Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Body of Christ

Tony Piantine wrote a great blog a couple of days ago about the Body of Christ and what it should look like. You should read it if you haven't already. I posted a comment to him that I want to highlight.

We had a great service in church this past Sunday and a great time at the altar. As I looked at those who came, I saw people from all strata of society coming to meet Jesus. It was a great reminder to me of what the Kingdom of God really looks like. And no matter what our background, we come on equal footing to the cross. "For all have sinned" and the cross welcomes "whosoever will" -- and so must the church.

We are called to go to the "highways and byways" of life and compel them to come. God help us to see the "field" as well as the "church" for what it really is. As Jesus said, "look around you, for the field is truly ripe for the harvest". Let's do it church. The time is now! Up North Wisdom issues the challenge: Let's harvest the entire field.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Effective Or Great?

I heard a discussion on ESPN Sports a few days ago about a certain college basketball player named Tyler Hansbrough who plays for the University of North Carolina. He is a senior and has been their number one player. The discussion was among sports writers who were debating whether or not Tyler was really good enough to make it big in professional basketball. Some felt he was and some felt he wasn't. In other words, was he a great player?

The writers decided to ask Bobby Knight, a retired college coach who has won more basketball games than any other division one coach. He is outspoken and has a lot of experience and wisdom when it comes to evaluating college basketball talent. They asked him how good he thought Hansbrough would be in the Pros.

Knight commented that he felt that Hansbrough was not a "great" player but an "effective" player. At first it seemed like a negative response. Then he went on to say that he would much rather have an effective player on his team rather than a so-called great player. He went on to explain that an effective player is smart, knows the value of teamwork, plays offense and defense well, isn't concerned about getting "star" status, and is very teachable. In other words, a player who doesn't think he is so good that nobody can tell him how to play better. Knight said Hansbrough would be the first player he would draft.

I thought about that a lot. Does God want so-called "great" Christians -- those who see themselves as "stars"; or is He looking for workers who want to serve without complaint and aren't concerned about constant recognition? Friends, nothing makes a pastor's heart so glad as having people who say they will serve wherever needed - wherever it is felt they can be effectively used. There are no superstars in God's Kingdom: no sports stars, no rock stars no media stars. In God's Kingdom, the word "great" is used for those who are the most effective "servants". Jesus said it Himself in Mark 9:35 after his followers were arguing about which one was the greatest. Jesus said: "Whoever wants to be first (the greatest) must take last place and be the servant of everyone else."

Up North Wisdom says that goes against our societies way of doing business but it must not go against the church's methods of doing Kingdom business. Let's make a commitment that with God's help, we will be "great" in our work for Him. And like Bobby Knight said, let's put effectiveness ahead of stardom.

The Kingdom's employment sign is out: Wanted -- Servants.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Mile Wide And An Inch Deep

A mile wide and an inch deep talks about shallowness and that's something we all want to avoid, right? Jesus is looking for followers and not fans. Fans tend to be a mile wide and an inch deep. Any given Sunday in the fall at Lambeau Field there will be several thousands of fans who tend to be a mile wide and an inch deep. Crowds can be fickle, can they not? They roar with approval one minute and thunder with anger the very next minute.

On that first Palm Sunday, there were plenty of fans. There were shouts of "Hallelujah" and "Hosanna" as Jesus entered Jerusalem. The crowd loudly hailed Him as a public hero shouting "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord". Amazingly, just a few days later, many of that same crowd were shouting "Crucify him!" Wow!

Therein lies the difference between fans and followers. Fans lack commitment and turn aside for the slightest excuses. Followers commit to the long run no matter what the circumstances. Jerusalem had both on that Palm Sunday and we have both today. Fans cheer loudly when everything is going their way, but when the time comes to make the commitment, where are they? The fans were there at Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem but where were they a few days later at the place of the cross when Jesus was being crucified? The closer to the cross Jesus got, the fewer the followers there were. Here are some differences between fans and followers:

1. Fans focus on personal comfort and followers focus on commitment. In other words, if Christianity makes me feel good, fine. If not, forget it. Commitment says, "Jesus, though all else forsake you, I will never turn my back on you."

2. Fans want regular blessings and followers commit to disciplined living. For fans, it's "provide everything I want and I'll really serve the Lord. Followers say, " In all things, I know God is working out His will and I will serve Him in any and all circumstances.

There were some in that street, that first Palm Sunday, who were followers. They listened to His teaching and accompanied Him to the place of prayer. Yes, for a short time they stumbled and for a time they doubted, but they were true followers. They obeyed by waiting and praying and after they received the infilling of the Holy Spirit, they spent the remainder of their lives getting closer to God and spreading His Word wherever they went. Up North Wisdom asks, "How about you, friend? Let's commit to being faithful followers and not fickle fans." The best is yet to come! Believe it. Have a blessed Easter.