Encouragement From The Word

Bring A Friend!

Every year, on or about the fourth Sunday of September, St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton celebrates “Bring A Friend” Day. While any Sunday is a good Sunday to bring a friend to church, we make a special effort on that weekend: invitations are issued, lunch is shared, guests are ‘expected’.

It’s become challenging for many people to issue the invitation, to make the ask. As I’ll say on Sunday, we’ve been taught for a few generations now not to talk about politics or faith in polite company, and the result, especially in our polarized society, is that we are no longer able to dialogue in a civil manner about the Lord Jesus.

The key is to build relationships.

When we are engaged in healthy relationships with our neighbours, our friends, our family members, and when faith is an integral part of our lives, those with whom we share those relationships will naturally want to know why faith is part of who we are.

And that opens the door to inviting them to join you for worship.

I’ve occasionally shared a vlog done by Penn Jillette some years ago about how, despite his avowed atheism, he admired a man who gave him a Bible after a show.  His point was this:  If we believe we know the way to eternal life, how much do we have to hate someone else to be unwilling to share it?

It’s a good question.  And a haunting one, if we’re honest.

Whatever congregation you’re part of as you read this, I hope you’re not waiting for an excuse to invite someone to worship with you.  If you’re looking to understand why this is important, I will be talking about our role as ambassadors this Sunday.  I’m inviting you!

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.  We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5.20, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Return on investment

Because we get most of our bills sent electronically, and not many people share handwritten correspondence anymore, except on special occasions, we find that we don’t need to retrieve our mail from the post office more than once or twice a week.

Lately, though, our mailbox has been fuller than usual.  My wife is getting a lot of unsolicited mail – asking for money, of course – from unusual sources.

Yesterday, there was  a letter for her from an organization, and when she got home, she looked at it and said, “Someone is selling their mailing list.”

This happens to everybody who has a fixed address, though perhaps less often than usual, because direct mail campaigns seem to be less effective than they once were.

It got me thinking, though.  Because of privacy laws, fewer and fewer organizations are free to sell their mailing lists, but when they do, other groups will buy them because they hope, and maybe even expect, that they will recoup their investment through new donors. In other words, the cost involved in gaining more names will be exceeded by the results they will get from sending a campaign to those names.

When we share our faith, there is no money exchanged – I don’t think, anyway! – but there is a ‘return on investment’ side to it.  For many of us, talking about our relationship with God has a cost: uncomfortabliity.  Many of us find ourselves outside our comfort zones when we talk about Jesus with others. That’s why we don’t do it.

But consider the return on that investment: if we share our faith with others, and even one person says ‘yes’ to Jesus, what is gained from that act far exceeds the uncomfortability we may have had in sharing.

Think about that the next time you have the opportunity to open a door of faith for another person.  What you’re feeling is nothing when compared with the changed eternity for that person who may come to the Lord as a result.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5.20, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Christians learning from Olympians

Yesterday was a pretty patriotic day for Canadians.  I dare say, even for those who are not sport or Olympic fans, there was a certain boasting in 1609980_755418451136857_509748926_nnational pride when Canada’s Olympic Women’s Curling and Hockey teams earned gold medals in their respective disciplines.  The men have a chance to follow suit in the coming days, and they have, no doubt, received inspiration from their hard-working female colleagues.

While I wasn’t able to watch either game because of ministry commitments, seeing the looks on the athletes’ faces in photos posted after the games told the story.  These competitors – including those who do not medal – work very hard to excel in their chosen sport.   They go with a desire to win, and an intention to represent their country well.  And, I dare say, every athlete wearing the Canadian flag has upheld the good name and the good reputation of their Home And Native Land.   Those who win gold demonstrate by their faces just how much a dream-come-true it is for them to win.  It’s a wonderful thing to witness in the middle of a long, hard winter back home.

In interview after interview, Olympians articulate what a privilege and honour it is to represent Canada on the world stage.  From competitors to coaches, those witnessing the games develop, or retain, a very favourable view of Canada.  After all, when you live in such a great country, it’s easy to want to represent it well, as ambassadors.

We followers of Jesus can learn something from our nation’s Olympians.  Every day, from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep, we represent Jesus and his church.  We represent Jesus when we speak to our spouses and children, our co-workers and bosses, our neighbours and friends, the strangers we encounter on the street and the clerks in the stores where we shop.  Whether we wear an emblem of our faith commitment or not, we are God’s ambassadors in the world.

When you serve such an amazing God, it’s easy to want to represent him well, as ambassadors.

But because we are called to this important role every day, and not just for a couple of weeks out of four years, it can be hard for us to remember that we represent Jesus.  Sometimes, we don’t represent him well.  This is an area where we all can grow.  It’s one of the many graces of being a disciple of Christ:  we do not achieve perfection upon our profession of faith.  We grow into our calling as faithful followers, looking more like Jesus every day.  It’s a process whereby we are shaped and molded day after day, year after year, until we die (or Jesus returns).  We are being formed as ambassadors for the Lord.

Can we, like our Olympians, show on our faces, and by our actions, how amazing is our God?   It needs to be an intentional act; it won’t happen on its own.  And it can make a real difference:  the atheistic philosopher of the 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche, famously said to Christians that he would believe in their Redeemer when his people looked more redeemed!  Sometimes, countenance makes all the difference.

It’s about more than “Smile, God loves you”, though.  It’s about actions that back up the claim that God loves people – the world – so much that he gave his only Son.

Be intentional.  We can do it!

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5.20, NLT).