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THIS is what Jesus would do!

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Well, life is certainly different today than it was just a few short weeks ago, isn’t it? Emotions are running high, fear and worry dominate the daily news, and Americans are dealing with the unnerving reality of being told what they can and cannot do and where they can and cannot go.

Yes…these are difficult days, are they not?

In addition to the countless businesses being forced to shut down, many churches have been forced to close their doors as well, at least temporarily. 

For those determined to conduct church services, this has necessitated a move to more creative methods of ministering to our congregations. Facebook Live, radio, YouTube videos, even ‘parking lot’ church are all examples of how churches have had to think outside the box.

Here in Florida, our Governor has included attending church services in the “essential” category, meaning that houses of worship may remain open as usual, with the caveat that worshipers stay a safe distance apart from one another.

Naturally, this decision has been received in either one of two ways. On one hand, you have those who are cautiously elated at the prospects of assembling together again for worship. Then there are those who think this was just about the worse decision that could have been made. Like most things in life, I guess it depends on which side of the fence you happen to be standing on.

While I readily admit that the current environment has thrown us all for a loop, it is a curious thing to me that so many in the church still cling to the notion that the church is the building that they attend services in.

The truth is, that is simply not correct. The church has never been a building, a temple, or a cathedral. The Church has always been you and me. It has always been those people who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

All of this gives me reason to suspect that what I’ve longed believed is true: the Church has lost its identity. We have supplanted the truth that we are the church with the error that the church is a building.

Looking at it another way, the church has adopted the very same mindset that the citizens of this country have adopted when explaining the nucleus of our government. “We The People” has been tossed aside in favor of the government being more readily identified as a conglomeration of buildings in Washington D.C.

This isn’t a mere play on words, nor is it a simple issue of semantics. This is a very important issue for several reasons, not the least of which is that the Church was never intended to become an institution, or a building.

Institutions are typically cold, lifeless, bureaucratic entities that exist (hopefully)to serve the greater good of society. This does not describe the Church that we read about throughout the New Testament!

The Church is a living extension of the Lord Himself. As such, we ought to be asking ourselves if Jesus were here today, how would he respond to the current worldwide crisis?

Would Jesus shutter himself behind locked doors and close all of the blinds? Would He sequester himself apart from every person on the planet?

Would he refuse to heal the sick out of fear on contracting COVID-19? Would he turn away the hungry mother who cannot feed her children? 

Would he turn out into the streets the struggling family who suddenly find themselves without a steady stream of income? Would he run to the store and hoard as many necessities as possible?

Well, the Good News is that Jesus is here today! He lives in each and every one of his children. So the question of WWJD, is actually a question of what are we doing to respond to this crisis?  

Since it is an established fact that you and I are the Church, the hands and feet of Jesus, and not some ornate building, wouldn’t you agree with me that right now the Church should be leading the efforts to minister to and provide for those who are in dire need today?

Wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to release some of the excess funds in our church treasuries in order to make a difference in the lives of people, the people that Jesus died for?

Perhaps you have heard about the church in Cincinnati that recently paid over $46 million dollars of medical bills for 45,000 families? Why should this be an aberration? Shouldn’t this be the norm?

As I keep reminding people whenever I can, as Christians we either are what we claim to be or we are not. There is no middle ground here. Either we are Christ’s representatives here on earth, or we are not. 

We cannot be Christian only when everything is going well in our lives. We cannot say we are followers of Christ and not follow Him wherever he may lead us…and that includes the current crisis we are experiencing.

Please understand me, I am certainly not advocating that you run straight to your nearest hospital and expose yourself to this virus. Absolutely not! We must be wise in times like these. We must follow the mandates of our local leaders. We must not do something that will prolong the crisis or put others in jeopardy.

Neither can we live in fear and torment however. We cannot be The Church if we are hiding behind closed doors. No, it is time for the true Church to arise. It is time to cast off the spirit of fear that is paralyzing our churches and leaving us incapable of serving others.

My prayer is that all of us would consider the needs of others during this time, and that we would remember that Jesus has called us for such a time as this to go forth and minister to them.  

That’s what Jesus would do.

Ron

For the lost

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What really matters to you from a Kingdom perspective?

Probing a bit further, what do your spiritual priorities look like?

I have been thinking about all of this for several months now because I have been feeling very restless in my soul. It’s almost like I am being pulled in another direction, a direction far from my comfort zone. A Holy discontent with the religious status quo. Knowing that change is forthcoming, yet not having a clue as to what/when/how. Maybe you can relate?

I know that this feeling has to do with my desire to be more personally involved in ministering to others. Organized, institutionalized church where the format never changes may work for others, but it leaves me scratching my head wondering about how impersonal it all is. It leaves me wondering if God did desire to show up some Sunday, would He need to ask to be put on our program?

I have come to realize that I have reached a crossroads in my life where I can no longer be content to just show up and throw money at a situation or problem, or toss an envelope in an offering plate. No, I want to see the faces of the people who need that money. I want to see their faces because I know that tangible things are just a part of what they really need. These unknown faces need to see the love of Jesus demonstrated.

It is this demonstration of love that people crave.

At times it seems to me that the Church is losing its passion for those on the ‘outside’, content to coddle and entertain those on the ‘inside’. It makes me wonder if we have become ‘too good’, at least in our own minds, to be bothered by those less fortunate than ourselves when we take measures to shield ourselves from lost, hurting, and desperate people.

Is this not our mission? Is this not why Jesus came, to seek and to save that which was lost? [1]

Years ago a church I attended decided that a good way to minister to the community was by having a food bank that gave away food to the needy. To be honest, more than a few of us questioned that need, wondering if these needy people actually existed in our small town. Imagine our great surprise that as the word got out, people began showing up at all hours of the day!

It was heartbreaking to see these families who had very little to eat, especially little children. And to think that prior to our starting the food bank we didn’t even know these needy people existed! Hearing their stories would always touch me deeply, and I suppose this is where I learned to love the downtrodden.

Now, places exist that are funded by churches and community service groups so the needy have a place to go to away from the church. This serves two purposes: 1, hurting people have a centralized place to go to receive help, and 2, the church doesn’t have to get its hands dirty.

An institutionalized clearing house for the hurting if you will, where the opportunity for personal contact from the church is lost.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t believe that this is what Jesus meant when he taught that we were to have mercy and compassion for the lost and needy among us. We give money to far away places, content that we did something for someone whose face we will never see. We have bought into the world’s philosophy that if you throw enough money at the problem, eventually it will fix itself. [2]

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m driving around and see so many people who are obviously struggling, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more that can be done to help them. Please understand me, I am not advocating for more government handouts or more welfare type programs. Those are temporary, stop gap measures(at best).

Of course, there are a great many well funded programs already in existence to help those in need. The question I am asking though is are they the right kinds of programs?

No, what I’m referring to are more and better opportunities. Better paying jobs for instance would enable a person to afford better housing, higher quality food, and an overall better quality of life. Sometimes just an equal opportunity is all that is needed to lift someone up and out of poverty because I firmly believe that all most people want is a chance, and equal chance to succeed.

This nation is rich beyond anything most of the world can imagine. We have an obligation to “the least of these” to do more for them than giving them monthly handouts. [3]

Our churches should be on the front lines, fighting to see that these people are given the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings. Our churches should open their doors and their checkbooks because after all, it is the church that is in the mercy business, not the government. With the tremendous resources our churches have at their disposal, we could make significant inroads into improving the plight of the poor and needy if they would once again pick up the mantle.

An “institutionalized clearing house for the hurting” is not the answer. Demonstrating the love of Jesus with a personal touch followed up with practical, tangible “put your money where your mouth is” blessings would have a tremendous impact for those in need.

I close this post with a song about compassion for the lost. I heard this song a few days ago, and instantly recognized it as one I used to listen to regularly a long time ago. I pray it will touch your heart.

 

Ron

[1]Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

[2]For the record, I am 100% in favor of missions giving as long as their is a regular accounting given of those funds

[3] Matthew 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.