Can You Feel the Change?

25 07 2011

by Jerry W. Nieft, Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

Something new and transformative is happening in the world—something that gives hope despite the many local and global problems that confront us each day.

This “something” is subtle, yet widespread evidence shows it is emerging in many cultures. My wife and I find examples daily and point them out to one another.

We notice acts of compassion; gifts of grace; unexpected generosity; steadfast, unconditional love; genuine forgiveness; surprising healings; boundless creativity. They’re all signs of people awakening to the Spirit, awakening to the vast potential God has placed in each one. It is especially encouraging that young children are serving humanity. They’re succeeding, substantively and powerfully, where adults have not.

What is happening?

In recent years consensus has grown among researchers in disciplines ranging from religion to the sciences. It shows we are on the cusp of a spiritual awakening. It’s of a magnitude not experienced since the great change in human consciousness caused by new agriculture and settled city life at the dawn of recorded history.

We are on the brink of exploring our spiritual potential at a depth and breadth that suggest joy, hope, love, and peace are not only possible, but emerging on multiple horizons as we open to the Holy Spirit.

Individuals are responding to serve the needs of the world and its people. This looks and sounds like sacred community, something we seek to incarnate in our Christian discipleship.

Recent scripture declares our journey of transformation travels inward and outward. Jesus’ ministry insisted on the importance of a healthy, integrated inner life to gain positive transformation in daily living. The inward journey takes time and deliberate practice to yield the fruits of spirit that transform. Many people suspect this in their inner knowing when they seek spiritual nurture, rather than institutional religion.

Jesus provides keys to the way of abundant life. He says if we ask, seek, or knock at the threshold of life, he will answer. Let’s explore, discover, experiment, commit, and serve. He is showing us the way to be a transformative communion of disciples, Community of Christ.

As a faith community, we are poised, uniquely called, and positioned to be prophetic and transformative. We can join in the greatest awakening yet—experiencing the palpable presence and companionship of God on our journey together as disciples, servants, and stewards of creation.
Paul perhaps glimpsed our time when he said in 1 Corinthians 2:9 IV:

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

The day is dawning for us to awaken to God’s kingdom emerging before us and in us! What an adventure!





They Will Be Comforted

6 06 2011

Elaine Watsonby Elaine Watson
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

On October 15, 1980, our oldest daughter died, the result of a traffic accident that occurred two days earlier.

Cheryl, 18, had been unconscious and on life support from the wee hours of Monday morning to Wednesday. The medical staff asked for permission to remove the resuscitator after doctors established conclusively that Cheryl had suffered a brain death. The electro-encephalogram tests showed no brain activity for two consecutive days.

Matthew 5:4 NRSV states, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Yet I wondered if I would survive this intact. How could I ever be happy again? I felt I never would smile again. But we received support from so many sources.

Jean Black, a friend from our congregation, joined us in the hospital waiting room outside intensive care.

Many women—a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker—told me their stories. Each also had lost a child. They supported me. One of my patients (I was a visiting nurse) had seen the shooting of her husband and children. And I thought my loss was unbearable?

My mother had lost a baby daughter and a grown son. These examples made me realize I could and would survive this.

My husband, Jim, awoke one morning after dreaming that Cheryl and his dad were…laughing, and filled with joy.

After that we clung to the belief that Cheryl was with her grandfather and was happy.

I received comfort from unexpected people. A supervisor from one of our nursing offices who had no children of her own sent me a note that touched me greatly. The mother of the children I babysat as a teenager in our hometown was awesome. When we went home for Christmas after Cheryl’s death, she invited me to sit with her, and we cried together. She allowed me to talk. I didn’t have to avoid using Cheryl’s name.

Patients told me about near-death experiences in which they experienced peace and felt Jesus’ presence. One patient told me about the death of his wife, who had been comatose. Just before she died she roused and said, “It’s a bright new world!”

I heard these stories when I needed them most.

It is when I look back that I recognize all the support I received. I believe that “blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”





Holy Space

4 06 2011

Blake Westby Blake West
Topeka, Kansas, USA

For the first part of my 30-minute organ recital at the Auditorium, we had only five people. But then seven more—tourists from Wyoming—joined us.

They were thrilled to be able to sit up by the organ. I was concerned about one rather-elderly woman who had come alone and wore a special magnification visor over her eyeglasses. But she was happy to climb the steps, too.

I played a program of music for Lent with a little cheating. In honor of Jehan Alain’s 100th birthday, I did two of his works, including “Litanies.”

To be audience friendly for some-
thing that gets a little dissonant, I mentioned how that piece starts with a melody/prayer that implores over and over, becomes plaintive, fervent, and eventually leads you to the end of your rope!

At the end of “Litanies,” there was a moment’s silence. Then that sweet lady said, “I’ve felt like that, myself, sometimes!”

It was great.

After everyone else departed, I helped her down the stairs. She stopped me to say that she vividly remembered her parents saving and saving during the Great Depression. They eventually sent a check to the church for $15—a massive amount in their lives—to help build the Auditorium.

I hugged her, she cried. We talked about how her family helped make that organ, that recital, and that worship space possible for generations. Their sacrifice was incredibly meaningful because they gave all they could.

And it was part of what made that space holy.





Share Jesus

21 05 2011

by LYNN BRADY, Chicago, Illinois, USA

I’ve had many opportunities to share why I live for Jesus Christ.

When sharing why I go to church, I tell people the church building is the physical representation, and Christians are the spiritual representation of Jesus Christ. As a believer of Jesus Christ, I am confident in witnessing to others.

John 4:7–26 gives us Jesus’ example of how to share our faith. In the scripture Jesus spoke to the woman at the well when she was alone. I often find people are more open and honest when alone. When Jesus began witnessing to the woman, she was truthful in her responses, but not remorseful.

Similarly, when I speak with people, I let them know they can tell me anything, but God knows all. Sometimes that enables me to share another trait of Jesus (omnipresence). When I tell people Jesus sees all and knows all, I confirm my statement with a personal testimony of how Jesus has been with me throughout my life.

I realize that convincing someone Jesus is present and loves them can be a great challenge if they are unemployed, depressed, or without hope.

One day I met a classmate in a wheelchair. Tony wanted nothing to do with Jesus and anyone associated with him. Tony was bitter and angry at God, but I continued to testify that God was good.

I told Tony that God wasn’t punishing him. Rather, God loved him, even if he couldn’t see it. I told him God gave his son, Jesus, to die for us so we could live eternally with God. I challenged Tony to think about being killed for someone he didn’t know.

Of course, he thought it was crazy. And there was my opportunity to share Jesus’ story.

I often share about Jesus’ crucifixion and his love. The sacrifice of his life is the basis of my faith, my unflinching reliance on God. According to Hebrews 9:22 (NRSV):

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

And without the Resurrection there would be no promise of eternal life. The cross is a symbol of Christianity. As a Christian I am compelled to tell people the meaning of the cross and its value in my faith. I own a cross necklace. I occasionally wear it as a tangible reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice and a tool that provides opportunities to share about Jesus.

I accept that my purpose is to bring others to Christ, and that involves reflecting the quality of Christ in and through my life.

In If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, John Ortberg writes:

Knowing when to get out of the boat and take a risk does not only demand courage; it also demands the wisdom to ask the right questions, the discernment to recognize the voice of the Master and the patience to wait for his command.

Well, I’ve gotten out of the boat. I’ve heard the Master’s voice. And I‘v e prayerfully listened to his command.

Further, Doctrine and Covenants 163:11b tells us:

There are many issues that could easily consume the time and energy of the church. However, the challenge before a prophetic people is to discern and pursue what matters most for the journey ahead.

I accept the challenge to pursue what matters most for the journey ahead, and that it is to share Jesus.





We Will Build

30 04 2011

 

By URBAIN MBENGA MPIEM LEY,
West Congo Kinshasa Mission Center president

Despite the economic downturn, the time has come for the challenge of constructing a building for the congregation called Parole Vivante or Living Word.

It will stand in the Mango district on the eastern outskirts of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mango is one of the area’s poorest neighborhoods. It has no water, electricity, or transportation service.

The congregation meets under a canopy of cloth, twigs, cardboard, plastic sheeting—anything that shields from the tropical sun.

Yet it is a vibrant congregation. In the densely populated area, it will grow when the new building is done. Mission center leaders understood this three years ago, when they oversaw production of about 900 cement blocks.

They knew it was time to stop talking and start acting. We launched a fund-raising campaign, “With Jesus We Build Mango,” in mid-June.

For three days, three women speakers urged the faithful not to regard their poverty as inevitable, but to commit to Jesus to build their church. Each time a leader shouted, “Mango for Jesus,” the assembly responded with: “Peace is here! There is hope! We will build!”

Mission Center Financial Officer Tshiula Tshilumbayi launched a campaign that provided 10 bags of cement, equivalent to US$130. This barely is enough to meet the current needs, the first aim being to use the blocks already made to reduce the risk of theft.

But the mission center has two strengths: faith and the principles of A Disciple’s Generous Response.

Mango has fertile ground where everyone can sow and reap a hundredfold. What a blessing it will be when we complete our 18- by 10-meter building, a place where God deserves all honor and glory and will be adored—even when the weather is bad!

With Jesus, we will build in Mango!

 





Bringing Comfort and Hope

28 04 2011

By Ángela Ramírez de Hernández,
Dominican Republic Mission Center financial officer

Recently, some fellow ministers and I visited a hospital in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic, after hearing the daughter of one of our pastors had been admitted.

The life of this young woman, 26 and the mother of three, changed during the night of December 31, 2010. That evening, her jealous spouse attacked her with a firearm, severely injuring her in several places. She was pregnant, and the baby died instantly.

Doctors have performed two surgeries. She needs one more to repair the bullet wound to her liver.

She welcomed our visit, and we performed the beautiful sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick. We anointed her with oil and prayed over her. The Holy Spirit touched us all deeply.

That day was special for her. Not only were we able to pray, but we bought needed medicine to calm her pain. This Oblation ministry complemented our work there.

This young woman now is recuperating at home. She anticipates readmission soon for her follow-up surgery.

My brothers and sisters, the Lord is sending us to distant places to bring comfort and hope to those in need. Remember, you are important in these efforts, and it is through your support that we can help many.





God’s Grace Is Sufficient

26 04 2011

by RON M. WOOD, Cape Coral, Florida, USA

I sat across the kitchen table of some dear friends, playing a game. During our conversation, it came out the husband felt his wife’s medical problems were because of his transgressions—in particular his love for an occasional beer.

We began to talk about Jesus and why the world was such a mess. He said it was because people did not have Jesus in their lives.

I asked, “Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins?”

“Yes.”

So I asked, “Totally?”

“Yes.”

I then asked if Jesus died for only a portion of our sins. “Is it possible he only died for a select part of humanity and not all, or that maybe his death accounted for certain sins and not others?”

He replied that Jesus’ death was for all of our sins—past, present, and future.

It was the right answer. Yet many of us, including my friend, shortchange Jesus. We think our issues are much bigger than Jesus’ sacrifice, and they are not worthy of being accounted for through the cross.

But Jesus’ ultimate gift, his sacrifice, covers every sin, every problem, every circumstance. Yet we sometimes believe an individual act or deed might be an exception.

As I looked at my brother, I could sense his pain. It was as if invisible shackles held him. He knew what Jesus did for him, but he could not apply it to his circumstance.

So I asked: “If Jesus died for all of our sins…why are you holding onto something you feel he is incapable of forgiving you for? And further, why are you torturing yourself over a matter in which Jesus never would hold you accountable?”

Section 163 tells the church to generously share the sacraments. Baptism is one way to bring someone closer to the Lord and set them on a course of newness.

In this case, my friend had been baptized, but then he subscribed to a limited Jesus.

If we believe Jesus was the Son of God and that he was born, died, and arose again, then we simply must believe he is bigger than the issues we confront.

This world does not need a limited Jesus. Instead, we have one who rises from the tomb, freeing us from our oppression. We worship a risen Lord who did the unthinkable in ways that are unimaginable.

God’s grace is not only sufficient, it is complete.