Friday, April 18, 2014

IT'S EASTER AND I'M GLAD

This weekend is celebrated world-wide as Christians remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  While many of us observe these three weekly in communion, the world is now on high alert to this activity some 2000 years past.

The truth of Jesus finds itself challenged in a web of disorderly followers as myself. Our critics are often such due to proper judgment.  For our moments of cynicism and swagger, we put a blemish upon the beauty of Jesus the Lamb.  If these traits and others go out publicly, and they do, we then find the perception of goodness and holiness of the Christian life becoming blurred if not completely disregarded.

Christians live on a strange and complex stage.  Where we can cause rebuke because of our mis-steps in following Jesus by our arrogance or ignorance, there is also the likely rejection by the same people if we were to follow spiritually closer to Jesus in the first place.  After all, a huge part of this weekend's celebration is that he was crucified.

One of the challenges before us, therefore, is that we live devotedly and humbly enough in faithfully following Jesus that we would properly be dismissed by those who reject the Son of God anyway.  Because we are silly about our faith or snobbish about it does not give us room to crow.

What we want the world to know is not our religious correctness; but our Savior.  We want them to meet him just as we did a few years back.  Jesus is neither a magician nor is he a figment of history's imagination.  He is a real person who walked in our sandals and begged for a signal from above that he did not have to be punished for our sins.

Yet....he took them on....and won!

This Sunday will bear the fruit of full houses of worship.  Once a year--other than a similar trend at Christmas--churches are packed.  I say Hurray!  Yippee!  Way to go!  Awesome! and Cool!  America still has embedded within its populace a recall of what Jesus did for each generation.

A lot of people will be visiting our places this Sunday.  Would you pause for a moment when you begin to brush past those you don't know?  While we mean nothing by it, some are watching to see if we have eyes like Jesus to notice those who wish to touch him; even those up a tree who wish to just look at him.

Visitors will be abundant Sunday morning.  I'm pumped.  May our messages be full of hope and our greetings be full of welcome!

It's Easter......company is coming....and I'm really glad.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

HOSPITALITY UNDERSTANDS

We don't need more critics.  These are a dime a dozen.  What we need are sympathizers who care enough to stand with us, instead of run, when we fall very short of the mark which God has called.

Fellowship and relationship within the body of Christ are essential.  Religious activity seems to want to skip the connected-to-others part by focusing upon standards and measures.

Hospitality, a trait even necessary for elders of the church, has a unique personality. It understands others who suffer so deeply that it offers direction and guidance into fruitful labor.

I very much like what Henri Nouwen penned as he connects hospitality with our common struggles.  This is so because shared pain is no longer paralyzing but mobilizing, when understood as a way to liberation.  When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope.

Through this common search hospitality becomes community.

To note value in our own pain is not a call to obsess over our sorrows.  But rather reaching out to those who are down finds that we have a meaningful and wonderful new mobility to effectively boost others.  Our agonies do not shut us down.  Instead, they thrust us into compassion for neighbors of hurting hearts with both experience and understanding.

Attention is not for our difficulties to be duly noted; yet, it frees us to give attention to all others with unusual spiritual insight.  Hospitality sympathizes because we have endured similar discouragement.

Jesus understands us best from the Cross.  He became the sin of our independent lies and our dependent false gods.  He absorbed humanities foul sins as gigantic Kitty Litter upon Golgotha.  He knows sin.  He knows us.  He alone knows how to save.

Because we fight the battles of injury and discouragement and raging agonies, we are qualified to offer a hand to our neighbor through the wild and effective means of hospitality.  We can reach because we have been reached.

What every neighbor wonders is, Does anyone understand my demise and failure? We can arise with strong voice, Yes, I do.  Enter meaningful, sympathetic hospitality.




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN LIFE

I don't know of an individual who has not at one time dreamed of making a big difference from where they lived.  I regard myself as like all other youngsters growing up.  Being heroic and/or successful by accomplishing very great things filled my imagination.

To give you insight, my brother and I had one Sunday shirt each for church; white, short-sleeved, wide-collared.  Simultaneously, I dreamed of being a Major League baseball star.  I was nine at the time and one of the 1956 bubble gum cards that I loved was of Roy Campanella; number 39.

Not having a uniform, I designed my own by taking a ball-point pen and drawing 39 on the back of my Sunday go-to-church shirt.  Granted it appeared very unauthentic; but it was my imaginary uniform.  And...I was proud as the imaginary crowd roared immediately upon the Public Address Announcer calling out, And no-ow batting-ing---num-um-ber 39--Terr-err--y Ru-u-sh!!!  (cheers were deafening).

Some of us, maybe most of us, never reach that stage by the means we assumed. Stardom just isn't in the cards for the most of us.  Fame seems to leak badly.  It turns out we are most ordinary and rather plain; in a good sort of way.

So how do we really make a difference in life?  We make it, not by fame, but by giving ourselves away.

In the Parable of the Talents, I believe we discover a buried secret within its wording as to how we are to make a difference in life.  It is by the simple process of giving away.

Too often our assumption is that the way we get ahead is by grasping, clinging, and hoarding.  We call it saving up.  But God has a different direction, which from experience many of us can testify He has it figured correctly.

Matthew 25:16 shines light upon the man with the five talents.  He went and traded. When he risked losing by trading away, he gained.  The same procedure is accredited to the two talent man.  The one talent?  No trade.  No risk.  No exchange.  Hid in fear of losing....and he did lose.

The way to make a difference is not to self-groom nor to accumulate.  It will always be found luxuriously in the reverse; let go, trade, risk, yield.

Oh I'm in on wanting to be the local hero, or the famed one being interviewed; but it isn't going to happen.  My job is to trust God; give Him my goods, my personality, my dreams.  He will use them as He wishes; not as I imagine.  He....so says Ephesians 3:20....will faithfully trump my imagination with His glory and creativity.

So it is for all of us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

HAVE A GRACE FILLED DAY. IT IS LEGAL, YOU KNOW.

Today's post will be a bit different.  It simply contains quotes from my good friend, Philip Yancey.

Breathe the thoughts in.  I believe they will enrich your heart.

The problem of pain meets its match in the scandal of grace.

Grace is not about finishing first or last; it is about not counting.

Grace cannot be reduced to generally accepting accounting principles.  In the bottom-line realm of ungrace, some workers deserve more than others; in the realm of grace the word "deserve" does not even apply.

People are prepared for everything except for the fact that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light (Frederick Buechner).

Grace baffles us because it goes against the intuition that everyone has that, in the face of injustice, some price must be paid....God gave up His own Son rather than give up on humanity.

In Christian theology, Jesus reversed the ancient pattern: when the servants erred, the King was punished.  Grace is free only because the giver himself has borne the cost.

Monday, April 14, 2014

HOW WE ARE TO TREAT ONE ANOTHER

May we mature in treating one another with loving kindness.  Our mission is not to demean nor berate another; even when our judgment may be on target.  Rather ours is the role as God would do to us; someone please believe in us when we can't believe in ourselves.

Yes, the behavior of people is often offensive and sometimes injurious.  None seem to be exempt from taking our turn.  Yet, as we have received a pass from God because He loves us, we can offer relationship to the tough cookies because we have an ability to see within them something good that they cannot see within themselves.

Our enemies are to be loved; the Word of God expressly calls.  We can do it.  To do so does not turn a blind eye to errors; rather it sees by faith what isn't yet seen; the gold buried in those hills of personality distractions.  We are called to believe the gold is in there....even when unrealized by the very one who holds such treasure.

We are never to accept another on the basis of there lack.  We, instead, believe that all can be and might be becomers.  This changes the course of future.  When each of us has encounter with the one, the few, or the many who are difficult, we are not to accept that this is the best these can do.  We possess a faith that believes these can reach another level of maturity and effectiveness.

When we treat others with such grace, we can expect it to return our way for we, too, are in great need of improvement.  Let us not be discouraged because we or others fail.  Let us be encouraged that we are pulling together to build a better us which in turn builds a stronger church family.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

DO NOT LET FEAR BE THE CEO OF THE CHURCH

How many times have we said or at least heard, I'm afraid of what this might lead to? While wisdom is essential in kingdom matters, living in fear is a mistake of the moment; not the future.  Hesitancy in the name of being careful stymies the great walks some could have upon the stormy seas.

Bravery and courage are not villains as some would imply.  Rather, these are for the faithful who can dare run headlong into the Red Sea only to experience the glory of God's sweeping hand.

Our Christian call to mobilize has a far greater chance of success if we will shed our cloaks of fear.  We can't predict the future; how things will go or how matters will develop.  We can, however, step with confidence into the future terrain for God has it assessed and earmarked for His glory and our wonder.

Listen to Calvin Miller's comment on God's view of our moments.  Our future fears are completely groundless if we remember that God knows the future.  Time is God's visible captive.  He sees the front from the end and the end from the front.  Our insecurities about our future are needless.

And then you'll love how Kellogg Albran chimes in.  I have seen the future.  It is much like the present, only longer.

It is always God who runs our show.  No one and nothing else.  Short straws don't run it.  Odds don't.  Good or bad breaks don't.  And, sheer lack doesn't.  God does.

Fear is not our boss.  Love is.  Love inspired and shared by God is.  Dare to wade into the Red Sea of Fear and demand that it part.  As the raging Sea was used as His children's stepping stones, may you walk upon the sidewalk of fear.

Take a step...and smile.

Friday, April 11, 2014

WHAT THE CHURCH MAY NEED IS WHAT THE CHURCH DOES NOT WANT

We live in screwy times.  Maybe man has always lived there; but it doesn't seem so.

Born in '47, life began to fill my awareness tank in the early 50s as to pace and meaning and concern and direction.  The Cold War of the 60s was scary.  The hippies, to a Missouri farm boy, were silliness.  Church was for the good people and pool halls were for the bad.

Today feels much different.  We live high on the hog, have at our disposal the most elite technology, and communication happens instantly.  Yet.....something is cooking.  The political world feels to be in shambles and the religious culture is regarded with extreme suspicion.

Signals have subtly come along that seems to give reason to believe that the Christian segment of our society is targeted for possible trouble.  For now, it appears that many majority and minority groups can be given consideration from many poles; but not the Christian one.  Simultaneously, I wonder if the Christian element in America has grown fat and sassy.  Have we fallen into a dangerous religion of indifferent slumber?

Persecution may not be at our doorstep; but I do think it is traipsing up the sidewalk. This will never be the thing we want.  Yet, it may be the very thing needed to move us from our glut of mediocre indifference.

I look at past reports of China where God's kingdom was not welcomed.  I don't know, in modern times, of a place where greater explosion of His presence is coming about.  Philip Yancey wrote about God's movement in that country.

For several decades no one knew how the Chinese church was faring, especially in light of the leaked reports of social turmoil.  Had Madame Mao succeeded in her vow to destroy Christianity?  When China finally began to crack open its borders, some of these same missionaries returned to visit, astonished to find that the church had exploded in size.  Aikman estimates that the number of Christians today may exceed eighty million; others suggest a total of more than one hundred million.

Yancey's report is from 2010.  Just last week Roger Dickson informed us that one printing company in China is printing 100 million copies of Chinese Bibles.  This is in a country where some powerful people had pledged to drive Christianity from within its borders.  Charles Colson reported about eight years ago that he believed the Chinese Christians would take care of Iran's dictator and his regime.

Persecution is a fretful matter.  It is too big for me to give adequate emphasis. However, from the onset of the Jesus movement in Acts up to this moment in history, the persecuted nations are the places the church does what we wish it would do in the secure nations; explode.

Persecution; what the church may need is what the church does not want.  We will always have the call to take up our crosses, follow him, and die for our enemies.