Failure to Thrive, Part 3

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Don’t be surprised when it happens!

 As we finish up today with Part 3, A Failure to Thrive it is in the aftermath of relationship based on revelation and direction from the light of God that the results could surprise you. In 1 John 1:7 the last remaining apostle shows us the results of fellowship with God and Jesus Christ his son: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Suddenly unlike so many digging in the dark, there is no more failure to thrive only a flourishing in the faith.  It is in one verse where we see the purpose of Christ’s death was the victorious warring against the enemy of koinonia, sin. Koinonia offering relationship with purpose, the other division geared towards isolation and death. As Christ emptied himself, becoming nothing, he poured out his righteousness unto us and bore the sins of each of us.  On the cursed cross Christ cut the head off of sin, like one cuts the head off a serpent, leaving it’s body flailing around as if still alive, but most certainly dead!

Chuck Colson in his last novel before his death, The Faith, described a scene that too many might have looked surprising! As part of the Prison Ministry, Chuck developed and dedicated his life to he would take people into the prisons to share the Gospel. One day, he took along Bill Simons, you might not recognize the name, but Simons is a former Secretary of Treasury, Olympic organizer, and once a millionaire investor. Not exactly who you expect to visit a prison, but the scene got even stranger—What left an indelible mark in Colson’s mind was seeing Simons, a devoted Christian, drop to his hand and knees—handing the Lord’s Supper through the bars to a prisoner, hand in hand praying, crying together as they shared a bond that went beyond bars or boundaries.

Vince Antonucci calls it Guerrilla Love because much life guerrilla warfare which is an attack before the target is ready, reinforced, or prepared. Conversely, Guerrilla Love is a surprise ambush of love before the walls of defense go up or the hardness of hearts set. Each Christian, regardless of where are you are, I want to challenge each of us. Instead of being victims of our culture—recognize that in our pews we have an army of love waiting to be unleashed. Some our rich/others poor, some strong/ others weak, some spiritual mature others new to the faith, some introverted others extroverted, some musical or analytical, some emotional or intellectual but together we form the church! Together we are the body of Christ.

When you start loving those around you with the purpose of showing them the love of Christ, indwelling inside of you, you will go from a “failure to thrive” toward “flourishing in the faith,” from words to the wonder of seeing a life changed, from information to application, from someone else’s story to your own personal adventure! Go ahead, live it out, just don’t be surprised by the results!

 

 

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Failure to Thrive Part 2

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A few days ago we looked at the Apostle  John’s call for Fellowship with the Father and Son to be the uniting force for our relationship with mankind. Literally, instead of “X marks the spot,” we are pushed towards the “Cross marks the spot.” It is where revelation meets relationship- Jesus Christ that information becomes application. Today John moves us a step closer to flourishing in the faith rather than “failing to thrive” by taking our relationships and providing them direction.

1 John 1:5-6- And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Light from street lights, to lit up business billboards, to the lights along the walking path leading into your house, or the red flashing light near the railroad crossing all serve the same purpose–Direction. John in his revealed wisdom makes it clear that it is not simply what you know that defines you, but how you live! Relationship with God begins with what you know, but it if stops there it is useless. The goal is fellowship through faithfulness!

In November, 1975, a group of 75 convicts starting coming together in a different kind of community. They decided that prison really didn’t work for them, didn’t live up to their expectations, and so they decided that instead of going over the fences they would dig under. Each night they worked the ground headed for the other side of Saltillo Prison in Northern Mexico. On April 18, 1976 after 6 months of planning and digging, they began to quietly celebrate as they got close enough to freedom to hear occasional footsteps and voices. Unfortunately, as they pushed through the final few feet they realized too late that they had gotten slightly off course in the beginning , breaking free into the nearby courtroom where most of them had originally been sentence. FAILING TO THRIVE!

They knew where they wanted to go but not how to get there. We find a lot of people seemingly are digging in the dark. You know people, I know people, we all have at times probably been the person, working in their own way towards some purpose or value in this life, some maybe by working 60 hour work weeks, shopping or sleeping around to find value. Instead of heading in that direction the Psalmist cried out for the light- “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! God answered the call in two ways: First, through the light of the world- Jesus Christ who lived our life, died our death, in order that we can live at all. Secondly, by providing direction through community—1 Corinthians–The body is a unity, though it is made up of many parts and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ! We are given a bedrock of truth and building a body of unity. Fellowship-Relationship with Purpose!

 

“Failure to Thrive” Part 1

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“Welcome to the dying room!”—Within the walls of a Chinese orphanage, Anne held her breath as the guide pushed open the door. The phrase ran through her mind like a broken recorder- “Welcome to the dying room!” She had heard people talk about such rooms, their existence rumored like that of the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot, but here she staring at the endless rows of children for herself. Replacing the familiar noises of children laughing, crying, and playing upon her arrival, was now the most ominous thing of all: silence. The looks on the face of each infant was the same—“withdrawn and distant, lethargic and immobile.”  The cause of their impending death was no deadly disease or rare medical affliction, but instead the common and every diagnosis of “A Failure to Thrive.” Each night two nurses would work the large crowded infant wing of the orphanage: changing one diaper and giving one bottle before disappearing to care for another one of the other 350 cribs.  Each week, a few more babies would disappear! The cause was clear- after months without any physical contact, social interaction, anyone to care, hold or rock them the baby was left in the semi-comatose state to wither away!  As Anne walked out of the room, tears ran down her face uncontrollably, the images engrained, emblazoned into her memory of the empty stares, the loveless lives, she vowed to do something!

 This epidemic of dying rooms with children “failing to thrive” should be impossible to ignore—leading many to cry out for justice from watch-dog groups to 60 Minutes, and yet far too often we ignore the same “failure to thrive” that wreaks havoc in our spiritual lives!  In our text from 1 John 1:1-10, we seek to go from a failure to thrive to a spiritual future that is flourishing! Yet, just like for those poor babies in the “dying room,” the thing they need and crave the most is what we need the most spiritually as well…

   RELATIONSHIP- In our text, listen to the apostle John who is writing, as his life is coming to an end, to help straighten out early believers who are failing to thrive in the midst other Gnostic teachings which held that truth was hidden in the mind alone!   (1 John 1:1-3) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to usthat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

John lays out the goal for all people who at times are withering in their faith rather than flourishing writing so “that you may have fellowship with us;” but also with God! In the Greek, the word translated fellowship is koinonia, and it means simply to “hold something in common.” So if relationship with both each other and with God is the goal how do we get there?  So he starts with a common core we can all grasp and build off of—going back to the Word made flesh Jesus Christ—God has made himself known through Jesus Christ, saying we don’t have a secret truth that is imaged, invented, or contrived—but instead a truth that lived and walked among us—My eyes have seen! My hands have touched! My lips have proclaimed! My ears have heard! 

John wastes no time taking us from the goal of koinonia through the means of Christ. Yet so often we see people who know what they want but they aren’t sure how to get it, and the frustration that follows! In fact, The Mars One Project sign-up sheet helped crystalize the problem. The project is asking for applicants to establish a permanent Mars colony– forcing all applicants to leave behind everything and start a new life not in a new county, country, continent, but another area of the cosmos! [You cannot sign up other people—put your smart phones away!] Remarkably, worldwide over 200,000 people, including 30,000 Americans paid the $38 application fee and signed up for blast off! One guy who said, life 352 million miles away on a freezing and radiation rich red rock “couldn’t be worse than life here!” Others are willing to leave behind husbands or wives, children and careers to make history! —-SOMETHING FOR MANY PEOPLE IS MISSING!

The answer is this radical koinonia—community—relationship with purpose! What we find is that X marks the spot.  Graphically, this naturally enough begins to look like a cross. When we have relationship with God in place—we can read Scripture about God, pray to God, but when we receive the Holy Spirit from God—we are given vertical relationship, that begins to change, impact, and improve our relationships on a horizontal plain. In fact Jesus confirms this in Matthew 22:37-38 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all yourself and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we are able to move closer to loving God with our entire being, we gradually begin to love others as if they were just as important as us! Instead of wishing you could send everyone to Mars, we are tapped with new concern for the hungry, poor, mentally unstable, elderly and sick, the helpless infant or the unbeliever which comes directly from the CROSS—literally and figuratively.

 

Thieves on the Cross- Part 3

The first criminal on the cross rejected Jesus. The second criminal repented of his former way of life, in hopes of being reconnected to Jesus, and finally in the passage we hear from Christ. His first words come in our text from Luke 23:43: “Truly I tell you; today you will be with me in paradise.” 12 simple words constructed in such a way that they must have sent shock waves through the 2nd thieves heart more violent than any nail through his flesh. Although biblical commentators argue about the timing of the unity between criminal and Christ, to spend too much energy on a common- (Truly I tell you today, or Truly I tell you, today) is to miss the point. There are contentious pieces of text that we struggle to find the exactly meaning, but in our lack of clarity, let’s be sure we never miss the overarching truth laid bare before us!

Paradise throughout scripture is the place which alludes to the garden, where the saints rejoice in renewed relationship with God. The truth of Jesus’ statement makes more sense when we see that to be in paradise at its most basic level is to be in relationship with God again! To enjoy such intimacy that he lives in us as he lived in Christ, that His Spirit would dare find a home in our calloused hearts, that his Spirit could work such miracles as to anoint not just our head, marking us for service, but our hearts marking us for heaven.

Christ’s promise when amplified to the countless lost throughout the centuries is just as ground breaking. It is a promise that cannot be beaten, smashed, crucified, or entombed. It takes each of us who has known the distress of sin, the pain of loss, the grief of death and replaces the hopelessness with new life! Through the darkness of death, we see the new light of life and the words from that sweet hymn come to fruition–“And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own.”

He Is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Chayah House

Rebuilding a house and then rebuilding a life!
Rebuilding a house and then rebuilding a life!

Two Stanford professors, James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies laid out the catchy term (BHAG) or Big Hairy Audacious Goals! These are ideas that may appear impossible, daring, outlandish, but may just be the key to restoration or growth for an organization.

As a church leader my goal is not to be led by a bridle from one trendy cultural idea to another business growth fad, but as we attempt to contextualize the Gospel to a new generation we have to start thinking of ways to allow God’s truth, goodness and glory to be seen! In fact, we serve a God of BHAGs, a God who is the Big Idea, our reason for existing at all, a God who is the author of all things! It doesn’t get much bigger than that! As a result of a small group discussion, here is my first attempt at a BHAG towards the goal of visionary leadership which empowers the spectators in church, engages the skeptics, and enriches the community as we live out the new command Christ gave in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Our BHAG tentatively called, Chayah House, which is Hebrew for to sustain life, would be a residential recovery home for people in our local community who are hard hit by financial, medical, or other unforeseeable life events. The church would buy an empty run-down house close to the church, have church volunteers work on renovations, and then allow a family in need to live in the house, at a significantly reduced rate (based on income), in order to get back on their feet. It would be a place that families in the community could turn to in times of trouble.

The cost of the overall project ranges based on the final selling price of the home in question, renovation costs, and on the amount of donated materials procured. At this current time the best estimate for buying the house would be about $25,000 to 27,000 while renovation costs might vary from $10,000 to $15,000. As a result, we are asking for a grant amount of anywhere between $10,000 to $15,000 to help get the project off the ground.
The major source of financial support would come from mission funds from the church, members special gifts and offerings, and from community support.

We are not a huge congregation, but we serve a huge God! I would love to hear feedback from those of you who have envisioned, planned, prayed and implemented big ideas. Where have you tried similar ideas and been successful or run into roadblocks?

Most importantly, if you would keep praying for our congregation, that our ideas would be from the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than the creativeness of the human mind it would be a huge blessing!

Eyes on Easter-2 Thieves, Part 2

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As we take up part two from our text in the Luke 23 account of the two thieves, one on each side of Jesus, we remember that the first thief very clearly condemned Jesus. His mocking words demanded power through performance rather than as displayed through restraint. Jesus in restraining his power fulfilled the unchanging plan of the Father, rather than meeting the temporary preferences of man.  The second thief instead of embracing the stubbornness of ignorance experienced CONVERSION in our text from Luke 23:40-42:

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Why bother changing now after an entire life lived in sin? It was with death quickly approaching, the pain of the nails pulsing through his body, each breath more difficult than the last that the impact of sin was never more real. In our own lives sin is never more real than when we are hurting as a result, time seems to slow down, the clock stops ticking! Instead of mocking, he approached in reverence. Confessing his sins and recognizing his condition he saw Jesus for who he is, rather than simply where he was (The Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world). With that clarity he called on to be part of God’s plan rather than just demanding a performance. He asked that the consequences of sin be overshadowed by the compassion of the Savior! Even when I don’t deserve it, remember me! It is the same call we make, “God, I’m going through a difficult time–watching a loved one wither away–Remember me! I’m falling short fighting sin–Remember me! I’m struggling with loneliness and depression–Remember me!

Of all the days he stood in formation, a young private remembered one day in particular. As the emperor Napoleon rode on horseback among the troop lines, reviewing his army his horse, seeing a snake in the grass suddenly bolted out of control, putting the military genius and emperor in jeopardy. Risking life and limb, the young private jumped from his ranks, grabbing the reigns of the horse quickly calming him. Napoleon without hesitating said, “Thank you, Captain!” giving him an instant promotion. As the private turned captain walked to the tent with the captains and officers, the group began to rebuke him, “You don’t belong in here. What makes you think you can come in here private? Who do you think you are breaking ranks?” In that moment he realized he didn’t have the uniform of a captain, nor the insignia, nor fulfilled the duties, so he simply pointed to the emperor and said, “He said it!” Instantly their demeanor changed, “Sorry Captain, we didn’t know!” All he had was the word of the emperor, but that was enough!

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, in many ways we don’t look the part or fit the rank, and yet Hebrews 4:16 calls on us to have confidence, not in the word of an emperor, but in the Word which was from the beginning. With confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Like the 2nd thief when seemingly everything is against us—the bigger the trial, the great the testament to God’s power! In our weakness we are pushed away from what keeps us comfortable towards what makes us healthier. Not just close to Jesus, but finally confident in what Christ has done for us on the cross!

In the final installment, part 3, we will finally hear the words of Jesus in response to two men who responded differently to death!