Category Archives: Witness and Evangelism

Yet: The Compelling Surprise of Post-Election Joy

Conservative evangelical Christian reaction to the results of last week’s presidential election has ranged from shock to irritation to disappointment to a seething, sputtering anger. There have been forecasts that the US will soon repudiate democracy in favor of full-blown socialism, that the economy will collapse within months, and even that President Obama is preparing the way for the Anti-Christ.

            There is hand-wringing, gnashing of teeth, finger-pointing and talk of secession or moving to another country. The sky really is falling.  

            Now, is there cause for concern? Yes. As one wise person wrote, “the most troubling thing about representative democracy is that it is, in fact, representative of its people.” So, the people spoke at the ballot box and approved a redefinition of marriage in 4 states—emboldening new initiatives for gay marriage in at least 8 others. Two states removed criminal penalties from recreational marijuana possession. The clear demand for maintaining abortion as a fundamental right insured that millions more babies will be murdered.  

            From a moral perspective, we tipped down the slope towards moral anarchy and  away from the high ground of God-honoring holiness. This election has clearly shown that if there has been a culture war, the secularists are winning the day.  On the one hand, that forcefully clarifies the nature of the church’s mission and presence in the culture. On the other hand it is deeply troubling to anticipate where this may lead us and how it may impact lives, families and the fabric of our society.

            All this is cause for deep and serious burden on the souls of God’s people. But there is a fine line between burden and despair. And honestly, most of what I have heard or read from evangelicals has been hopeless, gospel-less despair. 

            I fear that the emotional reaction has revealed where our hope lies—and that there may be a creeping idolatry at play in our souls. Many evangelicals have lodged our hope in a vision of a certain sort of America, one where with Biblical morality is legislatively enforced, a certain and assured economic prosperity is seen as God’s blessing and broad acceptance of Christians and their values means faith can be practiced and communicated with safety.

            That world is gone—if it ever existed in the first place.

            And since the reaction of Christians has been on the same basis as the talking heads on CNN/Fox/MSNBC  – economics, politics and national identity- we are once again being seen and heard as essentially no different from any other American, except that we go to church on Sunday mornings.

            So, how do we embrace a burden, without slipping into despair? How can we be heard as gospel people in a time of great national difficulty?

            This is where the ancient prophet Habakkuk can be such a help. Habakkuk watched as his beloved nation Israel disintegrated and what he perceived to be godless opponents took over.

            So, he boldly questioned God: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry ‘violence’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity and why do you idly look at wrong?” (1:2-3) God, where are You? Why is this horrible thing happening?  And by people who will not recognize or love You like I do?

            God answers, “Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” (1:5) You wouldn’t understand if I explained it to you but this very moment is a part of My plan. I am at work right now.

            Isn’t it astonishing that the very people who loudly affirm the sovereignty of God get so bothered when He exercises it? God’s redemptive purposes are as powerfully progressing today as they were before the first Tuesday of November. But His eternal purposes do not necessarily presume the prosperity, security, supremacy, ascendancy, exceptionalism  or even existence of the United States. His purposes were well on the way before 1776!

            Habakkuk fires back: “O Lord my God, my Holy One….You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? (1:13) How can it possibly be that your sovereign plan includes the ascendancy of secular people, many who are obviously not Christian, who are morally liberal — even supporting the holocaust of abortion? This does not match God’s holy character or ways.

            So our incensed and despairing prophet says “I’m will take my stand at my watchtower and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.” (2:1) God, explain this to me where I can understand or show me how to deal with it.

            How can a lover of God even go on in this environment where the nation is going to hell in a handbasket?

            God (smiling I think) answers: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who hears it.” (2:2) Basically “Habakkuk, I’m going to say this slowly (for the slower among you) and I’m going to use a few words you can write really big so when your head and heart start spinning you’ll still be able to see it and remember.”

            “For still the vision [God’s perfect purpose] awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end-it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Behold his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous will live by his faith.”(2:2-4)

            So, here is the key. The righteous (those who have entered a relationship with God through Jesus Christ) are to live by faith. Yes, that is the very means of salvation, the way a faith-relationship with God begins. Faith trusts the gospel of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection as the power of God to rescue a sinner from certain, eternal death. (Rom.1:16-18)

            But the righteous is to live –present tense- by his faith. Faith—confidence in God, His character, ways and purposes. To use Brennan Manning’s wonderful phrase, it is “ruthless trust” in our heavenly Father.

            So, right now, in this moment, when it may feel like we are on an irreversible cultural slide; when the world feels like it is slipping away, we are to live, speak, react, relate by faith in our holy, wise, faithful, loving King.

            What does that faith look like? Does it mean we have to go underground or become glassy-eyed Stepford Christians who simply parrot “praise Jesus”? No, it first means brutal honesty about the situation and our emotions. Hear Habakkuk: “I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me.” (3:16) Where we are headed and what we may experience as a country simply terrifies me. That’s the burden.

            But gospel-driven faith doesn’t stop there, and sink into despair. Faith presses deeper. Read this slowly:

                        “Though the fig tree should not blossom,

                                    nor fruit be on the vines,

                        The produce of the olive fail

                                    and the fields yield no food,

                        The flock be cut off from the field,

                                    And there be no herd in the  stalls….”

(3:17)

            [in an agrarian culture, this is roughly equivalent to saying, “if the economy goes into full-blown depression, if the stock market fails and we fall off the fiscal cliff, if there are not the slightest signs that things will get better and it looks like the whole way if life we have known is going to disappear….]

                        “…Yet I will rejoice in the Lord

                                    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

                        God, the Lord is my strength;

                                    He makes my feet like the deer’s;

                                    He makes me tread on my high places.”

(3:18-19)

            The whole world of faith funnels through that tiny word: yet. No matter what the political, economic, cultural or moral circumstances, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. No matter the weight of the burden on my soul, the fears that grab my heart, the uncertainties that plague my days or the tears that flow down my cheeks, yet, I will take joy in God.

            There is faith in that sort of stubborn joy. There is hope in that quiet yet.

            And there are unbelievable possibilities for mission in that hopeful, gospel-drenched joy. Our mission has not been changed a flicker because of an election. If anything, the necessity for making disciples by the spread of Jesus’ gospel is even more clear.

            How are we being heard? As whiners who lost and are marginalized? As megaphones for a political party or special interest agenda? Or as a people ever more confident in our God and the promise He holds out to all peoples?         

            Quiet joy in the face of certain defeat is upside-down and unexpected in our culture. It is compelling and mysterious. If we, evangelical Christians, would begin to “live by our faith”, to share honest, burdened yet peaceful, hopeful, joyful, God-ward faith in our coffee break conversations at work or with neighbors when talk turns to politics, culture or economics, I suspect questions would be raised.

            And when they ask, we can tell them of the gospel at our heart’s core, the sweet good news of Jesus that is the hope for change for all lives, all people, all countries, for all time and eternity.

            You see, we know that no matter our now, the story God is telling is not over…yet.

A Pathway for Bread

In a talk at TED Global in 2009, British architect Carolyn Steel spoke about ‘How Food Shapes Our Cities”.  She traced how, from ancient times, cities developed in tandem with the food sources that surrounded then. There was literally an organic connection between the cities and the farms, fields, lakes and seas nearby.

            What was most interesting was that analysis of ancient city maps shows that the cities’ design was directly related to the paths that food stuffs took into the city or to where markets were originally established.   For example, the fish markets that developed near the River Thames in London were in place from the 15th century until the late 1980’s. Streets were named “Bread Street” or “Chicken Lane”, first informally and then in time the names were formalized.

            It appears that once the food paths were introduced, they simply stayed in place as the city developed around them.  There was a sort of cultural memory that locked food pathways into place. Centuries later, the memory is still there in the structure of the city, long after the fresh markets have disappeared and people now shop for their food in big box stores in sprawling suburbs.

            I wonder whether same truth may be at play with the introduction of spiritual “food” in parts of the Bible Belt like Kentucky and other strongly Christianized parts of our culture.

            Jesus identified Himself as the “bread of life” and the “living bread that came down from heaven.”  He said that anyone who ate of this bread would “never hunger” and that this bread was different from the mere manna of the wilderness that led to death.  He claimed that whoever fed on this bread, will not die, but live forever.” (John 6: 36, 48-51, 58) It’s an astonishing claim and promise.

            The gospel of Jesus comes to one person, one sinner at a time.  That one sinner turns from sin, gladly trusts and submits to Jesus and is made new. (That is what Jesus means by “eating this bread.”) Lives thus transformed by Christ bind together into churches. Over time, Christ-followers and the churches they create impact communities with the life, love and truth of Jesus.

            The path of the gospel is established in a community through the interlocking web of relationships of the followers of Christ in that community. Influence follows as the life of Christ is enfleshed there by people who are walking as Jesus walked (1 Jn. 2:6) in their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. Disciples live as Jesus and live out the gospel in a community, for the good of the community and the spread of Jesus’ fame.  When Christians are obedient and churches are healthy, the unique energy of the Holy Spirit flows in and through that community, spotlighting Jesus and doing the work of wooing, convicting, and convincing people..

              But…

            Over time, individual Christians and churches can grow stale to the things of Jesus. Faith can become centered around an appointment on Sunday mornings at the church rather than seen as the center of every aspect of life.  Religion becomes a nice part of life. Good-neighborliness, upright morals, love of family, and conservative politics can become equated with discipleship. Most people may identify with a church, whether or not they actually participate in any meaningful way. Fear of rejection or labeling may cause Christians to be hesitant to discuss matters of faith in most settings. Little by little, an unspoken assumption grows that most people must have heard the gospel and that most are in a relationship with Him.  

            When that happens, the gospel simply becomes a faded memory in a community.  The paths where it entered are still there, mostly represented by the church buildings that dot the community.  But the truth stays safely tucked inside the buildings with the already convinced while the majority of people around us drive by, scurrying  somewhere to satisfy the longings of their souls– and never give a thought to what goes on inside.

            When the gospel becomes a cultural artifact in a community, it signals that the church is on life support.  This is true in hundreds of communities across the South.

            So, what can we do? Two things, one internal and one external, come to mind.

            First, those who know Jesus must recapture a sense of the indispensability of Jesus and His gospel for our own lives. He remains the “bread of life”, who alone will satisfy the longings of the human soul.  Yes, eating His body and blood is the way to trust Him for forgiveness of sin and eternal life. But we desperately need Him in every moment of life right now –in every relationship, every decision, every temptation, every opportunity, every ordinary second of driving, spending, working, learning, resting, playing.  Until we who are Jesus’ own people recover a sense of our own desperate dependence on His all-satisfying life, it is highly unlikely that we will share that life with anyone else.

            Then we can intentionally re-establish pathways for the bread of life to enter our communities.  We can carve out fresh roads where people outside the church can begin encounter Jesus and the fullness of His gospel.  These roads will be places where people already are, but don’t expect Jesus’ people to be. The gospel will need to show up in ways that are surprising, whimsical and probably feel a little dangerous to church people.  

            These new Bread Streets will be shaped by the serving heart of the church to the needs of its community.  It will look like love for the loveless, or remembering the forgotten and left-out, or simply stepping into the mess that nobody else wants to deal with.  And all along the way, there will be opportunities to speak the reason why. We have a Savior-King who is generous, welcoming, saving, loving—and who has enough to satisfy the soul of any person.

            Christians in the Bible Belt, with all our churches and our smiling Jesus niceness,  live among thousands of men, women, students and children who are starving for Jesus. The stale crumbs of our religion will not feed them.  Only the Bread of Life will.

            Jesus is the Bread.  We simply deliver it.  

            And when we forge new pathways for this Bread into hearts of precious people of our community, we will again see those pathways shape our city — for their good and His glory.      

           

           

           

           

             

Living Like a Missionary?

One of the core values of our faith-family and a part of the description of a gospel-centered disciple of Jesus is this: we live to serve the world as missionaries.

            But what does that mean, exactly?  Well, some clarifying definitions are in order. Seeing the following as distinct and yet related in a synergistic way is crucial. Think of these as a three-legged stool of a church’s missionary identity and life

            First, the church has a mission. It is Jesus’ primary assignment to His people until He returns: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt.28:18-20) It is called Great because of who gave it and the vastness of it. It is a Commission because we are a people sent by our Risen King, empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) bearing a message of reconciling life, joy, peace, and hope (2 Cor. 5:17-21) that enables people to become more like Jesus now and live with Him forever.

            The church’s mission is disciple-making: leading sinners in all places to Jesus and the transforming good news of His saving death and resurrection life, and then helping them grow like Jesus to where they also lead sinners in all places to Jesus and the transforming good news of His saving death and resurrection life, helping them to grow like Jesus to lead sinners….Disciples of Jesus is who we are (Identity), and there is a sense in which disciple-making is all we do (mission).  

            Second the church engages in missions. There are specific activities –locally and globally – in which the church invests time, people and resources to reach and make disciples of people who do not yet know Christ. This may be what most that grew up in church think of when they hear the word.  There are missionaries sent to other places (away from “home”) to share Jesus with people there.  We pray for them, knowing that the Lord’s power is necessary. They need to be supported so, we join with others to give to special missions offerings. There are real people needs around us, so we organize mission projects in the local community. There are people in other parts of the country or around the world who need to know Jesus, so we organize mission trips for members of our congregation to go for a short time to serve.

            So, a segment (not all or even a majority) of each local church is faithful to pray for, give offerings (above our tithe) to and learn about missionaries, unreached people groups and the like. We may participate in mission projects or go on mission trips organized by our local church. And there has been a remarkable shift away from denominational dependence back towards the local church in all of these activities. All of this is important and crucial aspect of a church’s living out the mission.

            But surprisingly, it is all incomplete – and strangely hollow without the third leg of the stool:  individual Christians who live every day as missionaries.  In recent years, this has been referred to as “missional living” or in the helpful phrase Jamie Dukes uses in his powerful book, Christians are to “Live Sent” (New Hope, 2011).  That is, we live every moment, wherever we are, as a message sent from the loving heart of our heavenly Father to the people in the part of the world in which He has placed us. 

            Your relational circle (the people in your neighborhood, community, school, job, etc) is the unreached people group to whom God has sent you to love like Jesus and spread His gospel. Their language is the one you must learn to speak.  Their needs, hurts, dreams, joys, tears and questions are the stuff of your prayers.  The places you go in your ordinary life (work, school, day care, coffee shop, soccer field, grocery, bank) are the primary sphere of your mission.  This does not take away from or reduce the responsibility for the global spread of the gospel. But this is where it starts.

            What does such living look like?  Dukes provides (p.148-157) a helpful series of questions to help us consider how missional we are, how like missionaries we are actually living. May I ask you to join me in prayerfully considering each question? 

            + When you speak of church, what prepositions do you use?

                        (“Don’t use to and from and in and at when you speak of church. or other words that refer to church as a place or an event. The New Testament doesn’t. Why should we?”) 

            + When you think of missions, do you think of a missions trip to a distant  city and a service project in your own community, OR do you think of daily life among your family, neighbors and co-workers?

            + What is your common declaration about lost people around you? “Can you believe how these people act?” OR “When can you come over for dinner?”

            + Is my tendency to disengage from culture and retreat into safer, more distant Christian environments, OR is it to engage culture even amidst discomfort and danger?

            + When you hear “make disciples” do you think of a classroom OR your relationships?

            + Do you spend a lot of time wondering whether you should quit your job to surrender to ministry, OR do you simply live to minister to anyone and everyone where you are currently? 

            + When you think of a friend who needs help, do you think “I need to get him to see the pastor” OR “I wonder what I can do to help?”

            + When you think of heaven, do you think “kingdom come” OR “kingdom is here”?

                        (“The purpose of living isn’t just ‘pie in the sky by and by.’ It’s to give  people a taste of the God who came near…a glimpse of what is to come.”)

            + Do you think godliness is measured with a mirror OR within community?

                        (“In Jn. 13:34-35 Jesus told his followers they were to love one another as He had loved them, and that people watching them would know they are  learning and living His ways by their love for one another…it is a safe conclusion that without love for one another in transparent, united, mission-centered community, we cannot live sent as letters of God’s love and hope)                                       

                                    AND TOUGHEST OF ALL….

 

            + Do you have a lost friend who would actually introduce you as his or her  friend?        

            We have a mission, our church does missions, but the missing energy of Jesus’ Great Commission’s command to “make disciples of all” rests with individual disciples becoming missionaries in their everyday, ordinary lives.

What Happens If We Value Humanity?

            In a previous post, I wondered about the decline of respect for simple humanity and the impact it is having on so many aspects of our culture and of Christian ministry.  

            So, what is the alternative?

            Christians have, in many ways, struggled to express a balanced anthropology, or view of humanity.  Now to be sure, a commitment to the concept of depravity is right and true. The image of God in which we are created is distorted in us.  All human beings are rebel sinners, by nature and by choice.  Our lack of moral innocence shows up shockingly early in our lives.  There is “none righteous, no, not one”. We are marked by wickedness and selfishness, restless desires and foolish choices. There is utterly no hope for any of us to be fully human apart from the redeeming rescue of Jesus Christ.

            But….

            While the image of God is severely distorted, it has not been utterly destroyed. Isn’t this what the pro-life position vigorously affirms?  Every human being is “fearfully and wonderfully made”, purposefully shaped by the hand of the Creator, worthy of being treated with awe and dignity.

            And that doesn’t stop in the womb. The beauty and wonder of human life extends throughout all of life.  There are constant hints and reminders of the image of God in human beings.

            For instance, did you happen to catch the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics?  The costumes and sets were fanciful and strikingly original, displaying remarkable creativity that blended or blurred the lines between categories.  Colors, lighting, odd shapes and more made that event a delightful feast for the senses.

            The creativity of human beings is a reflection of their Creator. Read the first chapter of Ezekiel to get an idea of the odd creatures, unexpected shapes, colors and more that come from God.

            Or in the same vein, consider the beauty people can produce through landscaping their yards or refinishing kitchen cabinets or detailing a car or getting a new wardrobe.  Or note how often folks will point out the beauty of a sunset or a field of daisies or a cute baby or even a remodeled strip mall.

            Why? We are drawn to beauty, like an iron filing is drawn to a magnet. We appreciate it, enjoy it and want to be a part of producing it.  The beauty we pursue mimics the beauty God has already revealed in the world. 

            What caused people to drive hundreds of miles to join the candlelight vigil for the victims of the theatre shootings in Aurora, CO—when they didn’t know any of them personally? Or to rush into flood, fire and disaster zones to clean up, provide meals or just be a shoulder to cry on?

            That basic impulse towards compassion is an echo of the heart of the ‘God of all compassion”, who has a bias for people who are hurting.

            Why do people have an inner urge to elevate something to a place of ultimate meaning, to worship and engage something with abandon – even if it is falsely placed on a sports team, an entertainer, a hobby, a retirement fund, or a style?

            God has placed “eternity in the heart” of human beings.  We have a deep longing to connect and give ourselves to something beyond ourselves, and that inclination is a reminder of God’s intent for our souls.

            We express honest grief when a 7-month-old baby dies of SIDS, or a beloved grandfather ends his journey well beyond his “three-score and ten”, or when we hear another account of the anonymous (to us) hundreds dying in the civil war in Syria.

            Grief breaks our hearts because we value life so deeply.  On their most honest days, even animal rights activists and puppy-and-or-kitten-lovers admit that these human lives are of more value than any animal.

            Beyond that, there is the speechless wonder in Special Olympics athletes, in family caregivers for people with dementia, in parents who are patient with learning disabled children, in marriages that last decades, in steady work, in the elementary kids who cheered a boy named Matt Woodrum (whose left side has been twisted by cerebral palsy) to finish the 400-meter dash at his end-of-year field day (watch here—I dare you not to cry), in a preschooler’s crayon art on refrigerators, in researchers who work tirelessly for a breakthrough in a disease, in laughter over a meal with good friends, in the haunting tones of Yo-Yo Ma’s cello, in nurses in the oncology unit….

            We could go on, but you get the point.  There is common grace and awe-full loveliness in and through ordinary people.   We still get the afterglow of the wonder of the moment when “the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7)

            C. S. Lewis put it this way:

            “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.” (from The Weight of Glory)

            Now, what difference does this all of this make for Christian life and ministry, through individual Christ-followers and their gathered churches? It can adjust our attitude towards people—especially those who do not have a relationship with God.  All of the things of ordinary human life mentioned thus far could be said of pagans as well as the most committed Christians.  It seems important to be honest about the full reality of humanity: people are depraved but delightful, flawed and also lovely, sinners who are often sublime, corrupted and fascinating.  It is a staggering oxymoron, but holding the two in tension is essential to see people truly.

            Too often, we come across as if we are angry at sinners for being sinners (as if we are not). And too often, we act as if we do not really like people much at all.  

            But consider: if the humanity we see now is a flawed, corrupted, depraved, distorted version of the image of God, what is possible in a life that has been redeemed by the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19), purified for God’s own possession (Titus 2:14), reconciled to their Creator-King (Rom.5:10-11), and reborn as a “new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24)?  Human potential is not what we can imagine, but what God alone has purposed for us in Christ by His gospel.

            So, wonder at ordinary people.  Love them as they are. Enjoy hanging out with them. Clearly share the gospel of Jesus so they can become new, the person who their Creator always meant them to be for now and eternity. And rejoice.

Undiscovered

Singer-songwriters are the poets of our culture.  They use provocative language to explore the inner world of our souls and the outer edges of our experience. They help us enter mysteries, and often reveal the spiritual longings of our souls.

            So last week, my Pandora Radio mix tossed out a song by an artist that I had never heard of.  It was singer-songwriter James Morrison with his song “Undiscovered” It’s basically a love song, one of longing and hope that a relationship will finally come together. But one one five-word phrase has been running around in my head and heart from the moment I first heard it:

                                          “I’m not lost; just undiscovered.”

            Now I know this is not a song about spiritual matters. But this phrase is a fascinating way for Jesus’ people to hear the heart of far-from-God people. 

            It is true that they are spiritually lost. In other words, they are not where they are supposed to be—in a joyful, life-defining relationship with God, their Creator-King through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.  Instead of life with Jesus as the blazing center of their life’s solar system, they create a world centered on their own pleasure, intellect and sense of the world. Instead of Jesus as the North Star by which every step of life from now into eternity is guided, they wander aimlessly towards a fearful eternal destiny, utterly separate from the true beauty, joy, wonder, and meaning of God. While they may be kind, moral, creative, engaging, heroic, humane, sacrificial, and successful people, they remain from God.

            Lost for eternity. And they rarely know it.

            Loved by God, with an eternal passion. They rarely know that, either

            Now, we who are Jesus’ people are called to join the Good Shepherd in seeking for these lost ones. To make sure the lost know how precarious the state of their soul and how precious they are to God. 

            We can do that only because we were once lost and have been found. We were deathly alone in the universe until we came to know that our Creator had loved us to death so we could live.

            Jesus came to “seek and save the lost”. He sends us to the far-from-God for the same reason He was sent to us by the heavenly Father: to spread to them an honest awareness of the reality of their lostness and a clear understanding of the depth of their “loved-ness”. 

            But for the most part, we Christians don’t exactly make a heart connection with the lost people around us.  They often feel less pursued by our affection than chased by our morality. More used as a foothold to advance our agenda, than engaged in honest, face-to-face conversation.  More targeted for church involvement than genuinely liked as a person, whether they ever attend our church stuff or not.    

            Why? Perhaps some of the problem is in the way we look at far-from-God people. Somewhere along the line, we started seeing lost people as “those people”. It’s not unlike the language of unconscious racists, who meld individuals into members of a faceless, stereotypical group. We have reduced our relationships to a battle of us vs. them, we vs. they — and “they” are always a little off, morally suspect, socially disruptive, etc…

            So, now we’re back to James Morrison’s pregnant phrase. What if we thought of the lost people we are called to reach as undiscovered.  How could that make a difference?

            Consider that when something (or someone) is undiscovered…

+ there’s a promise of something wonderful just around the corner.

 + there’s something intriguing to explore, someone fascinating to know

+ there’s hope that transformational change is possible

 + there’s a dream of healing for a body, a soul, a family, a destiny

 + there are always unexpected twists along the way

 + there will be moments that require deep courage and bold faith

 + there’s an understanding that stubborn perseverance will be required

 + there’s indescribable joy when the undiscovered is finally uncovered.                       

            Apply all of those to your most frustrating relationship with a far-from-God family member, friend or acquaintance.  Yes, he or she may be spiritually lost, but they are also among those yet undiscovered by the gospel.

            How does that change your attitude?  Your prayers? Your conversations? Your patience?  Your initiative? Your faith?

            Join me in praying the Father will give us the heart to be soul explorers, seeking for the undiscovered in our world with Jesus’ gospel and the Spirit’s power.

 

            Who do you know who is undiscovered?  How could we pray with you about taking the next step towards Jesus with them this week?  

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