Category Archives: Faith In Action
“He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship” Exodus 35:31 NASB.
We know God gives power to preachers, worship leaders, teachers, and missionaries. BUT do the people in the church know that their skill, whatever it may be, can be used to fulfill God’s purpose. Bezelel was a carpenter/craftsman and filled with the spirit to craft instruments for God’s glory.
“I never knew my skills could help the church” said one craftsman we utilize to build wheelchair ramps for the handicapped in our community.
How does you church make a way for those God has filled with his spirit for craftsmanship, carpentry, sewing, scrapbooking, flooring, arts, trimming trees (like in the picture of tree surgeon Mark Johnson taking trees off the house of an elderly widow during a recent Faith in Action weekend with our church), landscaping, etc. etc.? Sending and equipping the whole church means realizing the Spirit empowers for all kinds of ministry.
When normal isn’t working, doing something weird may be necessary. Today, our church is defying normal in several ways.
Instead of doing the normal Sunday morning routine – dressing up, singing, telling everybody we’re fine, etc. – we’ll be out serving neighbors who have normal’s that are not working for them. We call it Faith in Action Sunday.
Like a 97 year old Madisonville resident. Normal for her has meant since Hurricane Isaac she’s lived with a gutted house, no doors, no insulation, and no help or resources to get these things fixed.
Like a family of four with disabilities in Madisonville, who’s normal has become holes in the floor and a lot of unsafe conditions in their home.
Like several elderly widows on fixed incomes around Madisonville. Normal means having no man around to take care of little things, so they become big things. And now they’re facing fines from local government until they are repaired.
Like inmates and their families at our local jail. Normal is wondering about what happens when they get out, will family forgive them, does God care, does anyone care.
So, let’s be weird. Let’s create some new normals. For these individuals and for how our community thinks about Christians. That’s what the Gospel is all about isn’t it? I think when Jesus (who people identified as weird) announced, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” Matthew 4:17, He was saying, “There’s a new normal coming to earth.” When He prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10, He had a new normal in mind. When he taught, healed, had compassion on the crowds (Matthew 9:35-36) He was displaying what the new normal should look like for every Christian. And He ask us to pray for more weird people, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field” Matthew 9:38.
And let’s face it, normal Christianity is not working for many in our world. And many times, Biblical Christianity seems weird to us, because we’ve created a normal that depends upon our disobedience. Because to obey would be weird.
- Normal Christianity sets out to serve instead of be served (Matthew 20:28).
- Normal Christianity sets out to take care of widows and orphans in distress (James 1:27).
- Normal Christianity puts others ahead of self, to a fault and no matter what (Philippians 2:3-8).
- Normal Christianity means sharing the Gospel, not just hearing it on Sunday (Matthew 28:18-20).
- Normal Christianity means churches SEND, not just sit (Romans 10:14-15).
How does your community need you to be weird? Who in your community has a normal that’s unacceptable? Have you allowed normal to be about what other people think instead of what God says and people need? What would people in the community say if you asked them what the normal member of your church looked like?
Love what one Northshore church is doing to get their small groups On Mission For Others. FBC Mandeville is having each of their Life Groups choose a “NEAR Mission Project” to engage in together. They’ve started a blog to communicate local opportunities for mission. Check it out: http://fbcmandeville.blogspot.com/.
Imagine the possibilities for your Small Groups or Sunday School classes…
Maddie & Grady Jenkins lived in their Madisonville home for 50 of their 58 married years. Isaac’s surge sent over two feet of water into the house and they’ve been displaced since that time. Several of our churches have been working on this project with the goal of getting them back in by Christmas. Here’s a list of things still to be done in case you, your church, or your personal network could help with this project over the next few weeks:
- Painting! Next week we’ll be ready for paint. The house will be open all week if anyone would like to volunteer some time.
- Floors! We are in need of someone to sand & refinish the floors. Anyone know how, enjoy, know someone, etc.?
- Trim & Doors! The trim will need to be painted white then installed. It will be ready to paint next week.
- Furniture still needed: Refrigerator. 36×68 inch.
We have at least three more elderly homeowners in Madisonville still to be done. Let me know if you’re up for a spring mission trip to SE Louisiana to help with one of these projects.
Generosity and on mission living comes with a promise: It will “produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11 ESV). Or as another translation says, “Then many people will thank God…” (2 Corinthians 9:11 CEV), as a response to the generous, on mission Christian. So, who is giving thanks today, because of you and your investment in God’s kingdom that has impacted them? Has your life of obedience to God produced thanksgiving in others? Is the community giving thanks for your church because of the on mission members scattering for their good?
A goal for next Thanksgiving: Produce Thanksgiving to God in others by following Jesus into an ON Mission life lived FOR Others.
Our Faith in Action Sunday was wet, but we were able to serve several residents in the Madisonville area. Big thanks to those who were able to make it out for Bridge Church’s last official FIA of 2012. We were able to move two homeowners that suffered flooding from Isaac forward in their recovery. We also took care of a couple of remaining downed trees. And delivered “We Care” baskets & baked goods to 10 or so residents. We even had some visitors show up at 10:30am for our Worship Gathering & they jumped in & served as well. We also had an East St. Tammany congregation who are exploring starting their own Faith in Action Sunday join us for the experience.
I love Faith in Action Sunday b/c…
- it’s unscripted, like our lives & the lives of those we serve. Flexibility is required & makes stretching our faith & relying upon the power of Another possible.
- it reminds me of how many needs there are in my community. I drive by them everyday, seldom thinking about what’s on the other side of the fence or door.
- it reminds me that I can make a big difference. Things that are simple for me (changing a lock, fixing a shower head, cutting up a downed limb, believing that someone cares about my needs) are HUGE issues for someone else.
- it makes way for “along the way” relationships & discipleship. Serving & sharing with someone builds deeper relationships connections than just sitting beside them in a service.
- it adds something rich to the story of our lives. Jackson, our 10 year old, was telling the story at the bus stop this morning.
We fall short if putting our Faith in Action is just a date on the calendar. Jesus said he came “not to be served, but to serve” Matthew 20:28 (NLT). That’s the way of life for a true follower of Christ. So let’s keep looking for opportunities & courageously doing our part to follow Christ.
More info about Faith in Action Sunday here, including recap videos from previous FIA’s & answers to the question “why?”
The New Testament book of James teaches us that applying wisdom means:
- That we should live, not just learn the Bible [James 1:22]
- That pure religion cares for the orphan and widow [James 1:27]
- That loving our neighbor is the “royal law” [James 2:8]
- That mercy triumphs over judgement [James 2:13]
- That faith without deeds is worthless [James 2:16, 20]
- That knowledge should result in humble deeds [James 3:13]
- That wisdom from heaven is full of mercy [James 3:15-17]
- That failing to do “good” is sin [James 4:17}]
- That in our neglect we become oppressors [James 5:1-6]
(list found in the Barefoot Church Primer by Brandon Hatmaker)
“It may be simpler to live as if our actions and words function independently of each other, but one thing’s for certain – our observers never separate the two” ~ The Barefoot Church Primer
Here’s a few examples:
- Basic fundamentals
- Armed Gunman
- Unexpected surprise
- Working Mother
- On a can of bug spray I once read, “Kills Bugs Dead”
Some redundancies from famous folks:
- “sometimes you can observe a lot just by watching” ~ Yogi Berra
- “Smoking can kill you, and if you’ve been killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.” ~ Brooke Shields
- “If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure” ~ Vice President Dan Quayle
The Apostle Paul would add “On Mission Christian” to the Redundant list as well.
If our identity is In Christ, On Mission will follow. But here’s the question: Why don’t we see more Christians on Mission? Why is it so hard for us to pursue the mission of God? Why do I settle for going to church, when God’s calls us to go into the world on mission?
Here’s a few possible reasons that I’ve felt:
- We don’t think it’s our responsibility. Somebody Else will take care of that. Or we hire pastors to do those things.
- We don’t see the opportunities. We drive by the needs of the world so often that they become too familiar and we just accept them.
- We don’t think we can. It’s just too hard. I don’t have the gifts. I don’t know how.
Here’s the truth: It is hard. And the Bible never promises that it will be easy.
In Colossians 1, the Apostle Paul talks about his life as a follower of Christ and he spells out some of the reasons many opt out:
1. We’re called to suffer for the sake of others. http://bible.us/col1.24.esv. To not consider self first – “deny self, take up your cross, follow me” Luke 9:23. Paul says life In Christ, On Mission is “labor, striving…struggle” v. 29, 2:1. These word mean to work to the point of exhaustion, to agonize, strenuous effort. These are athletic terms used to describe a runner in a race. It’s not easy to give yourself for others. There must be a willingness to suffer and give and sacrifice.
2. We’re called to Make Mystery Known. http://bible.us/col1.25-27.esv. Yes the Gospel is so simple to understand that a four year old can receive it, but to effectively share it with others we have to work to communicate it in their language and through their cultural baggage. And we have to have the patience and willingness to answer difficult questions and silly arguments and to explain how God works through difficulty and pain. These are not easy 1-2-3 conversations to have. But it’s part of being On Mission. I’m afraid the majority of Christians have given up and given in to the excuse, “I don’t know what to say.” The stats back that up. A recent Lifeway study found that most Christians believe that sharing faith is important but they themselves don’t do it.
It’s hard. But we seem to find a way to negotiate our vacation packages, new car deals, and home mortgage rate reductions. It’s not that we’re incapable of understanding hard things. It’s a matter of willingness and responsibility.
3. We’re called to help EVERY man – http://bible.us/col1.28.esv. Paul had the audacious goal of presenting EVERY person complete in Christ when this life is over. How quickly have I given up on people and shrugged with, “you can’t reach everyone” or “some people will never change.” This EVERY man mission would require a radical reorientation of our lives. It’s an all-consuming mission to suffer for and make mystery known to EVERY person. We can’t do it alone. We can’t do it in our own strength. But it’s what the On Mission Christian aims for.
And the good news is, we don’t have to do it alone. Paul says it’s his strength that powers this mission. “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” http://bible.us/col1.29.esv.
I often ask God for strength. For safety, for provision, for help when I screw things up. He wants us to bring all our needs to Him. But how often do we ask God for strength for the EVERY man mission of suffering for others & making mystery known. His strength is promised for mission, not for the comfort of casual Christianity. So what does your prayers say about your identity.
If you’re identity is in Christ, On Mission living should follow.
This month, Bridge Church is studying through the New Testament Book of Colossians. Join us Sunday’s, 10:30am at the West St. Tammany YMCA. Or find the messages at bridgenorthshore.com or on Itunes.
The most deformative experiences in life often turn out to be the most formative. In times of crisis, we can help people see this as we are present with them.
- Be a NAP. Non-Anxious Presence. Be there in some way. Make that call. Send that note. Share that picture. Help move that debris. Listen to that story. Ask, “How can I help?” “What do you need right now?” “How can I pray for you?”
- Go. If you are able, go. “I’m not sure if I should.” A little saying that I heard years ago that has never let me down: “If you don’t whether to go or stay, Go. If you don’t know whether to go now or later, go now.” I’m always glad when I’ve applied this.
- Be present. Aloneness and Isolation are among the most painful emotional & spiritual experiences. Yesterday, we made assessments of property damage in one of our hardest hit areas, and we found broken people that feel alone. And when you’re alone, small issues get bigger & bigger & can overwhelm the heart. Do what you can to be present.
Today, we’ll be working on removing trees from homes of some elderly residents, purchasing grocery store gift cards for people who are returning home to spoiled refrigerators, & doing what we can to be present for those hurting in our community.
You can give to the Hurricane Relief Efforts of Bridge Church here.
We often hear laments about churches not being able to “get into the schools”. Most of the time, we’re trying to get in on our terms instead of thinking of ways to be a blessing (see Matthew 5:16, Philippians 2:3-4). We found one way that is enthusiastically accepted 100% of the time at our local schools: stuffing gift baskets full of goodies for teacher’s lounges at the beginning of the school year, holidays, & end of school. This year as part of our Faith in Action weekend, we focused on snacks, healthy & not so healthy. We’ve also done baked goods & office supplies. And always with a note of encouragement.
Praying for our local schools!
What are other ways that you or your church have been a blessing to your local schools?
What if every teachers lounge was filled with encouragement from local churches all year long?