Bridging the Gap

Archived Posts from this Category

Bridging the Gap Through Giving

Posted by on 17 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Bridging the Gap

The whole reason the church exists is to share the Good News of God ?s gift to the world, his son Jesus and the forgiveness of sins that he offers. As we focus on the season where even the world focuses on giving gifts, let us bridge the gap through our giving.

The obvious gap exists where the world doesn ?t know why Christmas exists. As Christians celebrate Christmas, even in simple gift-giving, we need to share the angel ?s message of Luke 2:10-11: ?Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. ?

Another gap exists between individuals. There are far too many broken families, friendships, and communities for us to celebrate the gift of reconciliation with God without attempting to reconcile with the people around us. Paul reminds us in Romans 5:8 that ?God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ? If you ?re experiencing any kind of friction with someone you know, take the opportunity to follow God ?s example and give a ?peace offering ? to start the process of reconciliation.

There are many other gaps that we are working to bridge through our many ministry teams at the church. Many of those teams have to purchase materials and resources, and so we need to support those ministries by giving our money, our time, and our abilities.

The point is pretty obvious, we give because God gave to us. Our gifts can ?t compare to the gift of eternal life that God gave through Jesus, but if we don ?t try to bridge the gaps that exist, many people won ?t know that God has offered that gift to all people.

Bridging the Gap Joyfully

Posted by on 26 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: Bridging the Gap

The season of Christmas provides the best opportunities to bridge the gap. It ?s a time when families come together, despite their dysfunction. It ?s a time when communities come together, despite their differences. It ?s the time when the most people are made aware of the name of Jesus, whether they recognize who he is or not. It ?s the best time for Christians to share the joy of Jesus in the most diverse ways possible.

Because the world focuses on the gift-giving aspect of Christmas, Christians can focus on the gift-giving aspect of God ?s love for the world. Most people welcome gifts with joy, and if Christians can celebrate with joy the love of God for the world, the world may be more receptive to the message of John 3:16, ?For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ?

Because the world is in awe of the spectacle of its celebration of Christmas, Christians can add to the wonder by telling the story of the birth of Jesus. Come on, angels? That ?s cool! If Christians can get excited about the nativity story that we know and love, then maybe the world can become excited and more receptive to the angel ?s message of Luke 2:10 ?The angel said to them, ?Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Because the world seems to be hungry for hope and willing to believe that there can be hope despite the tragedies of war, poverty, crime, and broken families, Christians can help satisfy that hunger by celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace. If Christians can live joyfully with their hope in God, perhaps the world will be more receptive to the message of Romans 15:13 ?May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Bridging the Gap Through Prayer for Each Other

Posted by on 05 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: Bridging the Gap

The sermon on Sunday, November 4, encouraged us to ?do everything without complaining, ? (Philippians 2:14). Easier said than done, right? Much of the complaining we do comes from differences in personality, background, and measures of faith. We ?re not all at the same level of spiritual maturity; so we experience friction. As we strive be unified in faith and knowledge of Jesus and to be mature (Ephesians 4:13), we need to bridge that gap among us.

While studying Scripture is the most obvious thing we can do on our own, it ?s very likely that overcoming these issues that seem to separate us most dramatically will require divine intervention. In other words, we need to pray for each other. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:18, 19: ?Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. ?

First Paul tells us to pray ?on all occasions with all kinds of prayers. ? Paul restates it simply in 1 Thessalonians 5:17: ?Pray continually. ? If there ?s something bugging you, pray about it whenever and however you can.

Second, Paul tells us to ?be alert ? and always pray for each other. We need to pay attention to the hurts and needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ and then pray for each other. If you don ?t know about the specific needs within our church, come to the Wednesday afternoon prayer meeting from 1:15 to 2:15 in Mark ?s office. Everyone is welcome.

Last, Paul asks for prayer for himself as he ministers. We ?re all ministering in different ways among different people. Since we all have different measures of faith and understanding of Scriptures, perhaps the most effective way to spread the Gospel is to pray that God will give each of us the right words in any and all circumstances. I know I need the help.

Bridging the Gap as a Family

Posted by on 22 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Bridging the Gap

Sunday, October 21, was a great family reunion. After our regular three services, during which we find ourselves segregated at opposite ends of the building for various reasons, we came together to ordain deacons, an elder, and a minister. There were children, teens, young adults, parents, and grandparents all sitting together, singing together, celebrating together.
Paul tells us in Romans 8 that the Holy Spirit himself testifies that we are a family, that we are children of God. We can find the language of family all throughout the New Testament. Paul and other writers refer to each other and to us as brothers and sisters. There ?s no question that the church is one big extended family.
OK, we know what our families are like behind closed doors, and sometimes our church family acts the same way. But that ?s not what God intended, for either family. Our brother John gives us this advice in 1 John 3:18: ?Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. ? Sure, we say we love each other, but do we act like we do all the time? We ?re not perfect, and I know that I ?m not as lovable as I ought to be, but we need to act more like the children of God. There needs to be something different about this family because there ?s certainly something different about our Father, and he wants to adopt everyone into this family!
How do we do it? Let ?s start with some advice from brother Paul in Philippians 2:14, 15: ?Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. ? First, we need to try to get along with each other better; find our common ground and start there ?October 21 was a great start! Second, we need to encourage each other as we become blameless and pure. Last we need to shine like stars so that the world can see that the church family is different. In these ways we can bridge the gap as a family.

Bridging the Gap by Example

Posted by on 08 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Bridging the Gap

In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul lays out a plan that would help the church in Crete get their act together. In a nutshell, Paul tells Titus to lead by example and encourage all Christians to do the same.

In chapter two Paul tells Titus how various groups within the church ought to act as examples to others. Paul tells Titus to encourage everyone to live their lives in such a way that ?no one will malign the word of God ? (2:5), so that people outside the church ?have nothing bad to say about us ? (2:8), and so that ?they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive ? (2:10).

This kind of encouragement has several major benefits. First, it helps everyone in the church grow in unity in faith and knowledge of Jesus through sound doctrine (Titus 2:1; Ephesians 4:13). Second, it bridges the gap among generations and among different groups within the church, as each of Paul ?s instructions was for the older, more mature Christians to teach younger Christians and lead by example. Third, it helps us deal with the temptations of this world and strengthens our faith as we wait for heaven (2:12, 13). Last, it encourages us to do good works (2:14).

This letter to Titus should encourage us today to continue focusing on the core values of our faith. We need study the Bible and learn and accept its sound doctrine. We need to apply that doctrine in our lives, not only as we wait for Jesus ? return but also as we hold out to all people our hope of life in heaven with him. We need to continue to bridge the gaps between people within the church so that we can be unified in faith and knowledge and so that we can encourage each other to do good works. As Paul wrote in verse 7, ?In everything set them an example by doing what is good. ?

Bridging the Gap Missionally

Posted by on 24 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Bridging the Gap

If you didn ?t get a pack of M&Ms on September 16, don ?t worry; there will be more. We ?re trying to develop a habit of thinking of evangelism and discipleship as if we are missionaries in our own families, schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces. So when we find opportunities to do that as a body, we get a snack as a reminder. Missional moments are opportunities to share God ?s love in face-to-face, side-by-side, and heart-to-heart ways.

We support foreign missions as a body. We understand that in order to share the Gospel message with people who live in another culture and who speak another language, we need to alter our methods without compromising the truth of the Bible. However, when it comes to sharing the Gospel within our own communities, we ?re far less likely to change our methods.

If we ?re honest with ourselves, our culture is changing around us, in our country, in our schools, in our communities, and even in our homes. Unfortunately, as we spend more time in our church environment, worshipping the God who never changes, studying his Word that never changes, holding on to his promise that never changes, we begin to think that the methods we use to share the unchanging Gospel should never change either. That doesn ?t mean that we have to change our methods with every wind of innovation. We might be on the right track where we are, and then we ought to make our efforts stronger. But we ought to be purposeful in examining what we do and be prepared to make changes if we find ourselves falling short.

Do we have the right to choose to study, worship, pray, serve, fellowship, and witness according to our preferences? Sure we do. But when questioned about his own freedom, Paul said, ?I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings ? (1 Corinthians 9:22, 23). Let ?s set aside our preferences and choose to be missionaries in our own communities for the sake of the Gospel, and then we will share in its blessings.

Bridging the Gap Encouragingly

Posted by on 10 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Bridging the Gap

The idea of ?bridging the gap ? is appealing because it ?s so easy for us to see the gaps between people. We recognize the gaps between individuals quickly: our appearance, our words, our actions, our beliefs. But sometimes it ?s tough for people in the church to know how to bridge those gaps, especially the ones that we know from our study of the Bible that are based in sin: bad language, bad habits, bad relationships, etc.

Hebrews gives us insight into how to bridge the gaps through encouragement. Hebrews 3:12, 13 says: ?See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin ?s deceitfulness. ? The writer recognizes that sin is a problem within the church. He also recognizes that the body of believers has a responsibility to help each other to deal with the problem of sin so that none will turn from God. How does he recommend dealing with that problem? He tells them to ?encourage one another daily. ?

So, here ?s what I see. There ?s a lot of sin in our lives (duh). There ?s also quite a bit of ?hardening ? going on. The sin that we ?re all wrestling with seems to be hardening our hearts against each other. And some of that hardening has led to strained and broken relationships within families, among friends, and across the church. We need to stop it.

We know what to do to deal with the sin (read the Bible, pray, worship, serve, etc.), so let ?s focus on dealing with the hardening. We need to encourage one another daily and develop an atmosphere of mutual encouragement. Forget about what divides us and focus on what ?s bringing us together. Be purposeful in thanking your kids teachers and choir directors. Let the elders, deacons, and staff know you appreciate their service. Pitch in and help whenever you see someone working. How long should we do this? ?As long as it is called Today. ? Don ?t stop!

Bridging the Gap Intentionally

Posted by on 27 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Bridging the Gap

It ?s back-to-school time! My kids don ?t share my enthusiasm, but I have always loved getting ready to go back to school. I could live in an office supply store, looking at pens and pads of paper, checking out the latest binders and backpacks. As I grew up, I loved choosing classes and planning for the year.

But for all that planning and preparing, I usually put off my schoolwork until the last possible minute. Early on, I could get away with it. By college, however, my mind had gotten lazy, and the work had gotten harder, and I certainly didn ?t do as well as I could have. Now, I regret not knowing what I had studied just enough to get by.

Are we seeing something similar in churches today? Churches that used to have strong Bible schools now see dwindling numbers and shrinking Bible knowledge. Churches that could count on droves of volunteers now find themselves going to the same scant 20 percent who seem to be involved in everything ?at least until they burn out. But churches still seem to want to be the spiritually vibrant communities they once were.

While we might like the planning and preparation that goes into bridging the gap, we have a hard time of doing it intentionally. Jesus talked about a similar concept in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. The man who buried his one talent did not use what he was given intentionally. He knew that his master expected a greater return, but his efforts went only as far as to keep what he had, hoping for the best. The master in the parable took away what the man had and gave it to someone else. Is the church today experiencing the same kind of discipline?

This body has a strong tradition of Bible knowledge and hard work. As we prepare for the Master ?s return, knowing what he expects of us, let ?s not focus on simply keeping what we have but on using what he has given us intentionally.

Bridging the Gap Transparently

Posted by on 30 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Bridging the Gap

I spent the week of July 15 serving at Wolverine Christian Service Camp as a family leader and workshop leader during Senior High Week. The theme for the week was ?Audacious Authenticity, ? and the phrase of the week was ?lowering your waterline. ? The waterline refers to an iceberg, which has only a small fraction of its total mass showing above the water. We examined the reality that most of us show only a fraction of who we are, hiding our true selves, our dreams, desires, fears, and sins so that nobody can know them, for good or bad reasons.

We talked about how we often hide our true selves behind masks. Masks cover up what we don ?t want others to know and display what we want others to see, whether it is true or not. The challenge was to be ?real ? with yourself, God, and others; that is, we encouraged the students to examine themselves and identify who they really are, who they want to be, and who God wants them to be.

The problem with masks is they are based on distrust, which doesn ?t allow us to have healthy relationships, with God or other people. If we constantly hide our sins and struggles, we don ?t trust God to deliver us from them, and we don ?t trust others to love us despite them.

James 5:16 encourages us to bridge the gap by being transparent with each other: ?Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. ? If we can be real with ourselves, we know what lurks below the waterline. If we are transparent with God, who knows it all anyhow, and with other Christians, we can eliminate the distrust, fear, anger, and regret that keeps us from growing as individuals and as a church.

[As a side note, I want everyone to know that we have a great group of senior high students. Even though I preach in the 11:00 service, I didn ?t take the time to get to know them prior to camp. I regret that I didn ?t get to know all of our students at camp either. Be encouraged that many are growing as strong spiritual leaders, and we can look forward to their continued growth and work within the church.]

Bridging the Gap Through Hospitality

Posted by on 09 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Bridging the Gap

During the North American Christian Convention, I attended a workshop about the missional nature of the church. Basically, to quote author Ed Stetzer, ?Missional means being a missionary without ever leaving your zip code. ? In other words, Christians need to be missionaries within their own culture. While the phrase ?cultural relevance ? has become a buzz word, the fact is that the Good News of God ?s forgiveness and salvation ?which is relevant to all cultures across all times ?needs to be communicated in such a way that our culture can understand its relevance.

Our culture is a know-it-all culture, and it is a ?what ?s in it for me culture. If we can ?t bridge the gap of what people think they know about God, Jesus, the Bible, the church, and Christianity in general, they will tune us out. If we can ?t show them the value of what we believe, they won ?t care enough to listen long enough to accept it.

One way to bridge the gap is to practice hospitality. At one time, evangelism in our neighborhoods was to go from door-to-door ?calling. ? The fact that many new homes and communities don ?t have sidewalks or front porches should tell us that our culture isn ?t big on that kind of connecting. However, the glut of ensemble dramas and sitcoms should show us that our culture is big on relationships. In Romans 12:10-13, Paul gives examples of how we can appeal to this desire for relationships and share the core of what we believe: ?Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…. Practice hospitality. ?

As we continue through the season of picnics and backyard barbecues, let ?s put into practice the missional act of hospitality. Let ?s start sharing God ?s always relevant love and by opening our homes and ?calling ? our neighbors to join us.

Next Page »