On April 7-8, Dr. Clarence Jones spoke at our church 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. We built this week’s GPS around Bible examples King cited in his April 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” White Christian and Jewish clergymen had published a critique of non-violent civil rights protests as too impatient and extreme. Click here to read the full text of King’s powerful response.
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the regions of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit kept them from speaking the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they approached the province of Mysia, they tried to enter the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them. 8 Passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas instead. 9 A vision of a man from Macedonia came to Paul during the night. He stood urging Paul, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 Immediately after he saw the vision, we prepared to leave for the province of Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
“I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in"…. I am in Birmingham because injustice is here…. As the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and… the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.”
Lord Jesus, you were the ultimate “outsider coming in.” How grateful I am that you didn’t just leave us in darkness and lostness. Give me the courage I need to follow your calling in my life. Amen.
Resurrection offers a class on Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts a couple of times each year. (New 3-week class begins at Tuesday Grow Night on April 10.) As part of the class, participants take a spiritual assessment, where they’re asked to rank themselves on several statements with a scoring system similar to this: 4 = very true of me, 3 = frequently true of me, 2 = occasionally true of me, 1 = infrequently true of me, 0 = rarely or never true of me.
Imagine Paul and his companions rating themselves as they were called and compelled to share the Gospel in places like Macedonia.
I will boldly move forward in a situation if I sense God's calling and provision to do so. I am drawn to proclaim and teach the gospel in places where it has not been heard or taught.
Duh – that’s a 4! They were among the first! The places where the gospel had not been heard or taught was – well – everywhere! And they did it with only the Holy Spirit to guide them. There were no online studies by expert theologians or small group guides – no opportunities to learn from those who went before them. (Thankfully, we do have those opportunities – check out www.cor.org/nextsteps.)
I am concerned about the spiritual growth of people I know. I intentionally develop relationships with non-Christians for the purpose of sharing my faith. I often invite people to come to church with me.
I’m thinking they could get 4s on these also – if for no other reason than they certainly didn’t have to look far to find non-Christians. As stated above, they were everywhere, they were everyone! Our purpose at Resurrection is to reach non- and nominally religious people to help them become deeply committed Christians. I grew up in a Christian home, my parents grew up in a Christian home, my husband and I brought up our children in a Christian home. For many of us, we probably won’t encounter people who don’t believe as we do. But maybe we don’t really know. So many people hide behind the illusion of perfect lives – but what if they are longing for something that’s missing? (Next weekend, we start a new sermon series, “What Jesus would Say to…” This is a great opportunity to invite someone to church!)
I desire to follow the example of Jesus, reaching out to people in need with compassion. I care about the church and do all I can to see it grow and be built up in love.
Another 4 for Paul and company. And they would inspire so many others to follow in their footsteps. Dr. Clarence Jones, friend and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shared a message in worship services this past weekend. (If you missed him, you can watch on-demand this week at www.rezonline.org.) He spoke of the homeless who sleep on sidewalks. He spoke of the highest rate of incarceration in history – especially for black males. And he spoke of the highest measure of love being found in how we treat the lowest – “the least of these.” (Did you know Resurrection has a Prison Ministry? Or that we have joined with St. James UMC to create Allies for Racial Justice to change the world – starting with Kansas City?) I was amazed listening to Dr. Jones describe Dr. King’s overwhelming capacity to love even when faced with so much hatred. “Martin believed that there is no one so overcome with hate who cannot be redeemed by love. He had a deep conviction in the power of love.”
Dr. King traveled the road to Birmingham, Alabama, including time spent in a Birmingham jail, and became the leader of the Civil Rights Movement – yet insisted he was first and foremost a preacher of the Gospel. Paul and his companions traveled the road to Macedonia, where they would be imprisoned – and they became some of the first preachers of the Gospel.
Now it’s up to us to follow in their footsteps and “preach” the Gospel. It likely won’t land us in prison, but we might find ourselves in the discomfort of alienation, injustice, hatred.
I feel compelled to share the gospel.
Let’s speak and act in such ways that we can rate ourselves a 4.
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