Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Welcome or Acceptance??

           When I was growing up, I played Little League baseball from age 8 to 12. When I was nine, I was placed on a team called the Cardinals. We were a pretty good team and always competed for the league championship. We went 14-1 when for in both of my last two seasons.
            There were many kids from different walks of life, but it did not seem to matter. Once we put that uniform on we were all Cardinals. There were guys that I really like and others not so much. But, again, that did not matter. We were a solid team. If you messed with one of us, you messed with all of us.
            I remember going to the lunchroom as school and being waved over by kids that were not in my class but were on my team. Even the ones that I did not like so much would want me to sit by them, and I usually did. The camaraderie extended well beyond the things that we did not like about each other.
            We accepted each other, warts and all, because we were Cardinals. It was a bond that reached beyond social and economic barriers. It did not even matter if you played in every game or sat on the bench most of the time. You were still a Cardinal and were welcomed without question to any group gathering.
            The real question is what team are we on today, right now? Who is the coach that is running the plays in our lives? We should all be on the Jesus team. The Bible, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God should be making the calls in our lives. But too often that is not the case.
            When a guest walks in the door of our building, are they accepted beyond social and economic barriers? Do they feel welcome by everyone on team Jesus? We know for a fact that Jesus wants them on His team. So when our guests do arrive, are they treated like royalty? Do they get the feeling that they can belong to the group, the whole group?
            Each person that walks through our doors should be tired by the end of service from shaking hands, giving out facts about their lives. They should be overwhelmed by the love and graciousness shown by our members of the Jesus team. When they do finally walk out that door, I want them to be thinking, “They are truly glad that I came. This is somewhere where I can fit in and belong, in spite of my warts. They really want me here. I am coming back!”
            Ask yourself honestly, “Is that how each and every guest that walks into our building feels?” Or do they get a big dose of, “How are ya? Fine? I am fine to. See ya!”
            IF we are to grow as a body and increase the Kingdom for the glory of God, we must leave each precious soul that walks through our doors with an overwhelming sense of welcome and joy. What can we do specifically to make that happen?
            Let me KNOW!!!!

Tough Sayings...

            There’s a question that I have that has been bothering me for a while. It has to do with a lot of the hard sayings of Jesus – the sayings like “pick of your cross and follow me,” or “whoever wants to save his life must lose it,” or “if you are to be my disciple you must hate your father and mother.” We often end to gloss over a lot of these sayings either because we do not understand them or the impact they would have on our lives is too radical. It would cause us to break way out of our comfort zone.
            My question is: How much of the New Testament do we tend to ignore? These are the saying of the Messiah. Why do they not carry much more weight than a passing glance? Are they too confusing to deal with or is the real problem simply that we do not want to? It is hard being a living sacrifice day after day after day.
            When reading through the Gospels, they spell out a life well lived that we should be doing our best to imitate. How is it that our lives are so far off this course that we might ask if there is any resemblance at all? Jesus said He came not to be served but to serve. How is this reflected in our daily walks? How is this reflected in our attitude? What can we do this very day to be more like our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ? It is vital that we pick up our cross every day and follow Him. Do you understand what He means?
            I am intent on not settling for a watered-down version of Christianity. We need to use all of our efforts, our strength, our time, and our money to grow the kingdom for God. We are to be living sacrifices. When we lose our lives to servanthood now, we gain crowns of glory and gain our life in the next. By no means is this an attempt to earn salvation, but it is an appropriate response to the grace and mercy that has already been given to us.