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Friday, September 7, 2012

8 Essential Questions For The Church; What If?

For the last two weeks, I've been riveted to the Republican and Democrat Conventions. Even though I grew up in a very politically vigorous family of staunch Irish Democrats (my grandmother even played a role on the national level in the 40's), I'm not a political animal per se. I'll never tell you who I support or which way I'll vote in an election.

But I have to say I was struck to the degree I've never been with the depth of faith and hope people are resting on the shoulders of the Presidential candidates, especially the Democrats' adoration of Barack Obama. It feels almost akin to worship. I know similar adoration has been given other candidates in other elections over the last 200 years. People place all sorts of hope and trust in charismatic leaders who represent to them a better life, or an inspiring message of freedom or prosperity. The longing of the human heart for a happy and liberated life gets ignited by gifted communicators who know the heart's language and how to move it. When that occurs people feel lifted and loyal. Tears flow, smiles abound, cheers ring forth and happy days look likely to be here again because so and so is going to bring them. It's a potent alchemy.

So I have to say, I felt saddened by how much faith, hope, and even love is being lavished on mere mortals. I've never felt that before. It was palpable. There was a kind of "No!" echoing in my head because I'm convinced, such devotion rightly belongs to Christ alone.Only he is the light of the world, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the only Name under heaven by which men can be saved. Neither Romney nor Obama can fulfill the deepest or most abiding needs of the human heart. Don't get me wrong, the "American Experiment" is a unique light in the world. I've spent the last number of years examining the founding, and the key players involved. Miracles were involved. And through the decades, God has blessed the United States repeatedly, and given it prominent influence around the world. Great leaders in government have done remarkable things benefiting generations. At the same time there have been horrors, atrocities and betrayals.

Jesus, the LORD of Lords is the One Americans should ultimately owe their greatest fealty.

If they only knew.

If they could but peer into the unseen REAL.

But don't really know and they don't see.

*****

Do you know who represents His salvific interests in America and in the world? You and I do. We're called the Church. We, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, bring the Kingdom of God with us whatever we happen to be doing, even if we're unawares. It's our singular mission, not government or business, or unions, or PACs, Social Service organizations, NGO's, the 4th Estate, lobbies, or sports and entertainment figures, political pundits, or Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC, the military or the schools, colleges and universities. The Kingdom mission is the singular dominion and calling of the Church, i.e., anyone who calls on the Name of the LORD, and sees being a Jesus follower as his or her primary identity and calling in their every sphere of influence.

This morning on the porch in Ventnor, I was reading a book by Joel C. Rosenberg called Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic and Spiritual Challenges In Time?  I don't know about you, but the "last days" are more and more on my mind and have been for two or three years. I've tended to stay away from reading or speculating about such things, but I'm noticing in a way I've never before. Something's up and Rosenberg, a Jewish Christian, keeps his feet on the ground.

Anyway, I titled my post this way because I want to call your attention to what the author poses to the Church (ppg. 291-2), noting such questions are: "what we should expect and pray for in the American church,". (p.292)

He begins the list with the following passage:

"There are an estimated 340,000 church congregations in the United States. That's an average of 6,800 per state. That's about one congregation for every 900 people. Imagine how rapidly America would change if all of these 340,000 congregations were healthy, strong, brightly shining lighthouses, as God intended.

1.What if they were all faithfully teaching the Word of God book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse so the people of God would know the whole counsel of God?

2. What if they were truly helping people repent of their sins, purify their hearts, and heal from their emotional and spiritual wounds?

3.What if they were all actively assisting those recovering people to be able to turn around and care for others who are needy and suffering?

4.What if they were all training their people to share the gospel with their friends and neighbors?

5.What if every pastor was modeling the kind of personal one-on-one and small-group discipleship that Jesus and Paul modeled?

6.What if they were equipping and training young people in the Word of God and their spiritual gifts and helping them plant new congregations in the U.S. and around the world?

7.What if they were truly caring for the poor and the needy in their communities and in countries around the globe, not in lieu of sharing the gospel but as part of fulfilling the great commission?

8. What if they were teaching their congregations to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus and to show unconditional love and unwavering support to both the Jewish and Palestinian people?

I recommend you reflect carefully on each question for yourself and for the church where you serve. What is God asking of you? Where do you need to repent? Where are you sleepwalking and need to wake up? How is you church addressing these concerns? Should you raise the issues? 

A Prayer For Us All:

Father of all power, liberty, and truth,
Wake us from where we are slumbering or sleepwalking,
Warm our hearts where we've grown cold and indifferent.
Encourage us where we are anxious and timid.
Dislodge us from where we are stuck.
Summon us from where we are distracted by trifles or overwhelming troubles.
Give us voices to speak the truth with words that enliven and heal;
   that teach and motivate.
Make us people of the Way such that all can yield and want to find it.
Help us follow Jesus in what He is doing all around no matter the cost,
no matter the odds against us, no matter the mockery of the blind and wandering.
Give us tears which liberate and a stubborn resolve that on our watch, you will be seen  and heard in and through us all, your Church.

By Christ, for Christ, in and through Christ.
Amen







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