Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March 24, 2015 - along the Way ...

Sunday I talked a little about "the cup" which Jesus had to drink in order to do God's will.  It was a difficult cup; a cup full of suffering and pain, which lead to His death, and culminated in His victorious resurrection from the dead.   It was a "cup" that only Jesus could drink because only Jesus was the eternal Son of God in human flesh, and only Jesus was without sin.

This got me thinking about what that "cup" means for you and I.   Jesus told James and John that they would indeed drink from this "cup" but that would not guarantee a high position in Jesus' kingdom.  (see Matthew 20:23)

So do all followers of Jesus have to drink from this "cup"?

In short, yes we do.  However, I feel I need to elaborate on that a little so that we can see clearly what that means for us.

First, we drink from this "cup" because we all feel the effects of sin in this broken world.   We see broken relationships, we hear people criticize what they do not understand, we can even be persecuted as followers of Jesus suffering greatly for the gospel.   In this sense, we all drink from this "cup".

Second, the "cup" is God's will.   In Matthew 26:39, Jesus prays, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup to be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as You will."  And again in Matthew 26:42, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done."

Jesus had to drink the "cup" in order to fulfill God's will for Him.   In the same way, God has a will for each of us.  He desires that we seek His kingdom first and seek to know and do what is right in each circumstance.   In addition, He has "created us in Jesus Christ to do good works, which (He) prepared in advance for us to do".  

In this sense, I believe God has a unique plan for each of us.   He created us and has now re-created us in Christ for a purpose.   Finding that purpose ought to be at the forefront of our minds, as we seek God's kingdom and His righteousness.

So what is God's plan for you?   What unique skills, gifts, abilities, experiences, etc. has God given you to help you understand His will for you?

Last week, I watched a sermon from Pastor Bill Hybels on video.   In the sermon, he talked about everyone discovering our own "Popeye" moment - "I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more."  That moment of "holy discontent" when you know something has to be done, and you believe God is calling you to do it.

So what is your "Popeye" moment?   What has God laid on your heart to do?   I encourage you to find out, and then do something about it!  Then if you are willing share it, so that the rest of us can join you as we journey together along the Way ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 17, 2015 - along the Way ...

Happy St Patrick's Day!  Since Patrick was the one responsible for bringing the good news to Ireland, so many years ago, I believe the entire body of Christ can honor him today with gratitude to God!
To God be the glory!  Great things He has done, is doing, and will continue to do!

As I consider what it means to bring the good news to our world today, I struggle with the best response to those who live with same-sex attraction.  I believe the church needs to make room for people of all backgrounds, orientations, and lifestyles.  By making room I do not mean the church should change its standards, but rather that we should make room for people to encounter the living God, so that He can transform all of us through the Holy Spirit's power by faith in Jesus Christ!

This morning I was reading in I Timothy 1, and I was struck by the juxtaposition of Paul's words to Timothy regarding the law in verses 8-11 and his words regarding his own need for grace in verses 12-17.

On the one hand, Paul says, "We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.   We also know that the law is not made for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me."

The law (think Ten Commandments, Leviticus, and the summary of the law: love God and love others) is not made for the righteous.  If we are righteous, we will do what is right under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and therefore we do not need the law.

Yet the law is good when used properly, that is for those who rebel against God and do whatever they choose.   The law shows us our wrongdoing and directs us back to the path of righteousness.

This is where verses 15-16 come in.  Paul says, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life."

Jesus came to save sinners, like me, and by His mercy and grace He has saved me, and by His Holy Spirit He is leading me into paths of righteousness.   The same Paul who made these statements also says, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (I Corinthians 11:1)   Paul was made new through his encounter with Christ, and he became an example of righteousness, not perfection, but the righteousness Christ brings to all who believe.

So what does this have to do with people living with same-sex attraction?

First, I must admit I do not understand what people living with same-sex attraction are feeling or going through on a daily basis.  I imagine it would be very difficult to remain obedient to God, and have to be alone all through life.  I admit I do not understand their pain.

Second, I am certain that God's grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in my and our weakness.  Although the law does not change, and is useful when used properly, I rely on the grace and mercy of God for our salvation and for daily living.

Third, in Christ I am my brother's and sister's keeper.  At some point I need to hold difficult conversations in a way that is loving - loving both the person (not dishonoring others) and loving God's truth (not delighting in evil but rejoicing with the truth).

In the end, walking the way of righteousness together is difficult.  We live in a broken world, and it will remain broken until Jesus returns to make all things new.   So I pray for daily grace to know how to live with integrity (showing love while valuing truth) in a broken world.  

I invite you to share your thoughts as well.   This is a very sensitive issue, and we need to be open to learning from each other as we listen to God's word together along the Way ...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March 10, 2015 - along the Way ...

Last week, I shared the difference between being moral and being Christlike, and the conclusion I reached is that love makes the difference.  We can be moral without being loving, but to be Christlike we must love well.

Continuing that idea I encourage you to read I Corinthians 13.   It is commonly called "the love chapter".   It is used in weddings, and finds a wide audience, yet the apostle Paul wrote I Corinthians 13 so that we would know what love is in the body of Christ.

A few days ago I was reflecting on this chapter with some friends, and two verses stood out to me.

In verse 5, "love does not dishonor others" (NIV 2011).  In other translations it is stated, "it (love) is not rude".  The idea is that love sees the person before their behavior and honors the person first.  When we stand on our moral high ground, unfortunately lots of people become dishonored as we label them by their behavior rather than seeing them for who they are.

Also, in verse 6, "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." (NIV 2011)  This is a great reminder.   Love rejoices with the truth, and never delights in evil.  As we honor people for who they are, we must never celebrate our or another's bad behavior.  Evil is evil, and we must call it what it is.  Evil is the absence of good, and it is never pleasing to God.   God's truth is our guide and standard as we live each day this side of heaven.

So what about you?  As you read through I Corinthians 13 what stands out to you?  I invite you to share your thoughts as we journey together along the Way ...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 3, 2015 - along the Way ...

As we continue our Lenten journey to the cross with Jesus, I am struck by the continuing tension between morality and being Christlike.

Now wait, I know you are going to insist that being moral and being Christlike are one in the same.
And I will grant that being moral is part of being Christlike, but being Christlike is more than being moral.

This weekend my family and I watched the movie "Chocolat".  In the movie, the townspeople motivated by the church (or at least some significant members of the church) begin a campaign to "Boycott Immorality".  Somehow they believe if they can just rid themselves of immorality and all those who intice them toward immorality, they will achieve "tranquility".

The first problem with "boycotting immorality" is that we have to boycott ourselves.  All of us are sinful, which is worse than being immoral.  Sin lives deep within our hearts, and it resists our efforts to remove it.  Ultimately, only Christ can remove our sin and change our hearts.

One example of this problem from the movie is the case of Serge, the local bartender who likes to beat his wife.  Once his immorality is discovered, the mayor takes him to confession, enrolls him into catechism class, and cleans him up.  After a while he goes to his wife to win her back, but she refuses.   Serge claims, "God has changed me", but she remains skeptical.

Once Serge realizes that his efforts at reform have failed to bring reconciliation with his wife (or at least get her to come back home) he defaults to his old self, gets drunk, and becomes abusive.  He had not changed his sinful self, he had simply changed his moral behavior for a time.

The second problem comes when we cannot separate our hatred of immoral behavior from the people who are acting immorally.  We tend to identify the people as the enemy, and seek ways to eliminate the enemy hoping to rid ourselves of the behavior.  

Yet people are people, they are not the real enemy.   The real enemy is "not flesh and blood" (see Ephesians 6:12).  The real enemy is sin and the spiritual forces of evil that use sin as their personal weapon.  By focusing on the people, we miss the real enemy and will still lose the war.

Being Christlike goes beyond being moral because being like Christ means we continue to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us.  In our efforts to pursue morality we must not lose the love for people that Christ maintained.  In the end, the call to love God and love neighbor trumps our efforts to be moral.

These are just some of my thoughts for this lenten journey.   I invite you to share some of your own, as we journey together along the Way ....