Sunday, May 24, 2015

How Have You Sacrificed Lately?

My teenage prayers easily embraced, “Lord, Your will be done.”  A blank canvas of life lay ahead of me with no commitments to jobs, husband, children, or mortgages. 

Now, I still crave to draw near to the heart of God and His will… but sacrificing my time, security, comfort, and routine generates a greater grapple of the heart. 

Our soldiers know better than anyone the likeness of Christ.  We may define Christianity as love.  That feels good, but we often fail to recognize the accompanying disclaimer: love in action requires sacrifice. 
Hopefully, our soldiers influence you not to just reflect and appreciate this weekend, but inspire you to claim how God may be asking you to sacrifice.

Occasionally, as youth leader, I write articles for our church newsletter, and this month, “coincidentally,” the idea of sacrifice in my newsletter article parallels my reflections this Memorial Day weekend.

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Answering the call to sacrificial love

When I first attended a small group here, I clearly remember a study on the book of James.  I remember it so clearly because we never focused on much as Lutherans – and it oozed with practical points.  How had I missed this gem?

Luther probably de-emphasized James due to the times he was living in – one wrought with unethical church leaders touting works as the road to heaven.  Today, we know confidently that our good works cannot save us, but admit that genuine relationship with Jesus moves us to care for those He loves deeply.

Like our children and youth. 

Consider Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Do we grasp what it means if we deny the call to good works? 

It basically means that we mess up God’s plans… and we have no idea the ramifications. 

When three of us from Zion attended the Orange Conference last month, Andy Stanley’s message was a highlight.  He challenged us with the question “What breaks your heart?” in the context of the story of Nehemiah.   Andy framed the idea this way:

“You have no idea what or who hangs in the balance of your decision to embrace the burden God has put in your heart.” 

Like Pastor referenced in his recent sermon, what if Mother Teresa had decided to stay in Albania and just pray for the poor?  

What’s the burden God has put in your heart? 

Have you asked him? 

Why aren’t you doing anything about it? 

What can you do about it? 

What happens if you don’t do anything about it?

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my Christian walk over the last year or so, it’s that being a Christian requires sacrifice.  These sacrifices are often not rewarded on this earth; but, how beautiful when we do see the reward in the life of a child or youth. 

How do I know Christianity requires sacrifice? 

Our ultimate role model: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45. 

Andy Stanley also asked us “What is the next generation worth to you?”  If we reflect on that question, that should help us consider how much we are willing to sacrifice.

I’m calling us to some real soul-searching.   Burnt out?  Let’s cut back, but engage those issues that are most important.  What are our priorities?  Or maybe a better question: what is Jesus’ priority for you? 

I don’t intend to guilt trip you; I just see needs being unmet, and you’ll be fulfilled by meeting them. 

I know there are seasons of life when we are better equipped to serve than others.  So if you can’t completely solve what’s breaking your heart, what can you do to make progress towards it?  If you can’t serve the children and youth, how can you serve their parents?  (I have information for periodic Married People’s ministry activities.  Supporting marriages supports children.) 

You know foster children break my heart, but we just don’t seem to be in a season of life to make hosting them completely feasible.  So, we sought some God-inspired creativity, and are sacrificing for these children by hosting a Farm Camp for them this summer. 

If you can’t do it all, what can you do?  Be realistic, but be relentless.  Make sure the type of serving you’re doing is the type of serving God would have you do.


Serving Youth

(Some ideas for serving Youth… you could skip ahead to the last couple of paragraphs if your call to sacrifice is in another area)
For a long time, the Youth have needed you.  An effective ministry cannot be done with one person for a variety of reasons. 

Different students will connect with different personality types.  Your friend’s favorite teacher in school was probably different than yours, and there’s good reason for that.

Moreover, as one veteran youth leader would often say, “Even Jesus only had twelve disciples.”  If we want to see growth, we have to have more “disciplers.”  A pastor and children or youth leader can only directly disciple to a few effectively.  We need you.

We each possess a variety of gifts, but we have ALL been called to discipleship.  Your job is to chat with God and figure out how you can do that.  Pray.  Ask him to give you a name, an action, a vision.

The Youth need regular, caring influences on Sunday nights.  You don’t have to volunteer for every Sunday night (or you could), but take a series of three or four weeks or a rotation.  Perhaps, you’ll volunteer to do games each week so someone else only has to worry about the lesson.  Bring snacks and chat for the first fifteen minutes of Youth Group. 

Do they need the snacks?  No.  Do they need to see their church is invested in their ministry? Yes. 

Plus, I need the feedback of folks invested in the ministry.  The more of you familiar with our Youth Ministry, the more God-inspired vision can influence the ministry for the better. 

A member proposed that each Adult Sunday School class host one or two activities for the Youth during the year.  What passion could you share with the Youth?  Invite them fishing, swimming, to work at the food bank, teach them to cook something and take a meal to the foster home or snacks to our shut-ins.  Our skeet shot/frog gig was quite popular last year.  Investing in them piques their interest.  Just let them live life beside you once in a while.

Please pray for our Youth ministry, and all of the discipleship happening in our church.  I know you love them.  I know you support them.  I know how incredibly difficult it is to find more time to give, especially if you’re working full time, have sick family members, or any of the many other curve balls life throws our way. 

But like the poor widow in Mark 12, find something to give.  Close to the end of Andy Stanley’s message, he asked, again, those thought-provoking questions:

What would you like people to line up at the end of your life and thank you for? 

What breaks your heart? 

Who or what hangs in the balance if you refuse? 

What is the next generation worth to you? 

…..

How have you sacrificed for another lately?

Inspirations in this writing taken from Andy Stanley, the Orange Conference, Relevant Magazine, and God-Almighty. J

 

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