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August 7, 2017, 9:15 AM

Good.


I remember a class I taught a loooong time ago in my youth ministry days... I recall it because a) its essential to this illustration; and 2) it has stuck with me all these years.

I asked my class at the time: What is the hardest part about being Christian?  The response that stuck with me: Being good. None of the kiddos responded with discipleship issues. Not one threw baptism and the heavy commitment it is as an answer. No doctrinal issues came up (instruments vs. a cappella, etc...). "Being Good" was the one that got the class talking. 

I think the biggest struggle that was being expressed by this youth group member was this: the definition of good has been skewed. We've been taught that "being good" was the main goal of the Christian life. Now, no one may have specifically said it that way, but we've shaped ourselves into communities that try to do enough good that we tip the balance of heaven and hell in our favor. Church attendance becomes paramount (not that it isn't important, but it is not a criteria mentioned scripturally for salvation), we excel at Bible drills (finding books and verses faster than others), and we can list all the things we don't do because we're good Christians. Therefore, being good is what we assume God must want from every Christian... and we perpetuate that diluted religion. 

Does God want us to be good? Of course! But we need to know the exact kind of good we're dealing with if we say it that way. Mark 10 addresses this issue, with the Rich Young Ruler being a genuinely good person, obedient, and law abiding... but lacking an understanding of what true, godly goodness meant. Following the rules and having a strong list of "don'ts" is a good starting point for establishing character and obedience. It is, however, NOT what defines the heart of a Christian. Jesus addresses that with this young man in Mark, identifying the one area in which obedience had not translated into godly goodness - his wealth. 

This story should be rather alarming. Every one comes to Jesus with a handful of good things we've done or given up for his name's sake. We all come expecting a pat on the back for perfect attendance, consistent offering plate contributions, even teaching Sunday school... We must be ready though for him to turn to us, search us, and identify what has kept us from being truly good. Your challenge this week is to find that place(s) that would have you turning around discouraged because Jesus pointed it out as not being good enough. Discover it and change it. 

And be good! 

 




July 31, 2017, 10:17 AM

Jesus was Really Nice.


Understatement of the year: Jesus was a really nice guy. 

And while that sounds so......simplistic, there is a high value to the concept. Jesus was nice. There were times, yes, where he was aggressive and firm with a lesson. But for the most part (99% of the time) he was kind. Children want to come see him, with all their wiggles and short attention spans: he welcomed them kindly. In fact, he was so kind to them that he turned it around on his disciples for pushing the kids away. Have a disease that separates you from everyone?  Jesus reached out to you kindly. Do you work for Rome? Jesus not only will heal your servants, he will profess to the crowds around about the amazing level of your faith!! 

Jesus was kind... to everyone who could not repay his kindness. Those that knew better were treated a little less kindly. When you get the time this week in Bible study, spend time in the Gospel of John and rediscover the powerful displays of Grace by Jesus. Almost every time, we could excuse anyone for being testy, short, or impatient. And yet every time, Jesus is kind and nice despite circumstance. My favorite t-shirt logo I've seen in recent history is this: "I'm sorry for things I said when I was hungry."  

In John 4, Jesus was very tired and very hungry. And yet he is filled with Grace and kindness towards a woman who could neither reciprocate or even justify talking to him in the first place. 

A closing thought to this quick hit blog: You're never too important or busy to be nice. If anyone could claim that, it is Jesus. "I'm sorry, I'm too busy making sure your path to salvation is complete."  OR: "I'm sorry, but my time is way too short to spend time with your child, your lepers, or your sick and dying servants... after all, you're not Jewish."  Never, ever did Jesus withhold compassion, grace, and kindness. What ground do we have to stand on when we withhold any of it? 

John 4: 4 - 10   4He had to go through Samaria on the way.5Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.6Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.7Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”8He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. 9The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” 10Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”




July 24, 2017, 8:38 AM

Symptoms


After a small epiphany yesterday before the Adult class, I want to explore further a thought that unpacked itself during our class time and sermon. Lack of patience (impatience) is not THE problem... it is a symptom of a greater problem. 

As we examine Paul's list concerning what the Holy Spirit will exhibit in those seeking to be like Christ, the first three are the source... what follows (generally speaking) are results of issues we may have with Love, Joy, and Peace. 

If we do not have a full grasp of a loving life, filled with joy, and seeking peace we will naturally become impatient, mean, not full of goodness, and lack self control (among other things). Too often we point first to a lack of patience as our biggest problem. 

That is not the problem.  How we love, or choose to hate is the problem. The boundaries we have allowed to exist between us and certain people is not a lack of patience with "difficult" people. It is a problem with loving like God loves. When we choose to not see joy in our circumstances, we will lose patience at the drop of a hat. Patience is not the problem. Our hearts and the dark places we have kept hidden are the source. 

Your challenge this week as we continue studying patience is to not just be patient with someone. Be patient because you love someone completely. 

Ephesians 4: 2 - 3 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your dlove. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.




July 17, 2017, 9:19 AM

Blinded by Hope


I hope tomorrow is better. 

That probably sounds familiar, and has probably graced many lips throughout time. Today can be a struggle, and when we face the challenges and storms of the present we can rely on the hope that tomorrow is going to be better. Our faith is based upon hope that stretches into eternity. Which, when embraced, gives us the perseverance and faith to carry on. 

There are other ways we can look ahead in hope as well: I hope our Church grows; I hope the Kingdom of God (the Church) is revived; I hope things are better for believers globally and that persecution ends.  We can confidently say these things and speak about the faith that God will deliver on his promises of a strong Kingdom here on earth. 

But....... when we only look ahead with hope we place blinders over our eyes to what is around us right now. We, to our detriment, have become blinded by hope. Today is never as good as what we want tomorrow to be. Today is always wrong... because what used to be was better. Tomorrow will prove today a fluke, or just a blip on the radar to greater days. 

What if, by hoping for something great tomorrow we're missing what is great today? Are there opportunities to celebrate and worship and serve missed right now because we're focused too much on what we HOPE will happen tomorrow? Of course I want to see our congregation push the limits of attendance like it used to... but getting caught up in that hope leaves me blind to the powerful congregation of believers, servants, friends, and saints we have right now. We are not powerless because we hope tomorrow is better, because yesterday was better... We are powerful because the God we serve right now believes in us right now. And that gives us hope and faith and confidence that right now is where we need to be. Right now is hopeful, right now is where God needs his Church. Right now has all the needs of a hopeful people, not tomorrow and certainly not yesterday. Those days can worry about themselves. 

Yes, I hope tomorrow and next week are better. Yes, I get caught up in the temptation of hope for more... But I cannot be so blinded by the hope for tomorrow that today is forgotten. Remove the blinders and find hope in who we are right now. We are the Body of Christ, the Church, His Bride. 

And that gives me hope. 




July 10, 2017, 8:34 AM

The List...


Here's an activity that could potentially take up the rest of your day: Make a list of all the things that drive you crazy, make you lose self control, or just get under your skin and on your nerves.  

Ok, please don't do that. 1) if you're like me (which I'm positive you should not be), this list can take way too long to complete; and 2) it is an unhealthy exercise and I'm sorry I started my blog with that. 

What this does point out though is that, if you're normal, there are things that push our limits of self control. The problem is, those things typically don't change one bit whether we're mad or not. Think about this: what good does yelling at someone in your car do to that person who just cut you off? Nothing. It changes nothing but you're blood pressure and outlook on the human race as a whole. (I'm talking to me here). If I get frustrated with someone going slower than I think they should, the problem is not with them... it's ALL on me. 

When I lose self control, I am the one to blame. Which is the heart of much of the human problem. We're quick to blame someone, anyone for what is wrong, exonerating ourselves in the process. 

If you haven't crumpled up your list from above, check it out and see how many of those issues are really ME issues: lack of patience; loss of joy; love that is biased and incomplete; kindness that is either preferential or contingent on a return; the gentleness of a sword vs. the gentleness of our God; faithfulness to God's plan for ALL mankind to know his love; and/or the lack of peace that must be evident in our own bearings no matter the circumstances.  

The Fruit of the Spirit, when evident in our lives makes the List look downright silly. Petty grievances disappear in the light of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Complaints turn to opportunities for expressions of Joy! And all the storms in the world wont be able to shake our sense of peace because Jesus is in the boat with us.  

The presence of the Holy Spirit within us is far more than just pushing out sinfulness. His presence brings out the very best of God in us, and lays it out for the world to see. 

Galatians 5: 13 - 16  13For you have been called to live in dfreedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your dfreedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.14For the whole elaw can be summed up in this one fcommand: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”15But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.16So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

 


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