Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 24, 2015 - along the Way ...

This weekend I was watching a show called "Cupcake Wars" with my wife.   On the show contestants present their best offering of cupcake based on required ingredients and a theme provided by the judges.  It never ceases to amaze me how confident many of the contestants are going into the judging.  

One contestant in particular was so confident she believed she had "nailed it" and was certain to be going into the next round.  Yet once the judging began, the judges had little if anything good to say.
She was eliminated.

This got me thinking.   How often do we rely on our own ideas of what God requires of those who belong to Him?  We even hear some people assume that there are "many roads" which lead to heaven and Jesus is just one of them.

I know that judgment is not my job.  I am nobody's judge, and I am glad.  Nevertheless, I think folks should take seriously God's judgment and listen specifically to what God has said He requires.  The Bible tells us we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, and it tells us that faith without works is dead.  In addition, in the Jewish scriptures, in Micah 6:8, we read what is required, "To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God."

There are many references in the Bible (which is God's word given to us so that we will know exactly what is expected) which point to what God requires of us.  I encourage each of us to read it for ourselves.  Do not simply take someone else's word for it.  Read it!  It is God's gracious gift given to all of us that we might grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.  

So what do you think?  Can you think of examples where people are overly optimistic and are stunned by a judge's judgment?  Can you think of other scriptures that help us know what God requires of us?

Let us share these words of life with each other, as we journey together along the Way ...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February 17, 2015 - along the Way ...

This weekend my wife and I enjoyed viewing the film, "Old Fashioned".  It was a really GREAT movie!  Perhaps you have heard that from others, but I want to elaborate on why it was such a GREAT movie.

This film is GREAT on so many levels.  It certainly offers an alternative to the way our society often presents male-female relationships, but it also examines the interplay between righteousness and grace.

We know that Christ is our righteousness, and His righteousness is received by God's grace alone.
In Christ, God sees us as forgiven, sinless, and completely righteous.  However, the fact that God declares us righteous in Christ (what we call justification) does not lower the expectation of becoming holy (what we call sanctification) as through the Holy Spirit's power we become more like Jesus.

Jesus presents us with this challenge in what is called "The Sermon on the Mount".   In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus says,

"Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear;
not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen,
will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands
and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,
but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees 
and the teachers of the law,
you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus never lowers the standard.  Righteousness is the expectation.  By God's grace, Jesus brings us up to the standard (justification) while empowering us through the Holy Spirit to live righteously (sanctification).  

In the movie, we are challenged to wrestle with the expectation of righteousness, while receiving the gift of God's grace in Christ.  

In some ways, I believe Clay is only able to understand and appreciate the depth of God's love because he struggled to live righteously.  

There is much more that can be said regarding this movie, but I think this is sufficient to initiate a good conversation.  If you have seen the movie, please share your own thoughts and reactions.  If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it, and invite you to share your thoughts here as well, as we journey together along the Way ... 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February 10, 2015 - along the Way ...

R-E-S-P-E-C-T spells respect.  So what does respect have to do with our journey along the Way?

The dictionary defines respect: "the condition of being esteemed or honored"

Respect is about honor.  It is a mindset, which in turn shapes behavior.

A few weeks ago I heard the song "Girl in a Country Song" by Maddie & Tae.  The song highlights the lack of respect women receive in too many country songs, and demands a return to times when such respect was more freely given by men like Conway Twitty and George Strait.

Respect disappears when we begin to see persons as objects rather than people created in God's image with inherent value and unique dignity.  If we allow this mindset to be present in our culture and society, then we should not be surprised when there are issues of abuse, use, and maltreatment of women along with the prevalence of human sex trafficking.

It all begins with our minds.   If we perceive people as objects, then we can do whatever we want with them and to them.

So as followers of Jesus, we should offer respect to every person we encounter along the Way, whether or not they agree with us, or even share our faith.  Respect is the beginning point for true relationships, it is a mindset, and it is the first step toward rebuilding community.

So I am curious, what do you think?  Do you believe a person's mindset can affect his or her behavior?  What do you think about respect?   I invite you to share your thoughts, as we journey together along the Way ...

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

February 3, 2015 - along the Way ...

One of the great things about the annual American event that is the Super Bowl is the commercials.  Each year even folks who care nothing about American football tune in to see what new, inventive, funny angles advertisers will take.

This year, my favorite commercial was the one that made the most impact on me and my daughter Hannah.  It was the Coca-Cola commercial where the server attendant accidentally spilled Coke into the servers, and things went from hate and negativity to happy and positive.

I think that is what Jesus meant when he told us in Matthew 5:14, "You are the light of the world."

Let's face it we live in a very dark world.   There is a lot of negativity, or as Taylor Swift sings, "Haters gonna hate, hate, hate".  Most of us find it easier to criticize (not critique and there is a difference) than to build up and encourage.

The hate was evident in twitter feeds and Facebook commentary on everything from the commercials in the Super Bowl, to the halftime show, to the critical play call at the goal line, which appeared to "cost" the Seahawks the game.  (I'll spare everyone my thoughts on that - let's just say "one play does not determine the outcome of a game")

It is easier for us to hate than to love, yet love is the light that this dark world needs.

As followers of Jesus, we should be known more for our love than our hate, more for what we are for than what we are against, offering words to build up and encourage rather than tear down (see Ephesians 4:29).

Then I believe this world will see our light.

Let me know your thoughts.  Do you agree or disagree?  Did you have a favorite commercial, or do you want to comment on my statement that one play does not determine a game?  Whatever.  I invite you to share your thoughts as we journey together along the Way ...