Welcome to the Waretown United Methodist Church Fall Session Discipleship Initiative! For the next Three weeks we will be posting a once weekly reflection on Scripture, Mission, and the book Right Here Right Now: by Alan Hirsch & Lance Ford. This Blog/Facebook discussion is part Bible Study, part Book Discussion, and part Practical Worskshop. You may post responses to this post (either on the blog or Facebook), repost, start a new related post, or message with others regarding the posted discussion for the week. Before you begin, please observe the following practices:
1. PRAY before you start! When we are in connection with God daily… God works in and through our lives to bring insight, inspiration, and understanding.
2. ENGAGE others in the group and outside. What God reveals to us through insight, inspiration and understanding is not meant for us alone… but others as well. God wants to use all of us to bring love, grace, hope, and faith to others.
3. RESPECT everyone. Sometimes we don’t agree… that’s OK. Consider every person and post to be earnestly seeking the best that God has to offer.
4. PARTICIPATE. It’s easy to passively observe… it takes guts to get in on the action! God is not calling for armchair quarterbacks, or part-timers. The only way to experience anything from this is to be ‘ALL IN’.
Scripture: Ephesians 2:3-10
All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved useven when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Pastor Erik’s Reflections
As far as world religions go… we’ve got a unique one in Christianity. It is the only faith that gives ordinary people an extraordinary status.
First of all… we are invited by God to live and thrive with a new start in life. No matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done or how messy our life is right now today… God invites us to start anew. And it doesn’t matter if this is second chances or third, or fourth, or fifth, etc. There’s a parable Jesus tells in Luke 14:15-24 that illustrates what God is like in this regard. A person of importance hosted a dinner. When this host sent his servant with invitations… all of the potential guests made excuses as to why they could not attend. The host then said: ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the host said to the servant, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come, so that my house may be filled. (Luke 14:21-23)
The one thing we have to ‘do’ to enjoy this unlimited and unlimitable new start in life is to make Jesus the center of our love and our life. It means following his example, living like him, and putting our trust in him that this new start is the ‘real deal’. This is really different from our normal daily experience. In our culture we are expected to ‘work hard’, ‘be ourselves’, and ‘earn our way’. Those are all good principles for work, sports, school and the like. And, while many religions preach a similar ‘work ethic’ in order to achieve in the faith… God calls us to come ‘just as we are’ and then repent (turnaround) and become ‘just as Jesus is’.
Those who have made this incredible step of faith report tremendous joy, fulfillment, spiritual health, positive relationships, and a strong sense of meaning, purpose, and calling in life. Usually, such people can point to someone who reached out, encouraged, guided, and inspired them… someone who had already made that ‘turnaround’.
This is what God has called all followers of Christ to be and do: 1) accept the invitation to new life; 2) repent or turnaround from living for ourselves (or anything else) and make Jesus the priority of our life and love; and 3)put all faith in Jesus that this offer of new life is true, real, and powerful.
Reflections from the Book ‘Right Here Right Now
If we are finding that our faith lives and our churches are stagnant, immature, or only living a fraction of their God-given power, purpose, and potential it is probably because we have not grasped the real nature, depth, and extent of God’s invitation to us. On p. 68 we read that, “the facts and outcome of redemption through Jesus is that the very life and power of Jesus IS IN EVERY Christian”. In other words, the promise of new life is filled with the life and power of Jesus. When we really tap into it and conform to it… we change… and the world changes through us. Think about it… EVERY CHRISTIAN… has the life and power of Jesus in them. Combine that with our personal skills, experiences, location, and personality and WHAM… we are a full-blown missionary equipped and ready to extend the invitation of God in Christ to the world around us. This is very different than our limited traditional notion of the church which identifies more with the institutional aspects than with the missionary aspects.