Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Being the Body of Christ

Yesterday our church shared the Lord's Supper as we recommitted to being the Body of Christ in our world.

Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us how his body was and is redeeming the world:

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."

While I like being a part of destroying the works of the devil, I'm NOT so excited about how we must do it: by our death.

Christ, by giving his body over to death, was able to redeem the world and destroy the works of the devil. Then we, who are part of Christ's body, must be willing to do the same.

Today, you and I are in the garden with him, praying that the Father would "take this cup" of sacrifice and death "from me".

Maybe today you are having to serve someone you would really rather step on or by whom you should be served.

Maybe today you are having to initiate relationship and communication with someone who has continually wounded and demeaned you.

Maybe today you are having to forgive someone who doesn't care about your forgiveness.

Maybe today you are wrestling with being obedient in these ways or some other way.

But you and I are in the garden with Jesus, who asked the Father to "take this cup from me." And you and I hear him say, "Nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done."

And you and I come to that same crucial moment.

Healing will only come as we initiate it.

Forgiveness can only occur as we obey.

The Spirit might not bring conviction and real change in the other person until we do what we know we need to do.

Salvation of all creation can't begin until he denies himself, takes up his cross, and dies for you and me.

So as we reach those crucial moments today or throughout the week let us stand with Christ and so by our deaths "destroy him who holds the power of death...and free those who all their lives were held in slavery..."

Grace & peace

Monday, March 12, 2007

Known For Our Parking Lot

It's Monday morning and I wonder if you're in need of a pick-me up. Here are a couple.

1. God's word to us is one of power, power for change. "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16a)

The Good News or "gospel" is an agent of change for salvation. It is sent for the salvation of people who have to go through Monday mornings. It is sent for the salvation of marriages that had a bad weekend. It is sent for the salvation of families that are going through particularly horrific times.

The Good News of God is that you and your life are on His screen for salvation. Take a moment and thank God that He's in the process of bringing salvation into every aspect of your life.

2. God's kindness leads to repentance. "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repenatnce?" (Romans 2:4)

Sometimes we think of God's default mode as one of judgment and wrath. That doesn't seem to be the case. He longs for all to come to repentance.

However, we musn't mistake His patience for neglect or approval of a life lived self-centeredly. He is patient, with the hope that we will come to repentance (which simply means, "turning around").

Any area in your life right now where you need to turn around?

At this moment I'm sitting at the computer in the front classroom of the church. If I sit here long enough, I'll see a vehicle or two drive into our parking lot simply to turn around and go the opposite direction onto Jackson Rd. It happens several times every day. We're close to an exit/entrance for I-94. Probably many of them were speeding down the road one way, missed an exit, and caught the first chance they had to do a u-turn.

Not a bad image of what the church is all about, right?

Maybe you're going at break-neck speed one way, (in a relationship, a habit, an attitude, priorities, whatever), and you realize you've "mised it". Good news! You can turn around!

The Gospel of God is the power for salvation and is brought to full effect as God patiently leads us to repentance. May God lead you to powerful U-turns in your life today!

Grace & peace

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Word to Worry Warts

What makes you nervous?

Costs of college?

Taxes due April 15?

Decisions a child or family member is making?

Whether or not your car will start?

What the results of that recent stress test or MRI will show?

How you're going to pass that next exam?

Fussing and fighting between people you care about?

Maybe you need the opportunity to get rid of that anxiety.

"How can I do that?" you ask.

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Pe. 5:7)

May that be the first thing you and I do when we get nervous or stressed about ANY issue. "Let Go and let God" goes the old saying. Good advice.

"Easier said than done!" you say?

Try it.

"God, I've been worrying and stressing out about _________.

I'm sorry. I know worrying means I'm not trusting you. But that all changes right here, right now. You're SO MUCH BIGGER THAN ALL THIS. I'm trust you completely to handle it."

Then imagine that giant load rolling off your back onto the floor at the feet of the King of the Universe. Either YOU can worry about it or YOU can give it to Him. But you can't do BOTH. What will you choose?

Grace & peace

Friday, March 9, 2007

God: Loving or Judge?

Sometimes God gets a bad rap.

In some of the congregations where I grew up, there was a tendency to emphasize God's justice to the exclusion of his grace. Most of you know how that went.

God came across as constantly sounding angry. The preacher would spend most of the sermon yelling. There seemed to be a lot of time spent on the stories of God in the Old Testament where people would be struck dead for an act of disobedience.

Nowadays, we have probably gone to the other extreme. "God is love" and that is the only side of God we hear from many pulpits, books, websites, and tv churches.

If we're honest, God is holy and therefore can't tolerate sin, AND God is love. Both of those things are in there. It is a balancing act to present the truth of who God is honestly and as completely as we can.

2 Peter 2 is an attempt on the part of the church to do just that: balance these two very important parts of God's character.

We start with justice and punishment. "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment, if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people...if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes...then the Lord knows how to...hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment...They will be paid back..." (2 Peter 2:4-13a, NIV)

BUT, in the midst of all that, there is Gospel (or Good News).

"The Lord knows how to RESCUE GODLY MEN FROM TRIALS..." (emphasis mine). And in the time of the flood God, "protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others" (v5). He also "rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men).

God IS going to judge. There is no getting around that. But He is also patient, not wanting any to perish but ALL TO COME TO REPENTANCE. (1 Peter).

So God is both the God who demands his people be holy, and live holy lives, as well as the God who sends his one and only Son, seeking to save all that are lost.

May we learn to live between the tension of these two great truths today!

Grace & peace

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Words for Sufferers

Are you in hurting today? Do you have a friend or a family member who is sick, in prison, feeling alone, going through divorce, experiencing job loss, or some other form of pain?

If so, maybe words from 1 Peter 4 can provide some comfort and solace. Peter is specifically talking to those who are suffering BECAUSE they are Christ-followers. But I think the words are instructive for all of us.

"Don't be surprised" or "Don't let it seem strange to you" that you're going through this struggle or trial (4:12).

"Rejoice" because as you suffer for God, you "participate in the sufferings of Christ". Even if you don't suffer BECAUSE of your faith, you can give the suffering to God and let Him use it for His glory. Give you pain and your hurt to him as an offering, a sacrifice.

"It is time for judgment to begin with the family of God." Am I saying what you're going through is judgment? Not necessarily. Sometimes our hurts and pains are self-inflicted. And the pain may actually be grace at work in our life, giving us a chance to change actions and patterns that were destructive. Or the pain may be a chance to draw closer to God in midst of undeserved consequences. Either way, DON'T WASTE THE PAIN. Let it work for you. Let God have it and bring some type of healing and redemption out of it.

"Commit" yourself to your "faithful Creator". Give God your circumstance, your questioning, anger, fear, and your pain. Trust that somehow He is at work in this dark place you find yourself.

"Continue to do good". Don't you think the devil would like to use this trouble and circumstance to turn us away from the good God has been using us to do? But don't let him do it. Don't give him the victory. Refuse to stop doing good. Instead, press on as you faithfully trust in the God who loves you. And continue to meet with others who'll share their victories in the midst of their trials.

Grace & peace

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction: Who's Really Blind?

The Gospel of Mark tells the story of people who have a hard time seeing.

There's the "Blind Man at Bethsaida". Jesus puts spit on the man's eyes and asks him if he sees anything. The man is seeing some, but not seeing well.

Once again, Jesus puts his hands on the man's eyes and sight is restored.

(This is about the only time Jesus does a two-part healing. Was it because he couldn't do it all at once? Probably not since he raised dead people to life.)

A couple of chapters later we come across "Blind Bartimaeus" sitting by the side of the road. He gets word that Jesus is walking by and he begins to shout for Jesus to have mercy on him. Jesus does have mercy, and heals him by simply saying, "Your faith has healed you."

But before, after, and in between these episodes, we see people who don't find sight so quickly or easily.

The disciples, followers of Jesus, can't seem to SEE what it is Jesus is all about:
- They tell children to stay away from Jesus
- They fight amongst themselves about which of the 12 is the "greatest"
- They are unable to cast out demons
- They fight with other people who ARE able to cast out demons because they weren't part of the 12!

Jesus has some of his harshest words for his followers:
- He calls them an "unbelieving generation"
- He rebukes Peter, the vocal leader of the 12 by saying, "get behind me, Satan!"
- He asks them "Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?"

Our family recently watched "Stranger Than Fiction" with Will Ferrell. (Spoiler Alert)

He hears a voice narrating his life. He finds out that it is an author who has been writing his life's story. He realizes she plans to kill him. He willingly lays down his life after he finds out how he will die.

The disciples didn't seem to understand why Jesus had come here and what he had come to do. Peter is rebuked because of this misunderstanding. Jesus, much like Will Ferrell's character, was willing to give up his life.

Some days I'm inspired by that story and ready to "deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus". Other days I think I'm as blind as the poor disciples.

Grace & peace