Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October 14, 2015 - along the Way ...

Since we have covered all the seven deadly sins and their accompanying virtues, we will move onto other matters. 

This week I want to consider the definition of the church.   Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  So according to Jesus the church, which is the body of Christ, is present wherever 2 or 3 gather in Jesus’ name.  

So what does that mean?  

Too often we think of the church as a place, or a building, or a group of people (usually the same group of people) with which we gather each week, especially on Sunday.   But what if Jesus’ definition is more inclusive than that?  

What if we began to see the church, as the body of Christ, present anywhere at least two people gather in agreement in Jesus’ name?   How might our perception of the church and its purpose change?

Last week, as a chaplain with the local police, I had an opportunity to gather with some workers at a local business following the tragic death of one of their co-workers.   As I walked around, I chatted with a few different people.   It was amazing to me to see how many professed faith in God, yet others lamented that there were not many believers there, likely because they did not attend the same weekly worship gathering.   

What might happen in that business, if the believers recognized each other as brothers and sisters-in-Christ?   How might their workplace change?   How might they be able to encourage one another? 

I believe it is time we learn to see the church as Jesus defines it, “where two or three gather in my name”.   As we do, we will begin to see more opportunities to carry out the purpose of the church which is to reveal Christ and His kingdom to those around us wherever we find ourselves as we journey together along the Way … 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

October 6, 2015 - along the Way ...

Today we will discuss the final of the "deadly sins" and its accompanying virtue.    The last of the seven deadly sins is wrath or anger.

Anger comes from misdirected desire because it often involves a response to something I wanted or felt I deserved but did not receive.   It is my desire to be respected and valued, which is not bad in itself, but when misdirected can lead to a sense of entitlement.   I feel I am owed respect, and when I do not get it, I get angry.

For example, the one place I recognize this most in my life is when I am behind the wheel.   If someone pulls out in front of me or cuts me off, I feel anger rising up inside of me.   I can feel my blood pressure begin to increase, and my face becoming tense and turning red.   There is a negative biological reaction to anger, and it causes me undue stress.

Yet there is a remedy for wrath.  The accompanying virtue that I must ask God to cultivate in me is patience leading to forgiveness.   Patience means seeing the value in the other person and respecting them as I wish to be respected, so that I am able to set aside my sense of entitlement and let another have first place.  

Patience also leads to forgiveness when I choose to show love for the other person, and offer them the benefit of the doubt, extending forgiveness even as I have received forgiveness from God.

Jesus highlights this when He taught us how we should pray.   One of the petitions in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray is: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors".   We ask God to help us offer forgiveness to others as freely as we have received forgiveness by believing God's promise met in Christ.

Recently, I have learned a concept taught by Jeff Vander Stelt to the Soma Communities of which he has been pastor.   The concept is called "Gospel Fluency" and it involves four key questions that will help us navigate any situation in a Christlike manner.

1) Who is God?  (Theology) - What does the Bible say about who God is and how does God's being
                                                 relate to my situation?
2) What has God done? (Soteriology - Doctrine of Salvation) - What has God done in Christ and  
                                                 throughout history that would shed light on this current situation?
3) Who am I?  (Ecclesiology) - It is important to reflect on our identity (both collective and
                                                individual) in Christ to determine its relevance for the current situation.
4)  What should I do? (Missiology) - The church does what it is, our identity in Christ (determined by
                                                Who God is, and What He has done) shapes what we do.   This will
                                                make knowing the right thing to do in every situation much clearer,
                                                since as God's children we are called to love others as God has loved us
                                                in Christ.   Thus in this situation that would mean offering forgiveness.

I hope these thoughts have been helpful for you.   I invite you to share your own challenges, and how God has taught you how your identity in Christ can shape what you do in each situation, as we journey together along the Way ...