Tag Archives: servant

Christian version of “g” factor

Pastoring is still such a new experience and adjustments. Twenty-nine years in the military, twenty years in corporations, I know the phrase has gotten kind of trite, but really, failure wasn’t an option. Failure happened, but you worked to find alternatives, to minimize the impact of failure. There just doesn’t seem to be that sort of dedication in the average, even above average Christian, pastor or laity for that matter. Rich Karlgaard is a great writer for Forbes and his article “Smarts in Business is not about IQ”, is right on the mark. (Forbes Magazine  December 13, 2013 p 46)

I don’t know if it’s an excuse or a genuine fear, but Christian’s usual cop-out is “I don’t know enough to talk to other people about Jesus.” It’s not really about what you know, the average person isn’t going to ask you technical questions, the Bible, it is about relationship, staying in touch, being tenacious.  You’re tough and tenacious at the office, why can’t we be the same when we are talking to someone about the Lord of your life, your Savior?

“The smartest people in business are not those who have the highest g; they are those who regularly put themselves in situations requiring grit. These acts of courage accelerate learning through adaptation.”

It’s the old ‘you only learn by doing’ philosophy. Be honest, you see situations where you should be talking to someone about Jesus and then avoid getting involved. Witnessing requires a level of comfort and the only way you will be comfortable is by looking for the opportunities and jumping in, I assure you no one is going to bite you. It’s not a works thing, it’s not required for you to be saved. But Scripture tells us that we will be known by our fruits, seems to me the average Christian’s fruits on display to the world is “run away!!”. How does that show the world our devotion to Jesus?

Karlgaard’s observation is a challenge to us to jump into the fray and be less concerned about our precious dignity and more concerned about how the Holy Spirit is working through us: “By facing up to the task of making a call, frequent callers put themselves on a faster learning curve. They discover more rapidly what works and what doesn’t. They’re quicker to learn techniques that overcome rejection. Thus, their success yield will improve…The act of making lots of calls also helps a person learn self-discipline and understand the rewards of delayed gratification.”

Yes, it is all about the Holy Spirit and what He does. We can’t talk someone into the Kingdom, we can’t by our own power be saved. But we can be faithful, we can trust what the Holy Spirit is doing with us in relation to someone else. This is the most important aspect of someone’s existence, eternal salvation. Care enough about them to trust the Spirit’s leading and then know that your reward waits for you when the Father says to you “…well done good and faithful servant You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” (Matt 25:21). Let’s talk about it Wednesday morning 10am at First St Johns, mid-week Bible study Coffee Break. 140 W King St, park right behind the church.

Questions can often only be answered by doing and not fussing.

Having been a still, relatively, recent seminary graduate, Master of Divinity (2010 – Concordia Seminary St Louis, Mo.), I think I can comment with some authority on Henry Blackaby’s comment”…merely ‘talking about the Christian pilgrimage is not sufficient. We must actually set out on the journey! We can spend many hours debating and discussing issues related to the Chritian life, but this means little if we never actually step out and follow Christ!” (“Experiencing God day by day” p 24). Yea and amen, it doesn’t just apply to seminary students, although it seemed as if too many thought that ministry was all about sitting around thinking great thoughts and then on Sunday morning coming down to dispense their great wisdom. Yea, well neither one applies to anyone that I met, and I think that after 4 years of actual ministry (my anniversary was this past August), I think I can say with some authority that I didn’t meet any students that had many, if any great thoughts.
The same can be said for many who have spent years, decades in the church. Sure we are to study Scripture, right up until they are throwing dirt on our face, but as Blackaby writes “Christianity is not a set of teachings to understand. It is a Person to follow. As he walked with Jesus, Andrew watched Jesus heal the sick, teach God’s wisdom, and demonstrate God’s power. Andrew not only learned ‘about’ God; he actually experienced Him!”
OK, point taken Christianity is about being a disciple, unless you are in unusual circumstances, discipling means being taught by another person and teaching another person, at the same time. While also continuing to study and be encouraged by Scripture.
I disagree that “Christianity is not a set of teachings to understand…” Yea, it really is, you always have Jesus and He will disciple you, but there may be unusual times when you just have Scripture and no one to disciple, be discipled by. Certainly we turn in prayer to God and are guided by the Holy Spirit. But point taken, bottom line being a Christian is being in relation with Jesus.
In that discipling relationship there will no doubt be questions. Certainly it is our nature to have our questions answered before we start out. In the Coast Guard you had these guys who had to have every question answered before they got underway, generally they just got shoved out the door. You can stand around talking it to death or you can get underway, get on scene, and you will get answers and rely on your training, experience and greater minds at the station to address the situation. In the meantime, yapping about it at the station and instead of getting there produces very little.
In my Christian walk it has been uncanny how many times the answers have come while I was in the process. Sometimes they wouldn’t come until after you were settled in the lane you were guided to travel and realize that the only way those questions could have been answered was to actually follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and play it out. I’ve had many experiences of looking back and thinking “ohhhh, that’s how that was supposed to be, that’s so cool, I would have never have thought that.” Like it or not, the Holy Spirit is going to do it much better than you and in a way that often just leaves you in awe. “I would never have done it that way.”
Despite what you think, you are not entitled to answers to everything, often the whole point is for you to get underway and the answers come. Your growth comes in being guided by the Spirit, getting answers on the way and it’s the only way it could have happened.
Many think that they have a “choice”, well yea, the right way (God’s way) or the wrong way (your way). Some people like to go to God with an attitude of; “You answer all my questions, give me your pitch and then I”ll think it over and get back to you.” As if God’s Son is some kind of vacuum cleaner salesman.
Blackaby suggests that Jesus might say, ‘Put on your shoes, step out onto the road and follow Me.’ As you walk daily with Him, Jesus will answer your questions, and you will discover far more than you even knew to ask.”
Get off your high horse, listen, quit quibbling. There are no better offers and when you really submit yourself to God and trust in His Word instead of listening to your own, often, pompous nonsense, you will find that you really do understand, and that you aren’t even close to really understanding. That you realize you don’t need to know everything. You can trust Jesus and His Lordship and you can get on with what you need to do.

Our identity is in Jesus, not in our job title/description

AJ Sherrill is the pastor of Trinity Grace Church in Manhattan, NY. In an earlier post I wrote about New York City being the unhappiest metropolitan area in the country. I haven’t seen any research, but NYC is the hub of those who seek to make their fortune. Let’s face it only so many are going to do that, the vast majority are going to fall short. When you’ve staked everything on achieving what only a few will realize, the result will usually be unhappiness, or however else you want to characterize the despondency associated with “failure”.
May sound a little harsh and I’m not saying that is my perception, but it is the perception of many in the world, particularly those people that supposedly “matter”. When we have staked everything on our “success”, it leaves very little room for anything else in our life; family, integrity, self-fulfillment, God.
Pastor Sherrill quotes Abraham Kuyper (Leadership Journal Summer 2014 p84), “the 20th century Dutch journalist, theologian and politician. His famous proclamation, ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!” “…is the reminder that should resound in the ears of every Christian in the workforce.”
Let’s face it, that is not the case. As soon as most of us hit the threshold at church, we have to beat the Baptists to “Country Buffet”, get home for football and then try to relaxe before we get back to the “real” world on Monday. Hey I’m not disputing that you have to work hard and focus on your career. I’ve never said you shouldn’t, but when you become so immersed, may I even say obsessed, you lose your identity in the Body of Christ and you become your job title/description. “…far too many are over-identified with their work as the context to achieve identity rather than express identity. When our identities are not settled in Christ, we subconsciously put them up for negotiation – and that negotiation is usually based on our ‘success’ or ‘failure’ we experience in the marketplace. Am I good enough? Is my future secure?”
When we lose our identity to anything/one, other than Christ we are already at risk to being dragged back into the cares and temptations of the world. We trust in God’s providence and sovereignty in our life, not how the workplace treats us. My experience in the corporate and military world has been that as a Christian you’re often not going to be treated “fairly”. It’s not necessarily an issue of success and failure, you may be marginalized because of your faith. So what does that mean? You give up? As Pastor Sherrill points out: “Unitl Christians in the workforce find freedom from over-identification they will only view work as meaning, while never getting around to approaching work as mission.” This is Christian integrity, I’m certainly not telling you can’t be all you can be in your vocation, you should be. As I’ve discussed before working for your “master” as if you are working for Christ. But to maintain your integrity, your identification has to be in Christ. You can be a good/great Indian chief, but being a great Indian chief in Jesus is what we strive for.
Pastor Sherrill quotes Richard Rohr: “When you get your ‘Who am I/” question right, all the ‘What should I do’ questions (begin to) take care of themselves.” Perhaps in terms of how I can be a great Indian chief for Jesus, instead of just great for my own fame, fortune and personal fulfillment.
This is a challenge we face in all our areas of life, how to be a Christian, father, husband, child, employee, citizen, but the workplace is what dominates so much of our life and is probably the area that encourages us to shed our Christian identity. It’s as if the workplace is not what Kuyper says, Jesus only can claim ‘mine’ to the time outside of the office. Of course that erosion continues to the point where we only see ourselves as Christians on Sunday morning and for only a few hours then. Jesus lived a life of integrity and sacrifice. What we presume to offer back two, maybe three hours at a church where we think we should be comfortable and entertained. This is for the men, speaking to you I’d like to say this is not being the strong man of integrity. This is an attitude of entitlement and frankly presuming to think that it’s all about you and that you are in control. If you are at any point of being a mature man, you know that you are not really in control. When we know that God is in control, that He does love us, but He also expects us to step up and be strong, courageous, and to act with Christian integrity in all of the areas of our lives. There is no integrity in the attitude where you throw Jesus some crumbs, expecting that it really results in your comfort and pleasure, especially when we remember what He did for us.
Let’s keep talking about it, Wednesday mornings 10 am at First St Johns, we have coffee and some sort of pastry, good discussion, we’re still going through Dr Gene Veith’s book, and a way to break up the week to be built up and restored in Jesus. 140 W King St, park right behind the church.

Wired by God, for God

Interesting how you can hear of the Higgs-Boson particle (yeah, I know what?). The so-called God particle from a year ago, published all over until reporters and editors found out what it really meant, then not so much yada-yada.
But when genuine scientific findings are made confirming over and over how, not only are we designed, but how the entire universe is designed, well that doesn’t get any newspaper ink.
Case in point, the recent “Leadership Journal” (Summer 2014) which goes into detail as to how our brains can be or are wired to be receptive to God.

Leadership Journal develops this rather extensively and it goes into some heavy detail, which I will attempt to lighten. I’m going to do a few blogs on this so that I can digest it betterand hopefully spew it out to you somewhat intelligentyl . I would like to add that if you are in ministry or any kind of lay leadership you really should get Leadership Journal it’s just an outstanding publication.

John Ortberg points out that our brains are wired so that “mostly our behavior does not consist of a series of conscious choices. Mostly, our behavior is governed by habit.” (p 21)
We usually think in terms of “bad habits”, which we all have much too much of. Ortberg points out: “Habits are enormously freeing. They are what allows my body to be driving my car while my mind is planning next week’s sermon.” Yea, right, texting on my phone, shaving, applying makeup, eating a big sloppy burger (not my imagination, I’ve seen each in real life). Point is, there is so much we do in life that doesn’t require us having to make a deliberate action, much of what we do is habit and happens because of conditioning.
“But sin gets into our habits. “…what Paul meant when he talked about sin being ‘in our members.’ He was talking about human beings as embodied creatures – sin is in the habitual patterns that govern what our hands reach to and where our eyes look and words our mouths say. Habits are in our neural pathways. And sin gets in our habits. So sin gets in our neurons.” (p 21)

Quoting St Paul “…there is nothing good in our sinful nature.” Ya, I know a little harsh, but let’s face it, we have developed a lot of bad habits. “Paul is a brilliant student of human life who knows that evil, deceit, arrogance, greed, envy and racism have become ‘second nature’ to us all.” Harsh? Ya, but true. Even our best qualities when you hold them up to the perfection of our God, then ya, our “bad” habits are much more obvious and our good habits, at best, ho hum.

Ortberg notes that our willpower is just not going to cut it. Let’s face it, we try to do it alone and usually we are back to the races. “…acquiring new habits through which we can receive power from God to do what to do what willpower never could.”

Ortberg’s next line is compelling because there has been a long standing belief that the physical really doesn’t affect the spiritual. The physical is certainly about the mind. Is there really any doubt that when we abuse our body it affects our mind. I doubt that anyone would seriously question that physical abuse, bad diet, drugs, lack of exercise, affects the mind, certainly affects the chemical composition of the mind. Couldn’t the physical/mental attributes of the mind, if they are abused, affect our spiritual outlook? Trying to separate the physical/mental/spiritual is just a false paradigm. As Ortberg notes: ” Neuroscience has helped to show the error of any spirituality that divorces our spiritual life from our bodies.”

I say AMEN! There are many belief systems that try to make it just about the spirit, that the body is just a husk. POPPYCOCK. Gnosticism, an heretical Christian belief tries to make the material evil, the spiritual, as it were, good. That when the spiritual separates from the physical then it will be hunky-dorey. That attitude has infused itself through orthodox Christianity. the image of spirit beings sitting on clouds in heaven. Certainly physical beings can’t sit on clouds, but the question is; is heaven the end? Eastern religions believe that once we get it right, we leave the evil of the bodily and the material world and then (yippee, skippee), we become some sort of ethereal being and then drop into the ocean of all ethereal beings where our ethereality (no I doubt seriously that’s a real word) merges us with the universe. Again, yippee, skippee.

Why the gratuitous sarcasm? God created the material and He pronounced it good. This also includes our body which He intended to be perfect, incorruptible and eternal. Where else could it have come from? Unless the rapture happens tomorrow, our body will give out and we will, in the spiritual, be in the presence of the Lord. But again, is that the end? No! Not by a long shot. At the final judgment we will all be restored to physical bodies, those who are in Christ, the “Lamb’s Book of Life” will proceed from the judgment to the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem will be the world as God had intended. No doubt, it will be much like the world that we left, but it will be restored to perfection, it will be familiar but it will be restored to a perfection that we can’t imagine. Certainly we will be restored to our physical bodies, again, the way they were intended to be before we messed them up with our sin. These bodies will be strong, healthy, immune to injury or damage. We were made by God to be both physical/mental/spiritual and we will be restored to eternity perfectly in all aspects of our being.

In the meantime we will continue to discuss how the physical/mental changes our spiritual outlook as we continue to affect the mental by our habits old and bad or new and good. OK, at least hopefully.

 

Serious ministry in a serious urban setting Pastor Charles Wildner

I’m a pastor of an inner-city church. In this day and age of suburban “campus” type churches, the old, truly magnificent, awe-inspiring churches located in the inner city are often considered to be an anachronism. Inner-city ministry is seen more in terms of a social service agency, and an inner city church is either a career ender in ministry or a stop on to the wealthier, more active, with a much larger membership suburban church.

Yea, well, we know that most popular perceptions are bupkus, based more on the same perception that made someone the cool kid in school and less on what the real substance is. I am proud to be the pastor of one of those awe-inspiring inner-city churches, every time I walk into the sanctuary I can’t help but think, “wow, I get to be the pastor of this church”. I can see the steeple about three blocks away from where I drive in the morning. It never fails to inspire me and is inspiration that the average suburban church pastor will never get to feel. I go out of my way to show anyone, who is willing (ok, sometimes not so willing), the sanctuary and it makes my day to hear them kind of whoosh and then let out a soft, reverential “wow”, when they step into the sanctuary. Frankly I find it hard to understand why on earth anyone would want to go to any other kind of church. the people of First St Johns have done a magnificent job of maintaining this inspiring place of worship to the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for almost 145 years. Please don’t assume that I think it’s all about the building, it is not. It is about those people who make up the Body of Christ. You can have great Christian disciples who meet in a bowling alley, and you have a great church. I just happen to be fortunate to have both, a great group of people who are true disciples of Christ and who maintain a great building that truly honors God and evokes true reverence from those who serve the Lord there.

This isn’t about just a tribute to a great old church and people who are such great servants of the Lord. It’s also to recognize that these kinds of churches are where ministry really and regularly happens. There is hardly a day that goes by when I don’t encounter someone who is dealing with some serious issue in their life. Often it’s some kind of substance abuse, too often the problems of the people I encounter are self-inflicted.  Frankly it’s tough to deal with those people, all they really want is for you to hand over money, we’re about 100 yards up the street from the city bus station and the first “institution” people going to or from the bus station encounter. You can imagine the possibilities, I get a lot of people who need money for a “bus pass”. Hey I take the opportunity to talk to them about their life and Jesus, the usual reaction is not spoken, but is clearly “I’m not interested in that, just hand over some money so I can buy booze or drugs.” When that doesn’t happen I usually get a sneer of disgust suggesting that I just don’t get it.

Well there is one pastor that gets it better than me and has been getting it for over thirty years. York, Pa. is a small city, it has typical urban problems, but on the scale of a small city. Rev Charles Wildner is the pastor of St Thomas’ Lutheran Church in Baltimore, Md. I say that so you don’t confuse it with St Thomas’ in the Carribean, I assure you after one visit you won’t be confused. I was raised in and we raised our children in a pretty tough city outside of Boston, Ma. I think that I’m fairly hard to impress but when we took a field trip from First St Johns to St Thomas’ earlier this year, I was impressed, not in a positive way. While First St Johns contrasts sharply with it’s downtown neighborhood, can’t really say the same about St Thomas’. It is a very degenerated neighborhood and while the church definitely stands out from the rest of the neighborhood, you can tell that it is a struggle to maintain the structure. The article I have from Lutherans Engage the World ( Erik Lunsford May-June 2014 pp 4-6) observes’ “trash blows across the street while prostitutes huddle on the corner. As he walks inside, Wlidner sighs and shakes his head; Someone has stolen the couch cushions again.” I didn’t notice the prostitutes when we were there, but there were definitely guys who I can only assume were soliciting business for their drug distribution enterprise.

While most city churches like his are a thing of the past and he told of many local churches that have closed during his pastorate, leaving him and the store front “ministries” as the only groups left ministering to those in the inner-city. One thing I tell people is that if they want to do real Christian ministry, do real Christian discipling, there is no place like an inner-city church. Pastor Wildner certainly lives that, I have my challenges to deal with, but I tip my hat to Pastor Wildner, I would describe him as a Lutheran Mother Theresa. Yea more than a little hyperbolic, but wow the man does some serious ministry in a serious area, he’s done it for thirty years and still has a congregation that can reach out and serve those around him.

I’m in the same district as Wildner, York is only 50 miles north of Baltimore, but the first time I heard of him was at an urban ministry conference at the seminary in Fort Wayne, In. I had to go all the way to Fort Wayne to meet this guy. When I heard his presentation I was hooked. Wow this guy pastors a church in this setting doing what he does with what he has to work with, you sir are my hero! Well I followed him around like a puppy dog for a couple of days to pick up his words of wisdom. He takes worship seriously, he takes his role as pastor seriously, I haven’t seen him without a Roman collar and sometimes even a cassock. Remember the scene in The Graduate when the man leans over to Dustin Hoffman and whispers “plastics”. In the same sense Pastor Wildner says to me Setting Three. This is the most liturgical, formal of the five recognized worship settings in our hymnal. He pastors in an area where the regular color of life is, at best, gray. Day in and day out is all the same, there is little excitement, little charm in the gritty inner city. He makes church special for those whose lives have very little “special”. He makes Jesus special to people who really don’t have anyone to think of as special, lots of people who might not even really have any family, they have a family in Christ at St Thomas’.

It’s not just worship, he regularly has people from the congregation at his home which is close by to the church. Let’s just say that for most of these people, dinner at the pastor’s house, is a big event. They somehow manage to maintain a halfway house. it sure ain’t much but for at least one of the guys who lives there (he talked to us during his visit) it is a roof, food and a chance to also rebuild his life by helping to run this house. There is a Food Bank, there is a ministry to the blind, there is a clothing locker. People in the neighborhood might not have much, but at St Thomas’ they can find something to wear and something to eat. My takeaway? Get serious about worship, about the liturgy, why we worship that way and how to impress those reasons on those in worship. Try to find ways to better serve those truly in need. Don’t misunderstand the folks at First St Johns do a lot of servant ministry; a really good foodbank, an unemployment support group, supports a family group, Spanish-speaking outreach, NA and AA groups, martial arts, Grief Share, police chaplaincy, prayer outreaches and others. But if a resource starved church in the middle of one of Baltimore’s toughest area can support a ministry like a half-way house, or providing transportation, well it inspires me to keep looking to step up our outreaches. It also inspires me to raise the level of my personal image, making more of an attempt to appear pastoral and serious about it. To raise worship to a more serious, profound level, in order for people who often do deal with real life and death, to have worship that really transports them into the presence Lord.

If anyone is so inclined, I would encourage you to provide whatever support you can to St Thomas’, I will be more than happy to provide address, phone, contact, Pastor Wildner’s ministry is worthy to be supported. I certainly will keep them in my prayers and would ask you to do so also and in the meantime, I am in awe and admiration of those, like Pastor Wildner, who are such devoted servants of our Lord Jesus Christ and who give me a role-model to strive to emulate.

100th blog

I just did my 100th blog, which is pretty neat. Appropriately enough it was sharing another’s blog to remember those who serve in our military and are in difficult, uncomfortable and even dangerous places. (I’m sorry I forgot his name, so now you have to check out the blog to get his name.) Anyway, I pray that in 100 attempts, I have made some difference, did something to truly serve my Lord Jesus Christ in someone else’s life. Some I’ve done just to have a little fun, or get something on the table, but I try to make most to make a difference for the Kingdom – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May God richly bless you.

One other quick thing I wanted to note, I’m sure it’s probably not a big deal for most of you who have been doing this longer and much better than me, but at this time people in 24 different countries, which have been from every continent, have viewed my posts. Can’t say I’ve gotten a lot of feedback, so don’t know how much they’ve been “viewing”, but I really do appreciate seeing so  many different people have at least give me a chance. Again, God bless.

Salting and Lighting your world

Salting and Lighting Your World

First ST Johns Feb 9, 2014

We Make our beginning in the Name of God the Father, and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are the salt and the light of the world said… AMEN

Are you the salt of the earth? Reminds me of that great song from Godspell, “You are the salt of the world, but if that salt has lost its flavor, it ain’t got much in it’s favor, you can’t have that fault and be the salt of the earth.” Salt and light were precious commodities back in Jesus’ time. If He was talking to us today He might ask us if we are the petroleum oil and the Amana freezer of our time. Salt and light were valuable, unlike today where, relatively speaking oil and refrigeration are relatively cheap, everyone uses oil in some form and pretty much everyone has a refrigerator/freezer in their home. Tory Borst notes: “Salt is one of those common everyday items we use without thought. We grab the shaker and shake. According to the Salt Institute (www.saltinstitute.org), in the year 2002 over a billion dollars were spent on salt in the United States alone using about 24 ½ million tons of salt.” In Jesus’ time it was more the exception than the rule that you would be able to light your home at night or you would be able to salt your food to preserve it. For the average worker, they would do their work during the day, they would get paid on that day and they would buy what they needed to eat for the rest of that day, they simply didn’t have a way to preserve food for a month, even a few days as most people have today. The phrase “he’s not worth his salt” comes from around that period, Roman soldiers would be paid in salt, if they weren’t performing their jobs properly it was said they weren’t worth the salt they were being paid.

It really goes back to a very fundamental question that we should be asking ourselves all the time. Henry Blackaby‘s devotional raised the issue and he points out what should be a constant reminder to us, are we salt, are we that preserving agent in a corrupted, degenerating world. “Your life is designed and commissioned by God to enhance a community and to preserve what is good and right.” (Henry Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 51) Origen writes: “As salt preserves meat from decaying, so also do Christ’s disciples, [that’s you and me, not just the 11 guys with Jesus, we are all Christ’s disciples], do Jesus’ disciples have a preservative effect?” That is do we simply decay and degrade along with the environment, or is there something active in us? That being the Holy Spirit. Chrysostom writing again says “The worldly are less like lamps than buckets, lacking in God, they are empty from above but full from below.” Do we want to be stretching toward what’s above instead of wallowing in what’s below? Those around us in the world deserve the same chance following the leading of the Holy Spirit and help those around you to be full from above.

Blackaby points out when we are focused on God and what He is guiding us to do, are we staying in front of God? This may be a digression, but it’s part of being a soldier of the Cross too. Do I go and worship, restrengthened, yes even rearmed in Christ. Have we been in His presence in worship, hearing the preached Word, strengthened by the Body of Christ, our brothers and sisters? If we haven’t been strengthened by the Body and Blood of Christ, can we truly be prepared to be salt to a world, that is decidedly unsalty and very corrupt and degenerate world. We are regenerated through the things that God gives us, baptism, Scripture, the preached Word and the Body and Blood. We are not only salt in the world, but we are also sufficiently armed to face the spiritual challenges that keep pushing back against everything that is Jesus. Worship, discipleship, the things that we do to serve and worship God give us our saltiness.

Blackaby asks: “How do we test the ‘saltiness’ of our life? Look at our family. Are we preserving it from the destructive influences that surround it? Examine our workplace. Are the sinful influences in our work environment being halted because we are there? Observe our community. Is it a better place because we are involved in it? What about our church?” Chromatius tells us: “Those who have been educated for heavenly wisdom ought to remain steadfast so as not to be made tasteless by the devil’s treachery.”

No one is saying that your environment is perfect, we are always going to live in a fallen world. But because of our saltiness, is the world around us being impacted? When I worked in finance and during my time on active duty, people did come to me, and they did kind of expect a little more from me, and they did want to “talk”. I was a light in my environment that people were drawn to. Chromatius again, says: “ Jesus’ disciples are called the light of the world because they are illumined by One who is the true and eternal light.” If we are in Christ, we cannot help but project His light. No, it’s not like a lighthouse, “hey look at Driskell over in his cube, all lit up”, but it’s a supernatural radiance that the Holy Spirit produces in you that people look for guidance like sailors looking at a lighthouse. I’m not saying that I was just all that, but it seems that I did make an impact. Many of us, who expect whiz-bang results, I can’t say my results were whiz-bang, but I can say that God was using me. Let’s make it a constant recheck, are we affecting our environment for Christ in the way the Holy Spirit is leading us to impact?

Kevin Haug, who labels himself a Lutheran preacher in Texas told a story written by Warren Hudson of Ontario, Canada. He writes, “One night at the end of a special Saturday night worship service a thunderstorm unleashed a bolt of lightning that plunged the church into darkness.” With the congregation seated in total darkness, the pastor felt his way to the kitchen to find some candles. The pastor handed out the candles to everyone present. Persons lit their candles in much the same way as many churches do on Christmas Eve, each person lighting the candle of the person next to them. The worshipers then made their way through the church’s winding hallways to the front door.
“Peering out, we could see the rain coming down in sheets,” Warren remembers. With traffic snarled, people were running for the nearest shelter. Looking around they realized that the entire city was in darkness. “There in the darkness we stood,” Warren writes, “a little band of Christians, each clutching a light, not sure whether to venture out into the storm or stay inside the church in hopes that the storm would soon blow over.”
Isn’t this an appropriate analogy for many of us in the church? We know there is a world out there enshrouded in darkness. A world out there that is bland and in need of spice. Yet, what do we do about it? Do we face the storm and shine our light? Do we add some spice to the world?”

You really can light up your environment and make it a lot more interesting, a lot more compelling and yes, a lot more challenging. But once you are hooked on jumping in and challenging, not in an arrogant way, or obnoxious, but in a compelling way and in a loving way, showing to others the love of Christ. It is exhilarating, you can’t see it, but as Jesus tells us: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This isn’t to brag on yourself, but by letting your light shine, seeing what God does through you, You glorify God and others see you being glorified by God. God initiates, He raises you up to be salt and light, you become that to others and by virtue of what you’ve done God is glorified to all. It truly is amazing that by being salt and light God continues to raise us up, raise others through us and justly and deservedly brings glory to Himself.

Spend some time this week, get out your journal, I know all of you contribute so much to your church, your family, your associates, but do they see how God is taking something so ordinary as salt and light and using it to His glory, by glorifying you and turning others to Him through you? How can you help others to know that the true source of your spiciness and light is our Father in heaven?

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

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