Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24, 2014 - Along the way ...

I have been reflecting a lot on identity, lately.   Who we are is who we are in Christ, and who we are becoming is also in Christ.   This is our identity as followers of Jesus.

So what does that mean for our everyday lives?

Understanding our identity is very important because we are the ones people meet and interact with on a daily basis.   As we go, where we go, and with whom we go, any interaction is an interaction with us, as people, as we are, being who we are.

For example, understanding my identity has helped me immensely in understanding my role as a chaplain in the US Air Force.

People say to me, so what restrictions are they placing on you as a chaplain?  My answer is always the same.  In worship, I lead worship in the same way I lead worship at Chelwood Church.   I pray in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   We worship the triune God, and point people to Jesus as the only hope for salvation.  

However, when I am not leading worship, I fill a crucial role as an officer in the US Air Force.   As a chaplain, I am everyone's chaplain, regardless of their faith background or lack of faith.   I serve a professional role in being a safe place for people to share their troubles with complete confidentiality, to provide invocations for all types of ceremonies and formations, to advise commanders with respect to ethical decision-making and matters of morale, as well as be "a visible reminder of the holy".   I do that from who I am and because who I am is who I am in Christ, so everyone I interact with meets Jesus.

The same is true everywhere I go, whether serving as a chaplain or not.   As I meet people at Little
League baseball games, Cub Scout meetings, Boy Scout troop events, prayer gatherings, etc.   I am who I am in Christ, so when people meet me they meet Jesus in me through the Holy Spirit's power.

And the same is true for you.   Who you are, as a follower of Jesus, is who you are in Christ.  

So how is that realization helping you understand the opportunity for kingdom service involved in every personal interaction you have each day?   I invite you to share your thoughts and stories.  I am becoming more convinced that this is God's plan for us as we journey together along the way ...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 17, 2014 - Along the way ...

Father's Day 2014 was very different for me.  

First, my daughter is out of town, so I missed getting a hug from her.   Second, my dad died last October, so I missed getting the chance to chat with him and share how much I appreciate him and all he taught me.  Third, I was particularly struck by the wonder of knowing my heavenly Father and celebrating Him on Father's Day.

I vividly remember the day after my dad died.   I was in Air Force Commissioned Officer's Training, and we were about to take the first of two written exams, which would account for about half our grade.   I took a deep breath and prayed silently, "Lord, You are my only Father now."  Praying those words was difficult.  I had to choke back the tears, but it was also life-giving.  Knowing God as my faithful, loving Father, who promises to never leave or forsake me is an amazing privilege!

My dad understood the blessing of knowing God as His Father as well.   His dad died when I was in high school.   He had an interesting relationship with his own father, but he maintained a deep respect and appreciation for him.   Their relationship was strained at times, and not nearly as close as the friendship I shared with my father.  So my dad understood the privilege of knowing God as his heavenly Father as well.  He often talked about God and His goodness, and he had faith that God would always watch over him and protect him no matter the circumstances.

This Sunday I was particularly struck by the words from a teaching document known as the Heidelberg Catechism.  The Heidelberg Catechism is a document we use in the Christian Reformed Church to teach the Christian faith.  In the document, the Apostles' Creed is named as a summary of true Christian faith, and it is explained in question and answer format.

Question 26 states, "What do you believe when you say, 'I believe in God, the Father almighty, 
                                creator of heaven and earth'?"
And it answers, "That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ... is my God and Father because of 
                          Christ the Son.  I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I    
                          need for body and soul, and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon 
                          me in this sad world.
                          God is able to do this because he is almighty God
                          and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father."  

To know that the same almighty God who created the heavens and the earth is my faithful Father brings me great comfort and enables me to celebrate Father's Day in a whole new way!

So what about you?   What does Father's day mean to you?   I invite you to share your thoughts as we journey together along the way ...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

June 10, 2014 - Along the way ...

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."

In Ephesians 4, Paul writes about unity as a reality and something that requires maintenance.

The unity of the Spirit is something we have through faith in Jesus.   Paul says, "There is one body and one Spirit".   This is the truth.  It is what is, and it cannot be changed.  

Yet there is also the need to "keep" that unity "through the bond of peace".   It takes effort.  It requires each one of us to learn to see the body of Christ the way God sees it.  It means we need to set aside our differences and embrace unity.   It means making a commitment, as I sang in a song this morning at a pastor's prayer gathering, to not harm another with my mouth.  It means we do not speak ill of one another, we do not cut down, unfairly compare, or judge in a way that does not fit with the bond of peace.

"There is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one God and father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."  (Ephesians 4:5)

This is a challenge for the church today.  Too often we make divisions where God does not, and our man-made divisions (see I Corinthians 1:12-13) hurt our witness in the world.   What will it take for the church to stand as a united witness to Jesus in the world?  How can we begin to obey the command: "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace"?

I invite you to share your thoughts, as we journey together along the way ...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June 3, 2014 - Along the way ...

Last week I saw a friend on Facebook post a question that has intrigued me.  She asked, "What is existentialism?  And how do you think existentialism has impacted modern Christianity?"

First, I believe existentialism is the idea that truth is discovered or becomes known through experience.   For example what we see, hear, and feel (our life experiences) shapes what we believe to be true.  

Second, I believe existentialism has impacted modern Christianity in many ways; some positive and some negative.

One positive way that I believe existentialism has impacted modern Christianity is that God is becoming more than just a theory.   There are two ways by which we come to know God - through His word and His Spirit.  The Spirit reveals God as we experience God at work in us and around us.  The danger of a purely doctrinal (word-based) understanding of God, or understanding God and truth merely through propositions or statements, is that God becomes stale, predictable, and less than He is as the living God.  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life ..."  Jesus is more than a proposition.   He is a really living being we can come to know through real life experience.  

A negative way that I believe existentialism has impacted modern Christianity is that God has become known only through our personal experiences.   If God is only known through the experience of the Spirit, then our knowledge of God will always be limited to our personal experience.  The fact that God has given us His word as a means to know Him can become discredited unless what the word says can be verified by my personal experience.  This makes God arbitrary and inconsistent, so that no one knows if the God we experience is really the true God.  

I believe there is much more to be said in this regard.   These are just a few of my thoughts, and I invite you to share yours as we journey together along the way ...