True faith is seen in action

Change takes more than updating your Facebook status

Serving a meal together.

The bumper sticker on the car in front of me, the car that I watched come up behind me weaving in and out of highway traffic at about 90 miles an hour, read, “Be the change you want to see.”

“Well, isn’t that nice,” I thought, watching him cut off the third lane and go on his way while brake lights flashed and horns honked. I’m not sure what change he wants to see unless he’s saying that the world needs more self-absorbed jerks. Maybe it’s just me, but I think we already have too many.

“Be the change you want to see.”

Over the last couple weeks, that bumper message flashed in my mind quite a few times. I saw it while watching clips of unhappy voters marching, shouting, waving signs and even breaking windows to protest the outcome of the national election. I could not help but wonder what the impact would be if all those thousands of angry marchers were actively involved in their communities either in government, working with immigrants or meeting needs around them.

Maybe many of them are involved but it seems like much of activism today has been reduced to people wearing bracelets, writing on their arms and changing Facebook profile pictures to show how much we care.

Bundles of Love

The ancient book I like to read puts it this way:

15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2

Thankfully, I see a lot of people around me doing more than yelling, “Somebody should do something!” I get to see people seeing needs and taking action.

Operation Christmas Child

Saturday morning I spent time with a family packing up Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes that get sent to children all over the world who have little to look forward to at Christmas. Their faith community gathered 74 boxes to add to more than a million others from all across the country.

Saturday night, I watched a group of close to 30 people serve a free turkey dinner spread to almost 200 people. Many of the guests were elderly people excited to have a great dinner and night out. Some of the guests had special needs. Others were people enjoying a chance to connect with others in their community.

A couple of weeks ago I watched the same faith community pull together boots, coats, hats and other warm clothing to meet the needs of an immigrant family unprepared for the approaching Maine winter.

In just a couple of weeks I will return to Guatemala to work with AMG International. I’ll be doing photography work to help communicate how AMG is helping more than 8000 children there. It was just 7 months ago when I made my first trip to Guatemala and experienced overwhelming poverty and thought, “somebody needs to do something!” The good news is that I met a lot of people who are doing plenty to help. It wasn’t too long before I knew I had to join them in their efforts.  My friends, neighbors, church & family are sending me with more than $2000 to purchase Bundles of Love to meet the greatest needs of more than 100 children. (contribute here – BUNDLES TEAM)

Most of us get paralyzed when we’re faced with something that is so much bigger than us. What can I do? I can’t end poverty. I can’t end racism. I can’t stop misogyny, injustice, homelessness or any of a myriad of other problems. That’s true but we are not powerless.

You are not powerless.

Each year our church family puts together gift baskets to thank all the people who serve the public.

What if each of us did for one what we wish could be done for all? If a million individuals choose to sponsor just one child trapped in third world poverty, a million children would eat and be educated.  If 100 families in each of our communities welcomed just one immigrant family, imagine the impact. What would happen if just one person in each neighborhood went door to door collecting unused winter clothing out of jam-packed closets to donate to the community center, homeless shelter or veterans services?

One person cannot change the world for everyone but one person can change the world for one other person.

Maybe it’s time we put down our signs, stop writing on our arms and come out from behind our Facebook pages to actually love.

Real solutions require more than social media “awareness.”

You are not powerless to affect change.

Don’t just stand there. Do something!

A few ideas:

  • thinkSponsor a child in poverty. AMG is one option.  Compassion International is another.
  • See an immigrant? Smile and say hello.
  • In 2017, commit to THINK before speaking, posting or sharing. True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind?
  • Volunteer to help a teacher, a youth league, a rec program, a church youth program.
  • Bring your toddler and visit someone who has no one.
  • Lend a hand at your community center.
  • Buy an extra canned good to donate each time you grocery shop.
  • Teach your sons to respect, honor and value women.
  • Run for office.
  • Send a Bundle of Love to Guatemala with me Dec. 3.
  • Host a neighborhood gathering.
  • Give some time to Habitat for Humanity
  • Set another place at your table for someone who is alone.
  • Drop off a thank you card at the police or fire station.
  • Help your church help others by giving of your time, treasure and talent.
  • Forgive a grudge you’ve been holding onto.
  • Give blood. Register to be an organ donor.

 

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WANTED: Can kickers

canBy Scott Linscott

Do you remember that feeling as a kid playing Kick the Can when you would watch someone sprint toward the can to boot it and set everyone free? I remember the anticipation, the laughs and the chaos as everyone scattered. I loved the times I was the guy who got to kick the can and initiate all that. We played for hours.

I think the church in America needs some can kickers. Me, you, someone in your pew.

Can kickers are driven by the desire to scatter. Can kickers don’t mind risk. Can kickers like a good dose of chaos.

The church in America has gone through at least three decades of making self-preserving moves working to ensure everyone is comfortable and getting their needs met. In the meantime, fewer and fewer people have been hearing about Jesus outside the church walls. We’re so busy at church we just don’t have time for relationships.

Everyone is gathered around the can. We talk about Jesus, we sing and we throw around words like “evangelism” and “outreach.” But mostly, we just stare at the can. In this church game, most of us have even forgotten why the can is there.

And then it happens. Some wild one comes sprinting in and kicks the can. He comes in, kicks it and says, “Let’s get outta here! Run!” But he’s not running away from God. He’s not setting people free from Jesus. He’s calling them to risk, chaos and bringing Jesus to people outside the church. He’s yelling, “Go! Go and make disciples! Run!”

A bunch of like-minded, daring disciples are immediately and instinctively into it. They are the ones who make others in the church uncomfortable because they dare ask Jesus to heal people, do miracles and answer prayer. They talk about following Jesus with everything and they don’t think faith is a private thing.

Cans are being kicked all over the United States. For the first time in decades more new churches are opening than old ones closing. Urban centers, universities, neighborhoods, suburbs, theaters, pubs and schools are seeing people excited about Christ starting new works that don’t look much like the churches they have seen.

Studies are showing that 50 percent of the people attending these new faith communities are exploring Jesus for the first time. That’s what Jesus was talking about! That’s what we’re supposed to be doing – starting new communities and revitalizing old ones.

I see the can. I feel the adrenaline building. I’ve got the urge to make a run at it and give it a good punt. I want to hear the laughter, sense the  anxiousness and revel in the chaos of doing the crazy thing.

I feel alive. I want to equip a generation of can-kickers …

Eph 4: 11-13 He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher  to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church,  until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

 

Are You Riding a Blind Horse?

horseBy Scott Linscott

By the Grace of God and personal discipline, Robin and I have enjoyed 29+ years of marriage so far. Like everyone else, we’ve had times when we have drifted apart and intimacy waned and times when we’ve rediscovered the infatuation of puppy love. Ebbs and flows.

Honestly, we’ve never mastered the “praying together” key to success that all the Christian marriage books stress so heavily. We’ve prayed together during some particularly tough times but, on the whole, we’ve each had separate prayer lives. When we’ve tried praying together, it feels like I am just putting on my pastor hat. But, we’ve always shared what we pray for, we pray for each other and we talk about what God is teaching us. But the “pray together” thing? The marriage books might call us failures. I’d argue that!

The keys to the success of our marriage? One is that we’ve never stopped dating. We’ve been together long enough to recognize the patterns of intimacy in our marriage. When we don’t make time for each other, intimacy wanes. We self-correct by making sure to reconnect by dating. We like to share each others interests as well as learn new things together. Our latest adventure will be a ballroom dance class.

In the first years of our marriage, I wanted to share one of Robin’s passions. Robin was a junior Olympian horse jumper and spent much of her childhood at one barn or another. She went on three-day rides for 100 miles. She loved horses. Me? I was terrified of horses because of my childhood experiences.

But I pushed my fears to the back of my mind and gave horseback riding a try. We went on a trail ride with friends. Knowing my fear, the owner of the stables put me on the slowest, most gentle, oldest horse she had. She said, “This is Geronimo. He’s blind.”

Geronimo kept his pace by staying close to the horse in front of him. He was not going to run or move. He was, supposedly, the perfect horse for me … until we went down a small hill and the horse in front of us stumbled and trotted a few steps up the other side leaving Geronimo on his own. Geronimo stepped into the mud by the stream at the bottom of the hill and freaked out! Suddenly I was on a blind horse running in the woods! Geronimo ran until he smacked into a tree. We laugh about it now but there have been few things in my life more scary than gripping the mane of a blind horse running in the woods.

Today, I see lots of people riding blind horses in their lives. No, not actual horses but they plant themselves on things that I see leading to collisions with the trees of heartbreak and ruin.

I see young families with both parents working themselves to death to afford the 3200 square foot house, the lake house and the new vehicles with satellite radio and heated seats. The debt of their lifestyles puts crushing weight on their marriages until they break and end in divorce.

I see single women searching for love and giving themselves away time after time hoping to find love and then hitting one tree after another. They ask, “where are all the good men? Why do I attract such losers?”

I hear teenagers talking about anxiety problems while they apply to 7-10 colleges and feel the pressure to get into the best school so they can land the job that will bring them wealth and fulfillment. Then I see them graduate college with mountains of debt and no jobs that will allow them to make the payments. They hit the tree of depression and disappointment and move back home with their parents.

Is there an alternative? Yes there is. But, it is foolishness to society.

Jesus told the parable about the men who chose different locations to build their houses. One built his on sand and was washed away by the storm. The other chose the rock and withstood the storm. The rock is Christ. The rock is faith.

The Good News is that you can climb off that blind horse you are on at any time. The Good News is that you can rebuild your house and plant it firmly on the rock. It’s totally your choice and it’s never too late.

Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

 

Click to listen to the 12-29-13 message, “Are You Riding a Blind Horse?”