Monday, October 29, 2018

Mr. Ambassador

I have a new title for you to add to your LinkedIn profile, “Ambassador”.  Whether you know it or not, the Bible says each of us has been called by God to be His representatives in a foreign land and represent Him as His ambassador. 

2 Corinthians 5:20
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us

Things to think about:
·      We will look at our Mission and our Message as Ambassadors
Our Mission
·      The dictionary defines an ambassador as “ an accredited diplomat sent by his country to a foreign country as the resident representation of his own government.”
·      We are indeed citizens of another sovereignty
o   Philippians 3: 20 – we however are citizens of Heaven and we eagerly wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from Heaven.
o   Do you think of yourself as a citizen of Heaven?
o   How does that context alter your self-perception?
·      We are sent by God to do a job
o   “… as though God were making His appeal through us.”
o   that’s a wild thought, that God has entrusted you and me as His representatives.  We are His primary way to reach others.
§  How does that make you feel knowing this?  Does it stir up feelings of pressure, honor, maybe a little bit of both?

Our Message
·      2 Corinthians 5:19 – “… that God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
·      What does “reconciliation” mean to you?
o   Going back to our diplomatic theme, it means the restoration of friendly relations where there had previously been separation.
o   Why is God so into reconciliation?
§  Hint: John 3:16
§  Romans 6:26 – For the wages of sin is death
§  2 Peter 3:9 – not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
§  God is in the reconciliation business!  He has done all of the hard work to restore our relationship with Him and to live at peace.
·      Why is reconciliation among believers a big deal?
o   John 17:20-23, ““My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
o   We cannot have bitterness, strife, quarrelling among ourselves and tell others how great Christianity is and expect them to believe our message
§  Have you ever seen this be an issue?
§  Is there something you need to change TODAY to remove that barrier for someone?
·      The Good News in one verse:
o   2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
·      Let’s live as the citizens we are, represent the One who sent us well, and clearly live and speak his message of reconciliation to the country we have been sent to.
o   That’s living with a purpose and that’s a life worth living!

Friday, October 19, 2018

I Know How You Feel

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is this happening to me?”  If you haven’t, go to the emergency room right now and make sure you have a pulse! Seriously, we all wonder from time to time why we have to suffer through various trials.  While there are a number of potential reasons why, today we are going to focus on one in particular, Empathy.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 

Things to think about:
·      This is one of my all-time favorite verses because it helps answer the question, “why is this happening to me?”
o   If for no other discernible reason, we can always get value from suffering because it puts us in the unique position to be empathetic with someone else going through something similar.
·      The dictionary definition of empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”  Here’s a little formula to help us remember the definition
o   Experience + Expression = Empathy
·      Once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, God gets to work on conforming us in the image of His Son.  In His infinite wisdom, He knows that suffering makes us more like Jesus.
o   Isaiah 40:3 ... “a man of suffering and familiar with pain…”
o   1 Peter 4:12 says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. “
·      Describe a time when have you gone through a particularly tough patch that didn’t (doesn’t) make a lot of sense?
·      Another key element of going through hard times is experiencing God’s comfort
o   “The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort”
§  Can you talk about a time when you comforted one of your children?  How did it make them feel?  How did it make you feel?
o   One primary way God comforts us is through the Holy Spirit.  In the Greek, the word for the Comforter is paraclete which means “called to the side of”.
§  What a great word picture that is, He comes to our side to put His arm around us and give us comfort in the warm embrace of His love.  God is love.
§  When have you felt this God-hug?
·      Now that we have the scars, we are uniquely positioned to be of help to others going through a similar experience.
·      v.4 – “So that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
o   A very common complaint from those grieving is to have a well-intended friend say, “I know how you feel” but if they haven’t had a loss of the same sort, then they really don’t.  It sounds nice but it can actually make the other person angry.
·      One of the risks of being empathetic is that it may cause one to relive their own personal pain as they try to be a comfort to another. 
o   Have you ever held back on reaching out to someone because you didn’t want to "go there”?
·      Why is having shared the same experience such a powerful weapon in combating hurt and despair?
o   Have you ever been comforted by someone because they “got it”?
o   Have you ever had the chance to reach out to someone and made that special connection because you “got it”?

·      So our formula is Experience + Expression  = Empathy
·      Back to Isaiah 53, a major point of that chapter is that Jesus “gets it”.  He experienced great pain and suffering (physical pain, separation from His Father, abandonment by his friends, rejected by the very people He came to help).
·      He came to Earth to experience life as we experience it
o   Hebrews 4:15-16, “ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
·      So when something painful has happened to you, it may just be that God has prepared you to be His hands and feet to come alongside that brother and to comfort him with the comfort you yourself have received.