08-20-17 "BLESS: Begin with Prayer"

Thank you so much for the time off for our family vacation -- we had a great time of fun, rest, and relaxation, but it’s also good to be back home with everyone that we love.  We made it a point to kind of drop off the face of the planet for two weeks and enjoy swimming, caving, and snuggling in large chunks of time.

Of course, that kind of “dropping off” has its drawbacks as well.  We reconnected with the world, only to hear that we had a bit of a nuclear standoff with North Korea over Guam, that a psychotic drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, and that people across the nation have gone back and forth responding to hate with reflexive hate, in hopes that enough hate will somehow just make the hated things go away... not realizing (or wanting to realize) that they are simply paving the very roads that they are criticizing their opponents for sprinting down.  And it’s so easy for any of us -- even really good, loving, Christian people -- to think, “Yeah, I know exactly the kind of person you’re talking about there!  There’s no place in our country for those people...” which is technically us just walking down the same path. 

So we spent some time discussing and praying as a church family about all of that -- about responding to hate with hate vs. responding with love -- on a personal basis, a national basis, an international basis.  We have to own where we’ve dropped that ball ourselves and own what we need to do to address the situations that our lives touch every day.  And that has to begin with seeking God and His face, His heart, His wisdom first and foremost.

Actually, that led into our message this week.  We are beginning a new series designed by our denomination, using the acronym, “BLESS,” to describe the stages of a healthy outreach ministry:

            Begin with Prayer

            Listen with Care

            Eat Together

            Serve with Love

            Share your Story

But I had to admit that, as I read through and prayed about the series, I realized that it was more than just a good snapshot of how to do outreach as Christians -- it was a good snapshot of how to do life as Christians.  In everything we do, we should begin with prayer, end with prayer, and make sure that we’re praying as we’re going through it; in every interaction, we should focus on really engaging with people, rather than simply waiting for the opportunity to jump in with our own two cents; etc.   

In short, over the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking at how to make serving God and loving people the conscious foundation for the ministries that we do as a church... and as individuals.

By the way, on Sunday afternoon, several of us Peoria pastors got together to read a press release decrying the racism, hatred, and violence that’s ripping our nation apart these days.  It was a genuine privilege to stand up with brothers and sisters from different faiths, different ethnicities, etc., to make the common statement that we were created to be children of God, and that we honor His name best when we respond to sin, to hatred, etc., with a clear, loving, and Biblical attitude that seeks peace rather than destruction.

That’s not a bad thing for people to be remembering right about now, don’t you think...?