July 31, 2014
On a Sinking Ship
Recently it has come to my attention that I take our fellowship for granted. I don’t mean that I take Ventura
CoC for granted; instead, I mean that I take our large church body for granted. It is quite easy to forget that
we need the spiritual fellowship and uplifting courage that only our family can provide. Instead of looking
toward the redeemed body of Christ for our fulfillment and joy we distract ourselves with the ephemeral lights of this world that so easily turn our eyes away from Christ.
Recently, a person more faithful than I took a leap of grace and pleaded for help from their family. That
family has often communicated love, forgiveness and accountability to this person and it was about time
someone called upon those qualities in their hour of need. All throughout scripture we see and hear about
people who when left with nothing call upon the one community, the source that has the healing and
redemption they so desperately need.
When was the last time you desperately needed the healing that only the body of Christ can offer? When
was the last time you turned to God in an hour of absolute need, life or death? Imagine standing on a sinking
ship and feeling the cold water rise around your feet. Feel the inevitable approach of the rushing ocean
as you realize the firm footing, you had only minutes before depended on, is sinking from beneath you.
Finally someone tosses a rope to your waving arms and as your head dips below the tumultuous waves
your hands clasp around a life line. As you pull desperately on the rope, the one hope you have at survival,
it holds firm and true. It seems impossible; improbable that something in this world could be so strong
when everything around you seems so frail and weak. The rope seems to be anchored in something more
solid than the ground you previously depended on. As you weakly pull yourself along the line a hand
reaches for yours, and as strength leaves you; his strength saves you. This is our need of one another; this
is our need of the Christ our Messiah. As this world crumbles and falls around us, we have each other to
depend upon for strength and support. When one of us fails and loses sight of the rope, our one life line to
salvation, we can trust that someone will help and pull that person back to the anchor of our hope and
redemption. When all else fails and our strength finally gives out, we have Jesus to rely on and save us
from our sinking ship.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, or the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and you coming in from this tie forth and forevermore.
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers
are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore,
to send out workers into his harvest field.’”
The leaders of our congregation believe this call by Jesus applies to every Christian, in every place, until He returns. The harvest of souls is plentiful here in Ventura. We must earnestly pray for workers to reap the harvest. Jesus made this same statement in Luke 10:2, just before sending His disciples out, to call people to God. So they were to pray for reapers, and they were to be reapers! So must we.
A report by the Barna Group concluded that “unchurched” adults in America differ from the churched population in four key ways:
1. Although they comprise slightly less than half of the national population, men dominate the unchurched, at 55%.
2. They are younger than their church-going peers. The median adult age in the U.S.A. is 43, but unchurched adults’ average age is 38.
3. They are more likely to be single and never-married. 26% of all American adults are single and never-married, but almost 40% of unchurched adults fit this definition.
4. They like coastlines. 40% of adults live in the northeastern or west-ern portions of the U.S.A., but 51% of unchurched adults live there. California and New York contain 23% of America’s unchurched
Three other traits surfaced about unchurched adults in our country:
1. Most are somewhat isolated from the mainstream activities of their societies.
2. They exhibit non-committal natures, emotionally and intellectually distancing them-selves through moderate ideology, and professing ambiguous theological perspectives.
3. They have independent natures, so they are less likely than church-goers to marry, have children and develop loyalty to organizations and products.
They are not attracted by stirring worship or comfortable seating. We have encountered such people in this congregation. Hopefully we’ll en-counter more! So how can we reach them?
The Barna Group concluded that such adults must have life-changing, practical encounters. They must establish an on-going personal rela-tionship with the Living God, and with people who have been trans-formed by Him. Such has happened here, and must happen more.
This is why we are focusing, but not limiting, our efforts on reaching young adults. At least half of them are children of divorce. They don’t know the hope-filled and meaningful life with God. They need us to lead them to Christ. We must go out of our way to be authentic family to them, and to exemplify our discipleship to Christ, for their sake. May God stir us to do this!
The Cross and the Garden
We all hurt. We all feel disappointment. We all fear in one way or another. We all face discourage-ment, depression, or find ourselves lacking self-assurance or confidence in the direction we are heading. We all struggle with our purpose, our gifts, and our significance. Eventually at some point in our lives we all comprehend our mortality.
I mostly love my morning swim time. I say mostly because some days the thought of jumping into the cold water and swimming, back and forth for an hour seems exhausting. Routine is comforting to me. In fact I am most comfortable with a smooth consistent routine. I think that some mornings it is the routine that makes me jump into that cold water! However, once I am done, I have never re-gretted my decision to swim. God and I have had many defining moments while I’m in the water. As I listen to my music I close out the world; it is my hour of focus.
Jesus left the chaos of the world he lived in to seek time with his Father. Why is it that we are so reluctant to follow his example? My answer for myself… I simply allow the busy-ness of my life to overrun my time in the garden with God. God is there. God is waiting. If I choose to go to the gar-den I will find Him. It is here I can share my hurt, express my confusion and if I listen; directions are given. My heart is comforted, I have been heard, and I have been in the presence of God! Think about that!
We are so blessed in Ventura. We have a church family that has a genuine and unselfish concern for the welfare of each person. Christ’s church is designed to be a garden. It is a place to close out the world, spend time in fellowship and communion with God, his Son and each other. However, in order to be filled, and led to still waters we must attend and be a part of the family of God.
The irony of going into the garden is that it is such a peaceful, amazing place that once inside we may never want to leave. “I’d stay in the garden with him, though the night around me be falling, but He bids me go through a voice of woe, His voice to me is calling.” If you listen to the song it indi-cates a full day was spent in the garden. Christ understands my struggles, my hurts, my joys, my distractions, and my life. But he still says, “Go, go into the world and share this garden with others.” I know I cannot share something that I don’t have. Neither can I share an experience that I have not had. We need to experience the garden, often. God’s garden is large; there is room for anyone who wants to see it.
At the end of each lane is a cross. As I approach the end of the lane my eyes are focused on the cross. There are great promises realized at the cross of Christ. If I can focus on the promises, I am convinced that the cross is a refuge, like the garden, for all who seek it.