem to be discussed in Micah. Consider for a moment what evangelism means. Contemporary American church culture believes that evangelism is the task of a specially called preacher, the "hired" preacher, or a committee planning an event or program. When we look at the New Testament, evangelism is the calling and purpose of every baptized member of the body of Christ.

Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 are the last words of Jesus to the disciples. In both it is clear that anyone who has experienced the living presence of Jesus Christ is to share with people in the world that experience. If we do not tell people about the transforming love of Jesus Christ, there is no future for the church.

But we don't evangelize to add to our churches. Evangelism is living out the transformed love of God. It is that same movement of phases of God's love. It is the same love of God that is carried out in the tangible, meaningful acts toward all people. It is giving people a glimpse of God's love that has changed us because that love is for them.