Tuesday, June 12, 2007

“What Religion Is Missing”

Each one of us in this room is different. We have different interests, different skills, different tastes, etc…

But there’s one way that all of us in this room and in this world are the same. We’re all looking and searching through life for something. We’re looking for love. And we’re looking for love of all kinds: romantic love, family love, and friendship love.

In an article from Psychology Today called, “The Power Of Love” it says…

“Love is as critical for your mind and body as oxygen. It's not negotiable. The more connected you are, the healthier you will be both physically and emotionally. The less connected you are, the more you are at risk.

It is also true that the less love you have, the more depression you are likely to experience in your life. Love is probably the best antidepressant there is because one of the most common sources of depression is feeling unloved. Most depressed people don't love themselves and they do not feel loved by others. They also are very self-focused, making them less attractive to others and depriving them of opportunities to learn the skills of love.”

We all want someone we can love and someone who will love us. This desire, this need, affects many of our choices and actions in life.

Love is really the obsession of most people. They feel like Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, when she said, "I don't want to live - I want to love first, and live incidentally."

But there’s something about this desire for love that you might not have thought of.

This search for love is one of the few ways we can really relate and understand God. You see, God is looking for love. He desires it too. From the time when he created the first humans until now, it’s been what’s he’s been looking and hoping for.

When you love someone all you really want is for them to love you backnothing more and nothing less will satisfy you. And no one would say that’s too much for you to ask!

That’s all that God wants is for someone to return his love – someone to love him back, just for who he is, not to get something from him.

That’s why religion and ritual, in and of themselves, are useless. Great acts of service and sacrifice aren’t any better if they’re not done in love!

That;s what the Apostle Paul is talking about 1 Cor. 13:1-3 when he says…

1 If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth F63 but didn't love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; F64 but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

The last couple months we’ve been focusing on some pretty simple, but powerful things:

  1. Praying for 3-4 friends who don’t know Jesus.
  2. Reading, memorizing or meditating on God’s word more.
  3. Showing the love of God to others through “random acts of kindness”.

All of this stuff is important and foundational. I really believe doing these things will cause us to grow personally and as a group of friends trying to be the church.


I really felt like today I needed to remind us that all of this we’re doing, without love for God and love for others, will be meaningless, no good to us or anyone else and have no value.

Without love it all will have no effect on you, on God, or on others! Paul goes on in
1 Cor. 13 and says…

8Love will last forever, but prophecy and speaking in unknown languages F65 and special knowledge will all disappear. 9Now we know only a little, and even the gift of prophecy reveals little! 10But when the end comes, these special gifts will all disappear.

Then Paul says,11It's like this: When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. F66 All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.

13There are three things that will endure—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

In heaven we won’t need prophecy or any other gift, but one thing we’ll still need in heaven and always need is love!

We need faith, because it helps us see the possible. It helps us see the potential. It’s allows us to trust and believe God, which causes us to step out, let go and let God work in our life. Faith is important.

We need hope, because it helps us to see things in a different way. It helps us see the positive. It helps us believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. This changes how we see and handle the hard, dark times of life. It causes is to keep going, not give up, to see the lessons and opportunities God has hidden in the trials of life. We need hope, that comes from Jesus, in our lives. It’s important.

But the thing that we need above all this is love!

Love needs to be our motive for everything we do as Christ-followers

Dan Kennedy, a sales "guru" and author, talks about something he calls "Complexity Creep". He says, "People have an incredible tendency to complicate their lives."

I think this is a universal truth that applies to all areas of life. It applies to what I’m talking about today.

I think as Christ-followers we like to complicate what it means to serve and live for Jesus. Jesus made it pretty simple.... LOVE. When he was asked what the greatest thing God told us to do was he said…

Love God - with all your heart, soul and mind.
Love your neighbor - as you love yourself.

This sums up the rules of life and following Jesus!

I'm trying to live a more simple faith. I'm trying to help us be a more simple expression of what it means to be the church.

Simple doesn't mean easy. It just means not complicated.

We still need God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working in us and through us to do these things, but they’re not complicated.

We need to sense God’s love – for the first time or again. When we do we’ll respond in naturally, without even trying, with love towards God and others.

How do we increase our love for God?

· Spend time with Him.

· Get to know him.

· Look at and think about his attractive qualities: his mercy, his patience, his grace, his forgiveness, etc.

· Remember his love for you - his sacrifice for your sins.

We need to remember God’s love for us everyday. We need to feel it, rest in it and respond to it, live in response to it.

Brennan Manning in an article in Discipleship Journal called “Living as God’s Beloved”said this…

“As a man, I love the Jersey shore, Handel’s Messiah, hot fudge, and my wife, Roslyn. I love what I find congenial or appealing. I love someone for what I find in him or her. But God is not like that.

“The God and Father of Jesus loves men and women not for what He finds in them, but for what He finds in them of Himself. It is not because men and women are good that He loves them, nor is it only good men and women whom He loves. It’s because He is so unspeakably, unimaginably good that He loves men and women, even in their sin.

“It’s not that He detects what is congenial and appealing and He responds to us with His favor. He is the source of love. He acts; He does not react. He is love without motive.

“Does God love me because I spend time with AIDS victims and alcoholics, or because I spend an hour in prayer every day? Or because I’m rigorously faithful to my wife? If I believe that, I am a Pharisee who feels entitled to be comfortably close to Christ because of my good works.

“The gospel of grace says I am loved for one reason only and that is because God loves me…period.

Every page of Christian Scripture declares that He loves us in a way that defies human comprehension and escapes human limitation. That is why I can say with theological certainty: God loves you unconditionally as you are and not as you should be, because you are never going to be as you should be. God loves you in the morning sun and the evening rain, without caution or regret. If God ceased to be love, God would cease to be God.”

How do we show God love?

If you want to show me love, then love my children. If you want to hurt me, then hurt them.

Jesus said something similar in Matthew 25:35-40 when he said…

35For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.'

37"Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' 40And the King will tell them, 'I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, F143 you were doing it to me!'

There are many ways to show and tell God you love him - Jesus said we love him when we do what he told us to do (if you want to know how to love him discover what he told us to do).

But one of the most practical, tangible ways to love God, is to show love to others!

Discipleship Journal had a cool example of this in an article about Mother Teresa. I want to read you some of the highlights from this article that apply to what we’re talking about today… http://www.navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.9.13.html

It says…

”Mother Teresa willingly gave up a secure, comfortable position to serve the less fortunate. She followed the example of our Lord, who "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (Philippians 2:7). A living model of what it means to be a sacrificial missionary in a foreign culture, her ministry reflects Christ's earthly mission: "Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

“By 1948 she was ready to begin the ministry she is known for today–serving the poor and abandoned people living in the slums. Her motivation was simple, as we learn in her statements quoted by Malcolm Muggeridge in Something Beautiful for God. "I wanted to serve the poor purely for the love of God. I wanted to give the poor what the rich get with money."2

Later she explains that loving people is a way of loving God.

“Our neighbors we can always see, and we can do to them what, if we saw him, we would like to do to Christ. . . . Our hearts need to be full of love for him; and since we have to express that love in action, naturally then the poorest of the poor are the means of expressing our love for God.5

The article then says, “Her example can help us express this same love in our own lives for those who are, in her words,

unwanted, unemployed, uncared for, hungry, naked, and homeless. They seem useless to the state and to society; nobody has time for them. It is you and I as Christians, worthy of the love of Christ if our love is true, who must find them, and help them; they are there for the finding.6

Mother Teresa clearly recognizes the worth of every individual.

I do not agree with the big way of doing things. To us what matters is an individual. To get to love the person we must come in close contact with him. If we wait till we get the numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers. And we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person. I believe in person to person.7

Later… Although she has focused her ministry among the poor of India, Mother Teresa's mission has responded to needs worldwide. She says,

People today are hungry for love. That is why we are able to go to countries like England and America and Australia where there is no hunger for bread. But there, people are suffering from terrible loneliness, terrible despair, terrible hatred–feeling unwanted, feeling helpless, feeling hopeless.111


Religion without love is no better than a marriage without love. The one thing God wants from you and me more than anything else is love. He loved us first, loves us today and will always love us.

I want to keep praying for your 3-4 friends, keep reading and desiring to know God’s word, keep shining God’s love on others through good deeds, but make sure that in all you do that most of all, above everything else that you’re loving God.

That will make a difference in your life, in the lives of others and to God.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Shining Good Deeds


In a tenement district in New York City, a boy in ragged clothes was seen with a small piece of broken mirror in his hand. Holding it high in the air he moved it slowly back and forth, watching the narrow slit of a window above him as he did so. "What are you doing?" a man suddenly demanded as he shook the youngster roughly by the shoulder. "Like most boys in this neighborhood, you're probably up to some mischief, aren't you?" The boy looked up into the stern face of his accuser and said, "See that window up there? Well, I have a little brother who has a room on that floor. He's a cripple. The only sunlight he ever sees is what I shine up to him with my mirror!"

There are people all around us, everyday who are living in the darkness. They feel alone. They’re stressed. They feel helpless and hopeless. They’re worried. They’re running looking for something, but they’re not even sure what it is.

They work with you, they wait on you, some are strangers or just acquaintances, and some are your friends, classmates, co-workers, neighbors.

Who will you reflect some light to them? Will you?

But don’t just think of these people who are desperate. What about the people who aren’t living such hopeless lives, but they’re still in the dark about Jesus?

They don’t believe in God. Or they don’t know if God’s real and they don’t care. Some used to believe, but something happened and they gave up and stopped believing. These are people who think they can take care of themselves. They don’t want anything to do with religion.

They don’t know God is real. They don’t know he loves them.

They work with you, they wait on you, some are strangers or just acquaintances, and some are your friends, classmates, co-workers, neighbors.

Will you reflect at least some light to them? If not you, then who will?

I really want to reflect more light to the people around me! Don’t you?

But how do we really do it? I’m not talking about theory.
I’m talking about how do we really do it in our busy, everyday, up-and-down lives?

That’s what I want to show you today.

First, we need to understand something about light.

When you think of light symbolically you probably think of knowledge, or love, or truth. Light can represent all those things.

But when we talk about shining light into people’s lives, I want you to think of light as more than that. In John 1:4-9, he Apostle John tells us Jesus is the source of all light when he says… 4Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone. 5The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6God sent John the Baptist 7to tell everyone about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8John himself was not the light; he was only a witness to the light. 9The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world.”

But wait a second…
Jesus, the “light of the world”, said something that you probably remember in Mattbew 5. He told all of us who are Christ-followers that we’re the light of the world!

This doesn’t mean that we’re the source of light. It just means our job is just to reflect the light (reflect Jesus) to others!

Think about this…

Without real light we wouldn’t be able to see. Colors wouldn’t exist to us!

Jesus is saying our job is to reflect his light so we can help people to see God – so they can see that there’s more beyond this black and white world, so they can see the full spectrum of the colors.

That little boy in the story I just told wasn’t trying to make sunlight. That would’ve been impossible! He was just trying to do something he could do - reflect it!

A well-known Bible teacher Keith Brooks had just finished speaking to a large class of businessmen on the Christian's responsibility to be a "light" in the world. He emphasized that believers are to reflect the Light of the world, the Lord Jesus. After the class, one of the members related to him an experience he had in his home which had impressed upon this same truth.

He said that when he went into his basement he made an interesting discovery. Some potatoes had sprouted in the darkest corner of the room. At first he couldn't figure out how they had gotten enough light to grow.

Then he noticed that the cook had hung a copper kettle from the ceiling near a cellar window. She kept it so brightly polished that it reflected the rays of the sun onto the potatoes.

The businessman said to Brooks, "When I saw that, I thought, I may not be a preacher or a teacher with ability to expound Scripture, but at least I can be a copper kettle catching the rays of the Son and reflecting His light to someone in a dark corner."

That’s all that Jesus is telling us to do. Be a light by reflecting his light!

So how do we reflect Jesus to the world?
What’s our mirror to shine him to the people around us?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16!

In Matt 5:15 he says, “Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all.” Then he tells us HOW to let our light shine and reflect him for all to see…

"v16In the same way, let your good deeds shine out, for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly father."

*The way we shine our light and help people to see Jesus is by our good deeds!

Through simple acts of kindness and love to the people around us we can shine the light of Jesus to them. This is something any of us can do - whether you have a little money or not, whether your married or single, whether you know a lot about the Bible or not.

It doesn’t have to be anything huge or fancy. Just simple things!

Susan Michelle Van Hook tells a story about doing this in an article she wrote for Steve Sjogren’s ezine “Serve”. Her article is called, “Love in a pair of baseball cleats".

Listen to what she says…

Galatians 5:6 “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

It was an accident, really. We had recently moved and were just trying to figure out which ball field to be in at what time for which child. Chaos reigned as children of all ages, gender, size and team logo ran around with a frazzled parent not far behind. It was opening day at the local recreational center. Every team had pictures, a scrimmage, an opening ceremony, and time to meet the coaches, players and parents. A few words come to mind to describe what we were thinking to try such a thing, “crazy” being one of them.

That’s when I met who we will call Julie. She and her fiancĂ© had three kids between them, the youngest of which was on my sons’ 4-year-old t-ball team. We were making introductions and small talk about the upcoming season when I noticed that her little boy was the only player without cleats. My son had recently sprouted and grew into his older brothers’ cleats, so I offered her our extra pair. The cleats were a size 10, exactly the size her son wore.

Throughout the course of the season we bonded over shouts of praise and laughter when our 4-year-olds would vacillate between showing major league baseball potential and dog-piling on top of one another in mass chaos. I think another name for Servant Evangelism and Friendship Evangelism could be “Sideline Evangelism”. The season wasn’t fully over before the couple got married, our kids began to play together and the whole family began to attend church with us.

I don’t know when it was that this new family decided to give God a fresh glimpse, but my husband traces it back to a little pair of baseball cleats. I know that it had very little to do with me. I know that God must have been working in their lives for them to be so receptive. All God needs is for someone to show others that He cares. I wasn’t trying to teach them the four spiritual laws or the theology of our denomination, but they got the message. I believe that many will hear things we say and will see how we act, but they will respond when we care.

Again, Galatians 5:6 says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”. It matters to others when we show love in action, but to think that faith expressing itself through love is the only thing that counts to Christ- that is most compelling. That was how Jesus chose to live His life. He showed us Gods’ love by caring for our needs. He revealed the heart of God when He showed that He cared about our hunger, our disease, and our deepest hurts.

And so, somewhere between snow cones and juice boxes, a need was met. What may have seemed random to me was not random at all to God. Our random acts of kindness are actually when God allows us to spontaneously be a part of His plan. And He allowed a little pair of shoes to lead a family straight to Him.

You see it’s just simple good deeds that meet needs!

If we can begin to notice the needs of the people around us, we’ll have ton of chances to reflect the light of Jesus into people’s lives.

But if we’re going to really be able to let the light of Jesus shine in a way that will cause people to praise God, then we have to understand the truth about something that many Christ-followers argue about.

  • Some people emphasize tell people the truth.
  • Some people emphasize showing people God's love with acts of kindness.

Who's right? NEITHER!

They're both wrong, cause they’re both missing a key ingredient - what each other is emphasizing. We need to show and tell about God's love.

Jesus was the perfect example of this!

I’ve been about how Jesus came and began to gather the church.

He didn’t just tell people the truth. He showed them God’s love! His acts of love and kindness drew crowds to him. They made people talk about him. And when they came, he told them the truth they needed to hear!

If people are to have the good deeds lead them to Jesus, then we have to do one of these two things:

1. Identify ourselves as a Christ-follower.
2. Mention God/Jesus before, during, or after our good deeds.

We have to do this in Jesus' name!

After doing your good deeds you can say something like…
"A group of my friends from my church have decided to do small, random acts of kindness to make people's day and remind them that God loves them."

You might do that with your words, or with a simple card you can hand them (I’ll have some made for us).

You might tell them this upfront or wait until they ask and say something simple like, “I’m just trying to live more like Jesus.”

Maybe if it’s someone you see regularly you won’t say anything upfront. You’ll just keep doing small acts and when they ask why you can say, “I’m a Christian and I think it’s something Jesus would do.”

Or maybe somewhere in your regular conversations with these people you drop a clue that you’re a believer.

But you have to somehow let people know why you’re doing these good deeds or who you represent otherwise you’ll get the praise and not “your heavenly father”!

I’m trying to give you ideas of what you COULD say, but I don’t want to give you an exact script of what to say.

Pray and ask God to give you something you can say, that you’ll be comfortable saying, that will still help people see the light about him and his love.

Mention Coyote Point story. I casually mentioned. I was a pastor and with some friends from our church. We plan on hanging out with them again.

STOP and Pray for Murray family in Ireland who suddenly lost 20 year old daughter 7 weeks ago.

I’ve been thinking about this more and more…

We can’t just sit around and talk about God and learn about the Bible on Sundays and wait for people to find us. That’s “attractional” thinking. It’s dumb for us to do. It seems almost sinful to me now.

We’ve got to go and be “incarnational” and reflect the light with our good deeds!

Here’s what I think we need to do…

1,000 Good Deed Seeds
We need plant at least 1,000 good deeds "seeds" of God's love this Summer (June-August).



  • Buy cashier a drink or a candy.
  • Buy someone you regularly bump into something.
  • Tell someone you’ll pray for their need. Mik story here?
  • Street Church – Menlo Park behind Borrone’s
  • What else? What are your ideas?

Group: SG & Whole church:

  • Water bottle giveaway - Go see how many bottles we have. Where/When
  • would be the best place to give them away?
  • Gas buy down
  • 300 Newspapers – at train 2 stations in Palo Alto ($70)
  • Meals for New Moms?
  • What else?

remember the "parable of the sower"? Fling those seeds everywhere!

Steve Sjogren & Dave Ping say something in their book, Outflow that I want you to hear. Listen…

“The overflowing life he’s calling you into is more than an occasional thing – it’s daily. So whatever you do to pay your bills, its just a means to fulfilling this higher calling. The Apostle Paul funded his day-to-day outreach by making tents, but you might fund yours by working for an insurance company or a plumbing supply business. Whatever it is that you do, you can go about your day intentionally flinging seeds, nurturing relationships, and bearing lasting fruit for God in the lives around you. If you do this, loving your city will become a part of your everyday lifestyle!”

I want us to shine brighter this summer.

I want us to do this because God wants us to and because people need it. But the side effect will be that some more people will become a part of our church.

Why? When light shines in the darkness it draws a crowd.

I’m looking for people who will do this with me this summer – alone and together – so that it will become a way of life for us.

Listen from the Servant Evangelism experts Steve Sjogren… READ from Outflow pg. 169-170.

If you’re shy. What Steve says about introverts in Outflow pg. 171:

“Introverts are some of the most effective evangelists around. We know this sounds contrary to the image you’ve been led to expect, but it’s true nevertheless. Small things done by quiet people can change the world.”


  • Paying for meal behind you in a drivethrough line. Give cashier and extra dollar to tell them, “Someone bought your meal today as a practical way of saying God loves you.”
  • Tipping well. Say it or write in on the check. “Here’s a little something extra just to remind you that God loves you.”

When we do these simple things to show people God’s love. We show people that God’s changed us. When we do these things in God’s name we make HIM look good!

We change people’s opinion of who God is and what it means to be a Christ-follower.

We need a god-sized vision where if God doesn’t show up and do something, we’re in a big bunch of trouble! – steve sjogren


Paul Thomas Thigpen said it like this in an article for “Discipleship Journal” that he wrote called, “Why Should I Care?”…

In Miami or Moscow, New York or Nairobi, Denver or Dublin, in the 1st century or the 21st, whatever may change, some things remain the same: spiritual need, material need; empty hearts, empty hands.

Could God's heart be any clearer? Could His call be any louder? Think of it: Our Lord weeps for our community, for those who surround us every day. The waitress we snub, the boss we complain about, the driver we cut off in traffic, the child next door whom we scold for playing in our pansies.

He weeps as well for those who surround us at a distance, invisible to us but all too visible to Him. The unwed teenaged mother, the crack addict, the patient and the prisoner, the disabled orphan awaiting a foster home, the forgotten great-grandmother alone in her room.

Can we afford to turn away from His tears?

This isn't confrontational stuff that I’m talking about. Its just meeting needs with good deeds! It’s the easiest, funnest way to share God with others!

Here’s my suggestion:
Start with people you know, work to people you interact with regularly and move to strangers.

Want to learn more how to do this?

Get a copy of this book Outflow, read his ezine “Serve” or go to his website servantevangelism.com

I’m looking for people who want to do this this Summer (June to August).

I’m looking for people who will do this on their own, or maybe in small groups with friends, or maybe with your smaller gathering groups or at least with us all when we do it in our larger outreaches.

*I passed around a sign-up sheet to people who want to commit to doing this for the summer (June-August). If you're a part of Pathway and want to join the 10 of us who committed to this, then email me!