Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22, 2013 - Along the way ...

I wonder about the ways in which God reveals Himself.   I know that He reveals Himself through His Word, His world and His Spirit, and most poignantly through Jesus, but I wonder what that looks like on a day to day basis.

We are often told how important it is to read the Bible regularly, but for what purpose?   If reading the  Bible is just something on my daily "to do" list, or is something I do to merely confirm that which I already know, then I think we are missing the real reason for reading in the first place.

We read the Bible because in its pages we meet the living God.   We see what He is like.  We learn what He desires.  We also hear His voice calling us to the obedience which comes from faith.

Reading the Bible is not a chore or a daily task, it is an invitation to sit at Jesus' feet and be fed, nourished, and refreshed; to be called out and sent; to join Him in His great kingdom venture; and to be reminded that my greatest identity is found in who I am in relation to Him.

But what about some of the other ways God reveals Himself to us?

In creation, we see God's power displayed, we learn about His providential care, and we wonder at the beauty of His imagination that could conjure up the diversity we experience in so many ways.
Creation reveals God to us as well.  It leaves us in awe and wonder.  Not so that we will worship the creation but that we will stand in awe and wonder and fall in worship at the majesty of the Creator.

God also reveals Himself through Jesus.  In Jesus, we see most clearly what God is like.  If we wonder how God might treat a person caught in sin, we look at Jesus.  If we wonder what God might do for those we meet on the streets, who are hungry or in need, we look to Jesus.  If we wonder about God's purpose for suffering and evil in the world as we experience it, we look to Jesus.   Jesus shows us Who God is.   In Jesus, we see God's heart and witness His being, His character, and His perfect image.

Moreover, God reveals Himself through other people.   In our relationships, we see God, though imperfectly, because each of us bears God's image - some clearer than others - but God's image is visible in everyone.

I remember how God revealed Himself through a University of Maryland professor at Misawa Air Base in Japan in a Speech class.   The professor was an avowed atheist, and challenged us to think critically about our faith.  He sent me on a journey of discovery, which ultimately led me to a greater understanding and appreciation for Who God is.   God used Dr. Ruffino in a way that Dr. Ruffino was not even aware, and God revealed His glory through a self-avowed atheist.   That is the power of God!

Finally, all of God's revelation is mediated by the Holy Spirit.   It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the eyes of faith by which we can see what is unseen and eternal.  It is the Holy Spirit who shows us Who God is, What He is like, and What great things He has done, is doing, and will continue to do.   It is the Holy Spirit Who gives us hope and draws us ever closer to the living God.

So I wonder about the ways in which God reveals Himself.  Do you?  How does God reveal Himself to you?  Can you share a time where you saw God in an unexpected way, and it brought you closer to Him?  Together we can share what God is saying to each of us, and together we will see God a little more clearly, as we journey together along the way ...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16, 2014 - Along the way ...

Lately, I have been reflecting on what a consistent Christian life ethic might look like, and I would invite your responses as well.

This question comes up from time to time, especially in political debates.   Ordinarily, Republicans focus on protecting the unborn and preventing euthanasia, whereas Democrats tend to promote care from the cradle to the grave with social programs, including health care, welfare, etc.  The only problem is that both parties have glaring inconsistencies.   I believe a consistent Christian ethic needs to cover all of life, not just the ones that are convenient to further one's own agenda.

That's why it is time for us to think of a consistent Christian life ethic; one that truly values human life in all of its phases and offers care when it is needed.

So what does that look like?

I do not propose to be an expert in these matters at all, so I hope to open up some dialogue through this post.  However, to get the wheels turning I will offer a few of my own ideas.

First, a consistent Christian life ethic will embrace the truth that all people are created in the image of God, and therefore all people have intrinsic value and require our respect.   We must concern ourselves with the needs of each person, as we consider what is best.  No one is expendable, no one gets left behind.  A consistent Christian life ethic will value relationships over labels, and seek to see people as God sees them.

Second, a consistent Christian life ethic will not seek first what is most convenient or self-serving, but will seek first to serve the needs of others rather than to be served in furthering our own agendas.   I want to argue that a consistent Christian life ethic cares for children (whether or not they are born in the US or not), offers encouragement to those who are hurting, stands up for those with no voice (whether they reside inside or outside of their mother's womb), and extends grace to anyone who needs it.  Not because people deserve it, but because that is what Jesus did, and that is what Christians are called to do.

Third, a consistent Christian life ethic seeks justice for the oppressed, marginalized, and victimized.
Justice means to set right what is wrong.  Now, unfortunately, as human beings we are limited in righting every wrong.   Sometimes we just don't know what it will take to make things right.  Yet we must try.  Seeking justice means holding people accountable for their actions, especially criminal behavior, because when one person's actions harm another person accountability is required so that the victim is valued, whether the victim is dead or alive.  Seeking justice also means working to provide truly equal opportunity to every person, so that each person can use the gifts God has given them to care for themselves, their family, and contribute to the betterment of their community.

In short, a consistent Christian life ethic will take seriously Jesus' command "to love your neighbor as yourself".   To really love our neighbors well will require us to get to know our neighbors, listen to them, empathize with them (really trying our best to walk a mile in their shoes), seek to understand them, and work together toward a God-glorifying result.

It will not be easy.  Developing a consistent Christian life ethic will require a lot from us.  Still we must remember that the One we serve is the same one Who gave His all for us, and He has called us to in turn take up our crosses and follow Him.  

So what about you?  What do you think is involved in a consistent Christian life ethic?  How can we take steps to embody that ethic?   I invite you to share your own thoughts as we journey together along the way ...