Checking Emotions

You see and hear it all the time. Police shows and court shows are very popular for us because we like to see what will happen. Whenever we watch these shows, or read about the news stories, we cannot take turn our eyes and ears away because we have to know how it ends. I remember the OJ trial in the 1990s. That was a huge news story that captivated America. People still talk about it today.

As we watch or read about these stories, the question inevitably comes up, “How do you answer to these charges against you? How do you plead?” Now, we pay attention to what the person says. Our system is set up to where the defendant will either say “guilty” or “not guilty.” Eventually the final verdict and sentencing will be given.

Take some time to read through today’s scripture passage. Click here to read Acts 7:1 – 8:1 CEB.

I love how Stephen does not give a direct answer. Instead, he goes on to show, using the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is the long awaited Messiah (Savior) and how it was the religious leaders who were the “stubborn” or “stiff-necked” people.

How would you respond if someone talked to you that way, how would you respond? We would be tempted to experience the same emotions. You and I would most likely get angry because another person sad bad things in front of a group of people. But, think about why you get angry.

One of the reasons we tend to get angry is because we know deep down, the person is pointing out one or more of our flaws that we try to hide because we want to appear as perfect. It is not fun to have people think of us as less than perfect. But isn’t this the exact place we fully begin to experience the transforming power of God’s grace? It is in the recognition and acceptance of the truth we are not perfect and need grace we actually experience grace.

If we are not careful, we will allow the emotions caused by our insecurities and our own pride to fester and we will end up going down a path we do not need to go down.

The leaders had Stephen stoned. This may seem like the end; but Christianity spread like a wildfire after this incident.

Click here to listen to the sermon that talks about the stoning of Stephen.

5 Reasons You Should Invite People to Worship Each Week

I am sure most of you have heard a pastor, or other church members say “invite your friends to worship (church) with you.” Why would we do this? I hear all the time people say things like, “all my friends already have a church home,” or “so and so won’t come to church with me,” or “I’ve tried and I can’t get anyone to come with me.”

One thing I am concerned about is when we allow these reasons to be the end of asking and inviting people to worship with us. When we invite someone to church, whether our friends or people we just meet, what are we doing? If we have the mindset that we want people to come to church with us so we can have more people join us, this may be projecting from our body language (and our spirit) and would be unappealing to those we desire to invite.

Here is something to consider: we go to worship, we are the church. So we should stop inviting people to come “to” church with us. Instead, we should invite people to come to worship with us to grow the Kingdom of God and invite people to experience the real presence of God within the concept of a full worshipping community.

We like to think that the Christian faith can be grown and nurtured individually; but this is not the case. The New Testament clearly shows being a Christian is also being part of a faith community that works together, through the grace of God, to work and walk with God to show and usher in the Kingdom of Heaven right where we are.

With this in mind, what are some other reasons we should invite people to come to worship with us?

Inviting others gives them another chance to hear the gospel

How do you feel about sharing your faith on a daily basis? Our society seems to look down, or have a negative viewpoint, of people sharing their opinions, especially our faith. If this describes you, having someone come to worship with you should give them a chance to hear the gospel presentation within the context of a worshipping faith community. I hope the community of faith you belong to gives people the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ each and every week.

Inviting others gets us out of our comfort zone

This is what seems, to me, to get to people more than ever. We like to live in a comfort zone and don’t do anything that pulls us out of feeling safe and comfortable. My challenge for us is to really consider how the Christian life is not supposed to live in a comfortable manner. Even when we are in sticky, uncomfortable, or even dangerous situations, we have the presence and grace of God already with us, never leaving us. This is the best and safest place we can be, in the arms of God, wrapped up in His grace and presence. Inviting someone to come to worship is a great step to getting us out of our zone of comfort zone. Why?

We invite because people might just say yes

This is a good thing to stop and think about. People just might say “YES” to the invitation to worship with you. What a good thing to think about. Now, there will be those who say no. This would be a good time to be the church (Body of Christ) in action and seek to develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with that person, demonstrating your true motive for them is to come to a meaningful relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Lunch, any group activities, or anything you can think of would be a great way to develop trust in those you wish to invite. After more trust is developed because of building a relationship, they still might say “no” to coming to worship; but they could also say “yes.”

We invite because it’s a great way to have faith conversations

Having people join you in worship is a great way to begin faith conversations. Maybe something that was said, prayed, or sung struck a cord and they just need to talk more about it. This is a great time to reinforce the concept of God’s grace and presence in their life, as well as how you have and continue to experience His grace and love daily. Remember this, it is not the pastor who can develop relationships in a meaningful way with each and every person. Pastors try to do this; but the relationship building really happens with the members of the faith community. But most importantly, Christ calls us to.

We invite because Christ call us to

This is the best reason to me. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave his disciples and followers the Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples in all nations. We get to do this on a daily basis, wherever we are. As you are on your way, and in your daily life, pray for guidance of who God is working in the heart of that the Holy Spirit is inviting you to connect with.

Inviting people to come to worship is more than just trying to “fill the pews” or “getting more members.” It is about offering Jesus Christ to the world and inviting them to come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and experience the true life and joy that is found only in Him. This is how we get to be part of God’s redemption of the world and ushering in the Kingdom of God. How awesome is that? We are invited and called to work with our creator to show others what life in Christ really is. We get to grow the Kingdom of God (because of our love for God) with each step we walk in faith.

Unheard Voices 

I am not one to engage in political or any form of attack or criticism via social media because I see too much negativity and very little building up of those who did incredibly horrible, insensitive, and just plain wrong things. It hurts when people get hurt, especially people I know because of what it is done.

I am part of the group that appears to be silent on social media, and is criticized for not “speaking out” and blasting people all over Facebook, Twitter, etc. There is truthfully many people who are getting the point across over what is happening in our communities, our cities, our nation, and the world.

One of the things that is difficult for me to witnesses is the method that others are using to try to bring about change. Changing legislation, rioting, protesting (more specifically non-peaceful), calling people hurtful things and dumping people into a large group and stereotyping. The laws can change to make people more aware of what’s going on; but this is not the way people really change. Change does not happen instantly. Some people, unfortunately never experience the change in society, in our culture, in their lifetime. It is a very noble and important task to bring attention at a national and world level for the injustices that happen each and everyday. People are shot for no reason. Racism still comes out. Blind eyes and non-helping hands are all around us. If we really look at what is wrong, we see this is really a problem of people’s hearts. This is what needs to change first and foremost.

Too often we result to name calling and threatening when a person acts a certain way. Too often we put blame in objects or the situation. Too often we try to change people by making it illegal to act a certain way. Change does not happen in this way. It is pretty much impossible to change someone by demonstrating anger toward them. If anything, I have seen people become numb, angry, stubborn and resistant to change when another person comes back and attacks.

People are murdered, theft happens, kidnappings happen because we as a people do not value human life as much as we say we do. Look at our thought process. We go from thinking that a person said or did something wrong; but then we keep focusing on that and vent to others, becoming so angry that we begin thinking that person IS evil and IS wrong. This is just a step away from hating the person / group which makes it easy to say they do not deserve to live and therefore it makes it easy for a person to come out and kill. All because human life is not valued.

We see this kind of thinking and behavior everyday. Many based their hatred on snap decisions and feelings rather than trying to look a what is going on, what is at the heart of the matter. Again, the actions and the objects get blamed and punished and we forget to see what is going on: that human life is not valued like we think it is. Our media, and social media makes this possible. Because of the 5-30 second sound bites, it makes it easy for our opinions to be sueded, mostly in a negative way. Then we can and do share the short clips and memes that do more harm.

I find it interesting, and disturbing, that the same kind of mindset we are told not to act upon in 6th grade is the same thing we do today. We get hurt, and we try to hurt other people. Hurting others does not really teach why something is wrong, rather it is retaliating for vengeance, for revenge. Revenge has never gotten complete justice; instead it seeks after retribution.

The way that I see people change is one-on-one or in small groups. I have found that most people, though there are ones who won’t and that’s something they have to work through, will listen is they feel listened to. I am not on a national stage so I don’t have a platform many others do. It seems we need to go back and follow Jesus’ example of how He worked to change the world. There were times large groups were around; but he really did it by starting one-on-one and with his small group. He challenged their hearts to experience the Kingdom of Heaven that is already here, if we open our eyes and our hearts to it. People are not changed from trying to change what is going on around them. people are changed from the inside out. Like Jesus does, we have to work with him to change a person starting with the heart. Every life matters. All people have value.

Do I do everything I can to work with Jesus to bring change in my community, which I pray spreads out to the world? I try. I am nowhere near perfect, and I know I still have biases of my own; but I praise God for the transformation he is doing in me and for the transformative work I see happening in this community. When we can build people up, instead of insulting and tearing down, God’s love and grace is able to come in. People are valued. People realize they are loved and need love. People see how they have been gifted to make a change in this world.

I know there are people who would read this and say this is not good enough. I know I could be criticized for this post in some form or fashion. My prayer is that God keeps working here, and in my heart, so we all can experience the Kingdom of Heaven here and now. God’s presence is already here. I believe God is waiting for us to stop thinking only of what is wrong and is waiting for us to join him in the true work which is the heart of the matter: the human heart. Changing this makes all the difference. Real, lasting change happens from the inside of a person first then is shown through their outward words and actions. The task is to allow Jesus Christ to work in and through us for the transformation, not fixing, of the world.