Thursday, May 26, 2011

Context is King!

Context is King!  Context is King!  These words still ring in my ears today.  They first came to my ears through the voice of my New Testament Greek professor in seminary.  He drove into our heads the importance of exploring the context surrounding God’s words in understanding the truths of scripture.  I have found that context doesn’t just end there though.  You see as I personalize or apply God’s word, I must bring those truths learned into my world, my context. 

God's truths are eternal and universal, however context changes from life to life, church to church and time to time.  God’s truth produces different pictures in different contexts.  The application of God’s truth will look much different in the life of a single mother struggling to make her next electric bill than to a corporate executive with a vacation home at the shore.  Both are in desperate need of God’s truth to lead, guide and direct their lives, but how the truth lives in action looks different.

Even though God’s truth is unchanging and universal, context makes a huge difference in the application of that truth.

I was recently sitting down with a young Bible College student and shared this lesson.  Many times, through colleges, conferences and even Christian books we are told how someone has lived out God’s truth with great success.  Many see this success and reason that simply copying those actions will lead to personal and ministry success.  Unfortunately, when these actions are taken out of the context of an individual’s life or a specific ministry, they too often fail to produce the desired results.  True transformation and effectiveness requires that God’s unchanging truths take root right where we are.

I want to encourage you today to not only do the diligent work of understanding God’s truth, but also be equally diligent in understanding your own context so that God’s truth finds a home right where you are.  This may mean allowing God to reveal the real you to you or taking the time to get to know your community where God has placed you to make an impact.  God does not share His truth for no reason, God's truth is given to transform us making us more like Him.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.  Psalm 86:11 (ESV) 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Risk is a Risk

Many times when we hear about risk our minds invariable go to spectacular chances we take such as jumping out of airplanes or dog-sled racing across frozen tundra.  As we have been talking a lot about taking risks for God, maybe then you think of smuggling Bibles into China or trekking into the jungles to share Jesus with unreached peoples.  These are all risks, spectacular risks.  

When faced with these risks, I don’t know that many of us would take them.  I think that’s a shame, not because we are not daring enough or crazy enough to try anything, but that we are hesitant to take risks that are right before us because we think they need to be something spectacular or even death-defying to be counted as significant.  The truth is that a risk is simply doing something where you are not sure of, but hopeful of a positive outcome.  Another way of saying this is stepping out of your comfort zone to do something.

With this in mind I want to share with you a risk I witnessed this week.  On Monday, I went to our local super market and witnessed one of our church members stepping out of her comfort zone in her relationship with Jesus.  Her risk was not necessarily spectacular or death defying, but it was significant.
As we are approaching Easter, we made up invitation cards that we handed out at church.  We encouraged Joy Community Fellowship to invite someone to church on Easter.  This is what this precious risk-taker was doing Monday, only she was not passing out the cards but sheets of paper.  You see, we had run out of invitations this Sunday so she went out and had copies of her one remaining invitation so that she could continue inviting friends and neighbors to hear the Gospel on Sunday.

Stepping out of our comfort zone and into the adventure that God has for us does not always mean taking extraordinary risks or putting our lives on the line.  Most times God calls us to risk being faithful, being known as His to those around us.  This kind of risk may not get you on the cover of magazines or even celebrated by others, but I believe that this kind of risk is what Jesus uses to most powerfully impact our friends, families and communities through us.

Take a risk this week, don’t worry if it seems simple or unspectacular as it may just be just the risk that God uses to make a significant difference in the lives of those around us.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Risk is More than a Leap

As I have been applying this challenge of Risk this year, I have found myself more willing to leap out into adventures God has for me more.  Some of these risks have been talking to a friend about Jesus, practicing stillness before God and even inviting a total stranger to church that I met at the supermarket.

It has been a rush to take a leap into sometimes shark-infested waters that God has brought me to as I have seen that He is there to make sure I never fall (at least too hard).  I can see that I am getting braver when it comes to this kind of risk.

However, although I have gotten better at this, I have also discovered that there is another even more significant risk God has challenged me to take.  You see, it is one thing to jump off the boat into shark-infested waters, but an even more significant risk to keep swimming through them after I have jumped.  I guess what I am saying is that risk is more than just as leap into God’s adventure, but also the determination to faithfully continue in the adventure.

This is why I am drawn to the apostle Peter.  He was a risk-taker.  No follower of Jesus in the Bible took more leaps of risk than he did.  He left his livelihood to go with Jesus, he got out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water, he asked questions that the other disciples no doubt had but were afraid to ask and he made dramatic statements of devotion to Jesus.  

It is really cool that he risked where no one else would have.  Granted many times when he did leap he fell flat on his face:  he lost faith when walking on water, asked some really “out there” questions and even denied Jesus right after claiming undying allegiance to Him.

While all of this is true, the one aspect that inspires me about Peter is that, despite his failures, He kept going.  He continued in his risk-taking.  Even after he denied Jesus, he continued to pledge allegiance to Jesus and because he continued, he experienced life as a Spirit-empowered evangelist and effective witness for Jesus to countless people.

Sometimes I find it easier to leap into shark infested waters than to swim in them.  Single risks can be easier to take.  I mean I can share Christ with a total stranger, I may never see them again, so why not leap?  But it is much more of a risk to live Jesus before my neighbors who see me every day.  That risk takes endurance.

This risk of endurance in Jesus may not be as spectacular as taking great stands for Jesus or acts of great honesty with God, but enduring in risks leave a more lasting impact not only on the world around us, but also in my trust in a God who that promises to be with me wherever we go. 
So, as you go about you week, leap, but keep swimming!