Saturday, March 8, 2014

It’s March Madness time!

For college basketball fans, this is a great time of the year. It’s time for March Madness. Major league baseball’s spring training has begun. Soon we will have the NBA playoffs the Stanley Cup, and the Masters from Augusta.  
It’s time to turn on the big screen tv, get comfy on the couch, relax, and enjoy your favorite games. What can be better?

We are great spectators.
Many of us also are great spectators in church. We sit there in our padded pews watching all the action up front. We stand up when there is an asterisk in the bulletin and sit down when there is none. We cheer on the pastor when he makes a point and squirm in our seats when he fails to score. God forgive the service that goes into overtime.
That’s our  comfort zone. We are with our own kind of people, fellow pilgrims along life’s journey. It’s comfortable, but is it good? Is it God?
Did you ever wondered why nothing much seems to happen in church? Has your church lost its excitement?
The church wasn’t created to be a holding tank for saints, waiting to meet “Up yonder in the sweet bye and bye.” The church is a called to a bigger purpose than keeping us comfortable.
Jesus gave the church the  “Great Commission.”

Go, disciple, baptize, and teach.  
[Matt 28:19-20.]

March 17 is dedicated to St. Patrick, the patron saint of “Going.” At the age of 16 Patrick was at home in England when  a band of Irish marauders kidnapped him, took him to Ireland, and sold him into slavery. Six years later he escaped and fled on a boat back to England. 
A few years later, young Patrick had a vision calling him back to Ireland. Talk about getting out of his comfort zone. Obeying God, he went back to the nation that had enslaved him. But this time he took the message of God’s love. He baptized thousands of people including some wealthy women and the sons of kings. Every day he faced imprisonment and death.

“To go,” means to leave your comfort zone, to get out of the church and interact with people who are not like us. It is a mission for the Lord.

Leaving our comfort zone can be very scary, but that’s where we will see God in action. As long as we are in control God doesn’t need to help us. But when we are helpless, God can and will move in and take over. The results will be mind blowing.

Sharing the love of God with a stranger is not easy for most people. It is especially difficult when the people are radically different from us. But Jesus calls us to GO. And as we go He can work through us. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, “A small rudder can turn a big boat as long as the boat is moving. But when it is sitting still the rudder has no affect.”

In the Gospel of John, Jesus was on His way from Jerusalem to Galilee. Tired and needing rest, He stopped at Jacob’s well while His disciples went into Schecham to fetch food and drink. You know the story. A Samaritan woman comes along, Jesus asks her for a drink, and they dialogue for a while. Jesus knows her heart and shares the “Good News” with her in an interesting way. She believes and GOES into town to tell her story to everyone there. She left her comfort zone. The townspeople came out to meet this Jesus, and they also believe.
When the disciples came back with food and drink they were amazed that Jesus was no longer hungry, tired, or thirsty. He told them,

 "My food, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” 

Step one of the Great Commission is, “To go.” We don’t have to know the Bible or be able to speak clearly. All it takes is to know God’s love and to share it with others. When we go out of the church and share God’s love, God shows up and does wonderful things. Church then becomes alive and exciting.
Pastor Steve Sjogren built a 7,000 member church from scratch by sharing God’s love in practical ways. He taught his people to give away free sodas, cut peoples lawns, wash cars, and wash public restrooms. There was never a charge, only a simple note saying, “God loves you.”

As they shared God’s love in practical ways, they witnessed the Lord moving on the people they served. The rapid growth of his church resulted mostly from the members excitement watching God do amazing things when they left their comfort zones.  It changed them. 

Rita and I recently watched the video “Father of Lights” produced and narrated by Darren Wilson. It is a documentary about believers stepping out of their comfort zones and taking the light of God into dark places. The camera rolled as a drug lord in Chicago gave his life to the Jesus after God spoke to him through a person who had left his comfort zone. The movie showed Muslim leaders in Jerusalem, healed and then taking the camera crew and evangelists into the forbidden “Dome of the Rock.” In India, Ravi prayed each morning for God’s assignment that day. Wilson and his camera crew followed Ravi as he carried out his assignments. One day, Ravi with the crew filming, went out to challenge a witch doctor who had cursed a Christian pastor and his family. They had all died suddenly after being cursed.  This time it was the witch doctor who lost.

As we go out, our assignments from God may might not be as dramatic, but He Lord is calling each of us to go.

As you go “Open your eyes and look at the fields. They are ripe for harvest.” 


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