Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Thought for Wednesday 20 May 2015

“Fear not, for I am with you.  Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10 NKJV

The people of Israel had every right to be afraid.  They had lost everything, and their future as a nation, as a people, was uncertain.  In some ways it may be the same fear the Church has today.  Much has been written about the decline of Christianity and the rise of the so-called “nones” since the latest Pew Research poll was released.  There had been a lot of wringing of hands long before this poll put numbers on what we can already clearly see but, perhaps more importantly, there has not been nearly enough concern – or at least concern in the right direction.

The key to what will lead the Church out of this wasteland of uncertainty is found not only in Isaiah but in the prophets as a whole.  The statement preceding the passage above clues us in: “You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away” (vs 9).  Long before the Exile the people of Israel knew exactly what they wanted, but their real problem was they had no clue what they really needed.  The harsh reality of their fall was that they were too concerned about personal desires and not nearly concerned enough (or at all) about the needs of the greater community

It is the same problem we face today.  The community of the church does not exist for our personal satisfaction nor did Israel exist so individuals could personally benefit without concern for others, including strangers and foreigners and the poor, the widows and the orphans.  These marginalized persons are the ones who cried out to The Lord for relief, for mercy; and it was The Lord who withdrew His hand from those who withheld their own mercy and care for their “neighbors”.

The key for church growth is not in new PR techniques or programs or jazzed-up worship.  Like a temporary diet that will produce temporary results, these things we try because they sound good to us may produce immediate results but will soon fade when we reach a particular goal and lose interest. 

It will take a complete turn-about (repentance).  It’s not entirely about telling The Lord how sorry we are (confession) and then making no effort to turn about.  It is about the Promise made only to those who earnestly seek the Face of God.  Like my friend, JD Walt, recently stated: “Discipleship is not about preparing for Eternal Life; discipleship is about practicing Eternal Life”.  We make a deliberate choice to live now as we believe living in the Kingdom will be: only those willing to serve The Lord will be there; those willing only to serve themselves will not be.  It really is that simple, and there are too many verses of Scripture backing that statement to list here.

Only those willing to follow Me and serve Me will I strengthen and help and uphold, says The Lord through the prophet.  So let us resolve to turn back to The Lord.  It will require more than memorizing a few verses of Scripture or a Creed or a prayer.  It will be long, hard work – but our God assures us He will show us the way out of our self-imposed exile and into the Life for which we have been called and for which we are being prepared.



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