Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Life You Save...

John Wesley was known to tell people that he gave, not simply so others would be saved, but so that he himself would not be lost! What did he mean by that?

Check out Luke 16:19-31. It is the story often referred to as "The Rich Man and Lazarus".

The story goes like this. There was a rich man who had it all, food and clothing beyond what he could have ever needed. (Notice the way "luxury" is defined? Not by all the things you and I consider to be required. Simply having food and clothing meant he was wealthy.)

And there was a poor man, a beggar, named Lazarus. (Apparently he didn't have food or much in the way of clothing to call his own.)

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. (What a way to go! God's messengers came and personally escorted the poor beggar into eternity!)

The rich man also died and was buried. Not so good, in comparison. No angels. No Abraham. No such luck. As a matter of fact, the next line reads, "In hell (Hades), where he was in torment..." Ugh. Not so good to be the rich man, I guess.

You may be wondering, "What was the difference maker for each of them? What sent the rich man to torment while the beggar went to Abraham's side?"

...Abraham replied, 'Son, remember in your lifetime you received good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.'

We have been given good things, not simply to enjoy them or hoard them but to share them with others and to bless others; to honor God with our wealth and use it the way He chooses for it to be used.

THIS COMING SUNDAY we will be receiving an offering for Nazarene World Missions. It is our opportunity to reach around the world and touch some of the beggars and those who are in need with the good things you have received: the Good News and financial blessings (medical care, food & clothing).

Every penny that the church is given this Sunday for missions will go out of our church and be sent to those who support missionaries around the world in over 160 countries. Not one cent of money given for missions will stay here.

Will you join me and my family as we plan to set aside something beyond our normal tithe? One of the lives you save may be your own.

Grace & peace

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't Forget to Remember

I wonder if other parents fight the same fights with their kids that we fight with ours. I can only assume you have the same conversations in your home that we have in ours.

Do you ever tell your kids to remember to do something? And when you tell them that, do they ever respond, "Yeah. I know"? And after they have told you that they know, do they fail to do it anyway?!

Maddening, isn't it?

As every parent knows, sometimes "Remember" doesn't simply mean to not forget or to know you've heard it before. Sometimes "remember" means to act. Pick up your shoes. Put your dishes into the dishwasher. Hang up your clothes. Do your homework. "Yeah, I know."

One of my favorite passages in all of the Bible is in Exodus 2:24. The Hebrew people have been enslaved. Generation after generation is born into captivity. They must have begun to feel like this was their lot in life forever. They cried out to God. And nothing seems to be happening. He was like the teen ager: They told Him, but he wasn't responding.

Amidst years and years of inactivity, one little, seemingly harmless verse shows up.

God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

"Big deal!"

You ask, "Who cares if God simply remembers?!"

Oh, but that isn't the end. The remembering means God is getting ready to act. Things are about to change.

And God isn't the only one who is called to remember. In the Book of Ecclesiastes we read...

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them".
Remember him - before the silver cord is severed,
or the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
or the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
(Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6-7)

What does all that mean? Read what one scholar writes about this passage:

"Solomon urged people to live responsibly before death comes. He refers to two common figures of light ('golden lamp') and water (see Ps. 36:8-9 for a similar use of those two figures). The dissolution of the body is suggested by light being extinguished: the silver cord holding a golden bowl (in which the light burns) snaps and the bowl is broken. Death is also referred to by water being unavailable: the pitcher which holds water is shattered and the wheel by which it is drawn from the well is broken." (Donald Glenn)

Someday your life will end. Don't wait till the silver cord breaks and the bowl shatters. Remember your Creator now. Learn who your Creator is. Discover what your Creator is like. Begin to reflect your Creator's character in the world. Begin to live out the destiny for which you were born. Don't forget to remember.

One day the spirit will return to God who gave it. I want to plan ahead and be ready for the day I'll give an account for this life I've been given. How 'bout you?

Grace & peace

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Being Called

Sometimes I like being called. I like it when several of you "called" me last month either by phone, e-mail, Facebook, or card to say "happy birthday".

Sometimes I'd prefer not to be called. Like when telemarketers or political machines "call" to sell me or try and persuade me.

But did you know if you are part of the Church you have been called? The New Testament word we translate as "church" actually means "called out"? (More about that on Sunday!)

So we are probably right to think of "The Church" as a congregation (those people who have congregated or gathered together). And we are probably right to think of the "The Church" as an assembly of people (individuals who have been assembled or put together for a particular purpose).

But we probably miss the boat when we think of "The Church" primarily as a building or the place individuals go to fulfill a particular religious function.

We don't get the picture of brick and mortar places where Jesus (who instructs an offended person to "tell it to The Church") or Paul talk about "The Church" (see 1 Cor. 11:18 as an example).

Our "calling" is to something and SomeONE higher than a location or an edifice.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who CALLED you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Join me this Sunday as we unpack some of what it means to be the "Called out" ones. I trust you will have your sense of calling and belonging to the Church elevated and your passion and dedication increased.

Grace & peace

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stuff for My Mystery Bag

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,and through him to reconcile to himself all things,whether things on earth or things in heaven,by making peace through his blood,shed on a cross (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV).
I'll be the first to admit it. There are just some things I don't understand in life.

- Children who are abused.

- Politicians who abuse the trust they're given by constituents.

- Why one person dies early and another gets to live to a ripe old age.

- People who get disproportionately angry and end up hurting themselves because of their rage.

Just to name a few. (I've got a lot more and you probably do too.)

A friend of mine once told me that his mom took such oddities in her life and mentally dumped them into what she called her "Mystery Bag". "These are the things and the people I don't understand and figure I just never will."

I decided I need to get me one of those "mystery bags". I have people and situations that just don't make sense to me and after living for a little more than four decades, some of them will probably continue to puzzle me.

But as a person of faith, on days when I'm overwhelmed by those "mysteries" that can frustrate me, wound me, or leave me angry, I have to take a step back and be reminded that somehow, somewhere, in some way, God is reconciling all things to himself.

"All" is one of those funny words that sometimes seems to throw everything off. Think about it.

I can say some people are over seven feet tall and you'd probably agree with me.
But if I said, "All people are over seven feet tall" you'd be quick to point out such a statement is ludicrous.

Likewise, I could say "God works some things for our good" and that would be easy to believe. But if I said, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called, according to His purpose" that would be a little more difficult for us to stomach at times, right?

So there is this audacious statement: God is reconciling all things to himself.

All things? Really? I am tempted to ask God, "Do you know what I know? Do you STILL want to say 'all things'?" (Silly, huh? But be honest, there are times and there are days you wonder the same thing.)

I decided I needed a better understanding of the word "reconcile" so I looked it up. Webster's Dictionary says that "to reconcile" is to "Restore to a state of harmony after a break in relations."

Broken. A break. Maybe now we're getting somewhere.

It is certainly easy for me to slap the "broken" label on some of the things (and some of the people) I put in my mystery bag.

The economy: broken.

Angry people and foreclosed houses: broken.

Hopes of families who have lost their jobs: broken.

People who look for help in the wrong places, wrong things, and wrong people: broken.

People who seem to always see the worst, believe the worst, and react in the worst possible way: broken, broken, broken.

So for now it's like we're looking through a dark glass or window. We know things aren't quite right. But we trust, we hope, we believe that the Gospel is truly God's Good News for us. That God is reconciling all things to himself. Not just "some". Not even "most". All.

May it be so. And may you and I look at those difficult people and difficult situations a little differently today.

Grace & peace