Tuesday, 30 January 2018

You are in me, and I am in you—May they also be in us

Living in Community
John 17:20-23- Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer
“You are in me, and I am in you—May they also be in us”
Belong, Believe, Become

                People today are looking for community- a place where
they can be themselves and yet grow in trust for others as everyone continues in everyday life challenges. This is because we are physically detached from each other. We change places of residence frequently. Most people do not know their neighbours and many experience loneliness and isolation. People of all ages are in need of each other and yet are unsure of how to do this.
                Evangelism is often associated with negative images of people asking for money and not sure for what. Yet evangelism is not this- it is a team effort of sharing faith with others. It is the intersection of friendship, relationship and “a come as you are’ learning environment where all can learn together
                We live in a post Christian society which no longer operates from an underlying assumption that Christianity is the basis for living. The ordinary citizen no longer knows or understands basic biblical concepts and stories, nor does the typical person necessarily think that Christian values have a special validity. But if we believe that Jesus calls us to be as one in unity of faith, we are to reach out and talk to others- to share our story and to hear the stories of others. This is where the intersection begins and friendship and relationship with each other results.
                What are people looking for? People are looking for others who will love them and also help others in need. This is the message of Jesus. We need only to talk with each other and make a difference.
                Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
What do you think about the focus of churches now being: belong believe become? Do you think that this makes going to church more relevant?
When you think of evangelism what do you think of? It is really just talking about Jesus—your story being shared with another and recognizing that your story is unique to others. Does this definition help?

Holy God, if I may speak to another person today about your wonderful love, and they hear this message I pray that I too will grow stronger in faith. Help me to reach out to others in your name. Amen.

REFLECTIONS Jan 10,17,24, 31 based upon Jack Kuhatschek “Evangelism: Reaching Out Through Relationships.” ODB Ministries 2017

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Power of Christian Community

The Power of Christian Community

John 17:20-23- Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer

                Jesus prays for the unity of those who believe in him
throughout the ages. This is a level of unity that he and the Father have which is described as “you are in me, and I am in you—May they also be in us” I cor 6:17   Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit!”
                There is a church in Austin, Texas which has two messages—“Come as you are” and “But don’t stay as you are”. These two messages alone have led this church to discover the power of Christian community in reaching out to others who don’t know Jesus.  Their bulletin has the following message: …..Church is a COME AS YOU ARE kind of church- a community of imperfect people doing life together, becoming allt hat God create us to be. We don’t care who you voted for, what your tax bracket may be, or what your zip code is. Whether you’ve had a relationship with God your whole life or you’re not even sure He exists, we’re glad to meet you where you are. Bring your questions, doubts, fears and hurts – no need to leave anything at the door.
                We want to help you connect with others who live near you, share your interests or happen to be in a similar life stage, largely because we encourage you to come as you are, BUT DON’T STAY AS YOU ARE. By getting to know others who are also seeking to know God, you can learn to experience life to the fullest, be more of who God created you to be and learn to love God and others more deeply. We believe lasting life change happens in community with others. Together. Not perfectly, but intentionally.
                This church was very small at first—but now reaches 4000 people per week. What does this say about their message—come as you are, but don’t stay as you are? The church is willing to help you live no matter where you come from but the direction you go is with a community that cares for you.
                Many mainline churches today are having difficulty because they want people to commit to their faith practises right away. Yet the reality is that people are seeking community, a support system to help them through the various stages of life and to know people as they are- imperfect yet caring; sinners who repent and try again, and loving others after knowing that they can and do love.
                What does “but don’t stay as you are” mean in light of reaching out to others and welcoming others to worship and to community? Is there an implied message that you will be changed? What does this mean for you?
Have you been asked to “come as you are” to a party? How did this make you feel? Under dressed/ overwhelmed or somewhere in between. Sometimes we feel intimidated by who we are when we share our sins and faults. This church in Texas, disregards this but also puts into their message that you are going to be changed if you come to their church. Is this a hope and expectation for you? That is, the Spirit of God will change you? Or are you ok just as you are?

God you call us to be in community with others. Enable us to belong and begin a strong relationship with you wherever we go. Change our hearts and change our lives in faith and with hope. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Created for Community

Created for Community

John 17:20-23- Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer

                Jesus prays for the unity of those who believe
in him throughout the ages. This is a level of unity that he and the Father have which is described as “you are in me, and I am in you—May they also be in us” I cor 6:17   Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit!”
                But this kind of unity does not come naturally- we are actually self- centred vs God centred. Sin results in the breakdown of both our divine and human relationships making us incapable of loving the way God intended.
                Even in the Christian church there is damaged relationships- 33,000 Christian denominations exist and in most cases new denominations begin when one group splits from the old as a result of dispute over doctrine, practices, sacraments and others But at the same time with the many different denominations, the fact is we serve an infinitely complex God is perfect and loving yet from our human vantage point he is also mysterious and paradoxical.
                Yet unity requires both the forgiveness of sins and the inner transformation of the Holy Spirit. It is not perfect right away by any means but it is real.  Unity is the ‘final apologetic’ that is the ultimate proof that Jesus really is God’s Son and the Saviour of the world. So we must show it! This is often what unbelievers see in Christians and they want it. So when invited into a caring accepting community of Christians, some eventually realize that our love for each other flows from our union with Jesus and he alone can heal our broken and fractured relationships. This is when this person’s life changes.
But what is this relationship building- community effectiveness? Evangelism—the sharing of the gospel message verbally and by demonstrating it in order to create the loving Christian community that non-Christians crave as much as we do.
Evangelism has been often seen in a negative light because of some practises demonstrated by some groups of Christians. Today’s evangelism often uses social media. What do you think about this tool as a means of reaching out to others? 
What does evangelism mean to you?

Wonderful God help us to unite our whole being in you and in doing so, show us who you are and how we might share this knowledge with others. We ask this in Jesus’ name for he is worth talking about, sharing and following his way to reach out to others. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Community and Relationships

Community and Relationships
John 17:20-23

                One day a woman asked me about churches and
what it is that holds them together in order that they do what they do. My response was simply a community of faith gathered in relationship with each other. This same woman then asked but what about the Jesus story? My simple response is that in order to live with each other in community and relationship, we learn about Jesus and his teachings of loving others. This seemed a good answer until she asked me again. When you say relationship with each other what do you mean? I then explained—people in the church are there for you when you need support not only through the changes in family life but just to have people to speak to you about who you are nd how you are growing in understanding of what it means to be an individual person created by God. We all experience different transitions in life—births, deaths, marriages, losses, and even the day to day matters of who we are. We are wives, husbands, parents, children and we are there to listen, act and respond as needed to each other.
                This woman then asked, “How much does it cost to belong?” I answered—nothing at first—but then everything because you become a part of the community and share responsibilities and receive gifts abundant. This woman is still active in her church and has professed her faith in Jesus because she found relationships and community in Jesus’ church.
                This is what I think many people are needing and are searching for but are really afraid of what it means and what it might cost. Often people come to a church because they are alone and in need of friendship, that is, a person with whom they can connect and share life. A person who listens and by mutual respect shares the ups and downs of living life. This goes with a relationship one might find with a significant other, but is always welcomed. We are spiritual beings yet need to be hugged, to have a shoulder to cry on and most of all, a person with whom one might laugh!
                Couples today often live away from their parents and extended families because of work commitments. Parents of adults with families of their own are left in the home town to continue living. Yet the church is the only organization which welcomes all ages—to be community to be a church family together. But how do we make these connections? How do we welcome new people into our churches and open the circle we call family with which we are called to care for and love? We do it through love knowing that community matters because we were designed to live in relationship.
                Jesus prayed for his disciples and their future impact on the world. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one.”
                Jesus calls us to be one with each other and one with God. This is the foundation of how we are and become community. We care about each other. Now we need to tell each other how much- in Jesus’ name and through the love he showed us how to share.

                Are you willing to be in this kind of community where love is shared in Jesus’ name? This is what it means to be a part of the family of God! Come let us share and be one in Christ, together!