Saturday, October 31, 2015

Matthew 9:35-38

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”


When Jesus saw the crowds and realized their physical and spiritual condition he had compassion upon them.  When we look at the world and see the brokenness and spiritual desolation that surrounds us on all sides what is our response?  Are we disgusted?  Are we repelled?  Are we frustrated?  Are we angry?  Are we hopeless?  There is a full range of responses that we can have and experience.  However, when Jesus looked upon the lost and broken masses he felt compassion.  Do we feel compassion for those who are wandering in a spiritual wilderness?  If we do, that compassion should motivate us to reach out to those who don’t know Jesus.

Jesus told his disciples that there was a great harvest.  He meant that there were many people who were ready to respond to His message of hope and healing.  Jesus told his disciples that they should pray for God to raise up people to carry that message of hope and healing to those who were ready to hear and receive.  That’s why we need to be open to change in the church.  As workers who are called to share the gospel we need to be ready to present that gospel in any form that will reach those who need Jesus’ hope and healing.

Are you willing to be a worker that goes into the world to share Jesus’ gospel so that a great harvest for the Lord can be brought in?

Are you willing to change your mind about what the church should be in order to reach more people for Christ?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Matthew 9:16-17

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.  Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins.  If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

This teaching of Jesus shows us that we can’t take new things and put it in old packages.  It just won’t work.  When the church tries to reach people who have yet to be reached for Christ we must be willing to let the old ways, forms, structures and rituals go by the wayside.  Trying something new but keeping the form and structure the same just won’t work.  We know this because Jesus told us this and we know this from experience.

We shouldn’t be afraid of new wineskins.  New forms of the church are still the church it just looks different.  The only thing that truly defines the church is the presence of Jesus Christ and the presence of disciples of Jesus.  Regardless of how the church looks it is still people who follow Jesus and have the task of taking the good news into the world.

What new forms of church have you seen and experienced?

Does it frighten you to think that the church might change from a form with which you are comfortable?  Spend some time thinking what it is about change that makes you fearful.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Acts 15:13-19

When they finished, James spoke up:  “Brothers, listen to me.  Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself.  The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:  ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.  Its ruins I will rebuild and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things that have been known for ages.’  It is my judgment, therefore that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”


This passage shows us that James helped the church focus its direction outward rather than choosing an inward focus that was all about the people who were already believers.  James is willing to give up many things that he considered to once be sacred so that the church could change to reach more people with the salvation of Jesus Christ.

That is a choice the church must always wrestle with.  Do we cling to traditions, rituals and the rallying cry, “We’ve always done it this way” or do we remain open to a new move of the Spirit that will help us reach people with the love, light and life of Jesus Christ.  Even though it can be hard we need to reflect the attitude of James and always choose to develop and transform the church into something that will make the message of Jesus available to more people.

Can you think of one way the church can change something we are doing in order to reach more people for Christ?

If that change affected you directly would you be willing to make that change?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Acts 15:12

The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.


Paul and Barnabas went out into an unbelieving world and they took the gospel to anyone who would listen.  They discipled the Gentiles into faith in Christ.  The Holy Spirit did great things among the Gentiles.

I wonder if we became less concerned with doing church as we know it and became focused on and consumed with going into an unbelieving world to share the Gospel of Christ how many wondrous signs and miracles we would see happening?  Maybe Paul and Barnabas were onto something.  They just lived the life of Jesus among the people and great things started happening.  Maybe we shouldn’t be concerned about doing church and we should just go into the world and be the church.

Have we gotten so connected with the form of the church that we are limiting the power of the Gospel of Christ in our world?  Take time to think on this questions today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Acts 15:6-11

The apostilles and elders met to consider this question.  After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them:  “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?  No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

When Peter addressed the assembly in Jerusalem he argued that the Gentile believers should not be required to become Jews and follow the Jewish law in order to receive the salvation of Jesus.  When Peter made this statement he summed up what must be at the center of the Christian faith:  “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved…”  Peter was proclaiming that the only requirement to receive salvation was to have faith in Jesus.
Peter refused to make faith in Jesus a burden by requiring the believers to follow all kinds of rules and laws.  When we look at the church of today we must be careful that we don’t muddy up the message of Jesus by getting the salvation of Jesus mixed up with the forms and traditions of the church.  As Peter said the important thing is faith in Jesus not how we worship or how we envision what the church should look like.
How do we obscure the message of faith in Christ by insisting that the church remain in the form with which we are comfortable?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Acts 15:1-5

Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers:  “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.  So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.  The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted.  The news made all the brothers very glad.  When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.  Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.”


Jesus brought salvation to all people.  At this point the church needed to decide whether the message of Jesus was truly for all nations or were they Jews who simply tacked on Jesus to their faith.  Had God created something completely new or was Jesus just good news for those who were willing to become Jews?

The church was at a turning point.  They had to define who they were going to be.  The church had to decide what was most important:  faith in Jesus or the form and tradition of religion.  Every generation of Christians has to make that choice as well.  Are we going to cling to the forms and traditions of religion or are we going to follow the risen Lord into something new.  The church in every generation needs to be renewed and made over in order to continue to focus on what is important, that being the message of Jesus’ love and grace.

How have you seen the form and tradition of the church change so that the church can continue to reach new generations?