December 31, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Reaching Out)

Submitted by Allen C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

Which of the following areas have I grown in this year? What are the circumstances or what acts of obedience led to growth in this area?

  • Sharing God’s heart for the lost
  • Creative and effective evangelism here and abroad
  • Compassionate service to the needy

Matthew 9:36-38

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

In this past year, I’ve grown in sharing God’s heart for the lost. As we were preparing to reach out to a new class of college students this Fall quarter, there was a night where we gathered together as a church to pray for the new students who would be arriving on campus and to get equipped for how we might effectively meet them in order to share the gospel with them. Steve gave a short message to remind us why we were doing what we were doing, about how God’s heart is for us to seek and save the lost. One thing that really helped to drive the point home was the imaginary scenario that if his son Micah were missing one day, Steve would drive all over town looking for him and would go to any extent to get his son back. He would not stop searching until he found him, not give himself any rest, because of his great love and concern for his child. And he would hope that those who knew him and cared for him would also have the same heart and concern for his lost son. This illustration helped me see and feel God’s heart for the lost, who are also described as God’s lost children. I was reminded that this is how God views and feels toward those who don’t know Him. They are every bit as precious and valuable to Him as a missing son to a father, and God would go to any extent to find His lost children, even going to the cross to demonstrate His love and provide a way back to Him. And so as school started, this was my heart as I met people and started to build relationships so that I could one day have an opportunity to share the gospel with them so that they can be reconciled with our loving heavenly Father. Evangelism is about meeting people who may be lost, harassed by sin or the lies of Satan, helpless against the temptations of college life, addicted to some destructive behavior, and ultimately separated from their heavenly Father. Whether they’ve never heard of the good news of the gospel, or they’ve been burned by a bad experience at church, or they’ve got reason to be wary of organized religion, they are missing the amazing, unconditional love of God for which they were made. God grieves over them because the reality is that apart from Him, they are lost in their sins and headed toward an eternity apart from Him. So He wants them to experience the gospel, which offers them a chance to be saved from death, forgiven of sin, restored to God, and given eternal life. Remembering the truth about people’s greatest problem (sin) and their greatest need (the gospel) gave me a different perspective during welcome week: that each person was a precious son or daughter of God whom He wanted to save and invite into a personal relationship. And this motivated me to want to reach out to these students so they could have a chance for God to find them and welcome them home.

Submitted by Jenny C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

One area I experienced growth in was sharing in God’s heart for the lost, as He taught me to lift up my eyes from the tasks and small dramas of my life and onto the people He wanted me to care about. This would happen when I least expected it, often when I felt stressed about preparing for life group prayer meeting, for course 101 discussion. I’ve gone into a meeting with someone not knowing how they’ll respond to the content I’ve prepared, unsure if they’ll understand the points I want to make, uncertain of how the conversation will go. I’m often feeling nervous and focused on the task at hand, trying to lead that time, and I can only pray that somehow the Holy Spirit will be at work in that person’s heart despite my inadequacy and lack of wisdom. I remember at a life group prayer time in which I was meeting one of the students for the very first time. I was still sick with a cold that had lasted for over a month and feeling weary. I contemplated having one of the other staff take over–after all I wasn’t fully recovered and it was just two students who were planning to come, but in the end decided to push through and make it, though my focus was just on making it through that time. Yet through the course of that prayer time, the person opened up really vulnerably about her past burdens and current struggles and I ended up being able to lift her up in prayer about those issues. God used incidents like this to increase my burden for people, and to realize with new sharpness that there are so many people out there who are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (cf. Matthew 9:36). Though I could hide behind excuses of why I should not be the one ministering to people (i.e. I’m not feeling well, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t have what it takes, etc.), the reality is that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Rather than just being relieved that the meeting is over, I get hit with a renewed sense that God’s desire is to seek the lost, bring back the strayed, bind up the injured, strengthen the weak (cf. Ezekiel 34:16), and He has somehow brought this person into my life so He can do those things through me.

Another way I’ve grown in sharing God’s heart for the lost is through hearing the stories of lives changed by God. Earlier this year, I had the chance to witness some of our students get baptized at our first Riverside baptism service. Their testimonies of where these brothers were before they met Christ and before they came to our church brought me to tears, as I heard them recount how alone they felt or how they believed they were worthless. Yet God had a purpose to bring them to our church, to bring them to life and salvation in the gospel, and it would leave me wondering–what if we did not start this church plant? What if we had clung to comforts or gave in to fears and never came? It was indeed God’s heart to seek and save the lost that He brought them into our midst and used us, even as the broken, struggling, imperfect people we are, to show these brothers His great love and compassion for them.

In which of the above areas do I want to experience growth in this coming year?

I want to engage more creatively in reaching out to people. This year, more than ever, I feel a greater hurdle in relating to younger people in my ministry. I think this has to do in large part with me becoming a mom, as it seems to take more to relate to the college freshmen who only a year ago were in high school, and who don’t really know what it takes to raise a child, the demands as a parent. Also as I get older, I feel more removed from what it’s like to be in college. Yet in 1 Corinthians 9, Apostle Paul says he becomes all things to all people for the sake of the gospel, so he can share with people in its blessings. In my context, this means I need to get into the mindset of being a college freshmen again – to revisit the days when I lived in the dorms, what kind of concerns I had, what my relational world was like, what my motivations were. Rather than sticking to things I’ve done before and assume what’s worked will work again, I want to try new things in order to meet them where they’re at. This means I have to devote more of my time to thinking about each person with care and intentionality, just as a good shepherd would take care to examine each of the sheep in his care.

Another area I want to grow in this coming year is being a person who will be able to teach and raise up others. 2 Timothy 2:2 says “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful menwho will be able to teach others also.” I still see many ways in which I still need to mature so that I can become this faithful person who can pass down gospel truths so it will shape people who come after me. This is particularly true as I think about our current upperclassmen, who will graduate in a couple years, and some of whom may join our team at that time. I have this responsibility over them and I owe it to them to grow and mature myself so I can properly teach and train them. This means that I have to step up the ownership I have over our ministry and over my own spiritual life. I cannot defer decisions to my leaders, or expect things to happen because my leaders are there to make them happen. It means not shielding myself from the hard things in ministry–taking risks with people to speak truths to them; being intentional to think through and anticipate each person’s issues; being mindful of our students’ view of our church. It means being proactive in my relationships and myself first living out our core values (connecting with God, living it out, giving it all, getting close, etc.) with greater intensity and conviction before I can pass down the values of our church to this next generation. The way I live my life is what our students are looking to for the example of how to live as an Acts 2 church–and thinking about this brings to me a heightened sense of the enormity of this task.

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