When I was a child, New Year’s Day was a “take-down-the-tree-day” in our household. It was a day I never liked; evergreen needles needing to be swept and vacuumed up; icicles, those pesky, annoying strips of silver, tossed into the garbage; ornaments carefully packed in cardboard boxes. It was an ending of all the beautiful lights, splashes of vibrant reds and greens and the joyous Christmas carols. I still do not like taking down the tree and lights!
And while January has never been a favorite month for me with its too-long nights and too-short days, I have been thinking about how God wants me to spend January, indeed, my time, my energy and passion every month of this coming year.
As I have been reading and praying for the direction God would have me take, I was reminded of a book I read several years ago by Charles Shelton called, “In His Steps.” It is a story where a pastor challenged his congregation to ask themselves the question before they did anything, “What Would Jesus Do?” In the story, while the pastor, Rev. Henry Maxwell was preparing a sermon based on 1 Peter 2:21, (“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps,”) he was interrupted by a homeless person knocking at his door, requesting assistance in finding employment. The minister apologetically turned him away.
Two days after the homeless man knocked on Pastor Maxwell’s door, he delivered his sermon to the church. At the end of his conclusion, that same homeless man, Jack Manning, unexpectedly appeared and spoke to the congregation. He related how he had lost his job as a printer and that his wife had recently died. Manning boldly questioned Maxwell’s sermon on Christian discipleship by asking what it meant to follow in the steps of Christ. His speech concluded when he fainted and collapsed in the aisle. Rev. Maxwell took the man to his home to convalesce, but Jack Manning died a week later.
As you can imagine in the story, this experience had a profound impact on Rev. Maxwell. He heard the whisper of God to invite members of his congregation to take a pledge for one year to ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” when facing every decision in their individual lives.
According to the story, some of his parishioners accepted the challenge. No more would they turn a blind eye to need. Members followed the will of God in their personal lives. The willingness of the people to do what Jesus would do when making decisions led to a radically changed church that impacted the entire community surrounding the church, leading to a movement that spread throughout the entire country.
And while it is a story, I believe that God has used this little book to challenge His people throughout the years to ask themselves, “What would Jesus Do?” in various situations. Which makes me wonder, “What would happen in our church, Moncton First, in your life and mine if we were to accept the same challenge today, and ask when faced with decisions and in giving a response to others, “What would Jesus do?”
A few weeks ago, my husband, Charlie began packing up some chocolates, candy and various items of food we had in the freezer and on our storage room shelves. I asked him what he was doing and he responded, “I just heard about a new family from Syria with five children that moved in our area and I felt that I should go over and say hello and bring them a gift.”
I think that Jesus would have done the same thing.
Let me close with these words from the book of Isaiah 58:7-9 (The Message) where God communicates to his people: “What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
Are you brave enough and willing to accept the challenge to ask yourself throughout this year, “What would Jesus do?” WWJD
Blessings to you and yours! Happy New Year!