Monday, March 22, 2010

Pieces, Plans & Peace

You know who you are. 

When a friend asks you to do something, you immediately check your calendar and figure out when you can negotiate a social outing.

When there's a church event, school project, or t-ball party, you are put in charge of the festivities.

When someone mentions a vacation, you immediately check airline prices.

Planners of the world....Unite!

Ok, maybe the process isn't as dramatic as all that, but for a lot of us, maybe most of us, planning is something that we take refuge in. After all, a plan gives us the sense that we can ensure that what we want to happen, will happen. It's our way of exerting our imprimatur on the events of our lives. Sure, our very breath is dependent upon God's grace, but somehow we think we can look into the future and dictate what will face. We're given part of the puzzle and think we have the ability to figure out the rest.

But it rarely works like that

Instead, many of the times, maybe most of the time, God gives us a piece of the plan. He tells us "Do this; this is the next right thing" and our job is to follow Him in faith.  When He's silent, when He hasn't told us the next move, our job is to rest in His peace as the plan is revealed. We don't obtain peace by trying to figure out the remaining pieces of the puzzle, He's promised that peace comes from Him, not the plan. 

May we faithfully do whatever God has called us to today, and leave the rest of the plan, in His hands.

Question: In what area is it hardest to trust in God's plan for your life?


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

For Others' Sake

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles - Ephesians 3:1

It's not easy to give up what is rightly ours for the sake of others. It's even less easy when we can rightly determine that "they don't deserve it." It's human nature, perhaps, to cling to our privileges and prerogatives because they lead us to the mistaken impression that somehow we are important. We want to mark our territory, draw our lines, and dare anyone to try and cross them.

In Ephesians, though, Paul shows us a different way. Paul gave up status and prestige that were rightfully his because of Christ's work on the cross. Paul, the Jew among Jews and the Roman citizen, became a traveling missionary, ostracized from the people who once esteemed him, making tents (rather than teaching) for a living, all for the sake of a people that he once believed were unworthy of salvation. He followed the example of Christ in becoming "nothing" at least in the world's eyes, so that he could demonstrate the love of Christ to people who were lost. 

For many of us the story is so familiar that it's power has become dim, but let's not let it. Instead, let us recognize all that Paul had, all he gave up, and the reasons that he did so. Paul realized that his life was sacrificed to Christ and that Christ desired to do a work for others through him.  Paul was "Christ's prisoners" so that through his service, the Gentiles may come to know Christ.

Whose life does God want you to impact through your service to Him today?

Question: What have you been willing to give up in order that others may know Christ?


Monday, March 8, 2010

One Mind

Reading through the book of Ephesians, one quickly realizes that Paul has an inspired concern for the Ephesus church; namely that the Church reflect the unity that is proper for the body of Christ. After all, it is rare that the parts of an individual's body act out of concert with one another and when they do, it's time to call in Dr. House and his famed diagnostic team. Individually, our bodies were designed so that our feet, our hands, our heart and our mind would all be working toward a common goal, whether that goal is to digest food, or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

In the case of the body of Christ, the same thing is true and in Ephesians 2:6-7, Paul demonstrates what this goal should be.  All believers should be actively demonstrating the abundance of Christ's grace.  In saving us, God desires to use our lives to draw others to Him.  Whether we are interacting with family or interacting with strangers, whether we are alone or in a crowd, our lives should be a constant reflection of God's grace to us, because we are constantly reflecting on His kindness expressed in grace. Demonstrating the abundance of His riches towards us is the singular goal of our lives, not to proclaim our own worth, but in acknowledging our unworthiness, to proclaim the magnitude of His kindness. In recognizing that our lives our worthless apart from His grace, we display the costly and incomparable sacrifice of His life.  God choose us to be a demonstration of His kindness and grace not by merely being kind and gracious to others, but by telling of His kindness and grace to us.

May we keep this focus in mind. And may this be the common focus of all Christians' lives.

How do you keep your focus on reflecting Christ? 

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Death Sentence

The word of God has been so thoroughly tamed that as peddled in the churches there is nothing scandalous, strenuous, or revolutionary about it. It is not even difficult. It is easier to join a Christian church than it is to join Rotary. Whereas in some eras of its history, Christianity was threatened by persecution, in our own American culture, it faces an opposite threat which lies in its very success. Christianity is dying, not of persecution or neglect, but of respectability. W. Waldo Beach from The Christian Life, Richmond, Va.: CLC Press, 1966, p. 11

Shock jock radio hosts achieved their title and their notoriety because of their ability to say things that stretched people beyond their comfort zone. Often times these diatribes pushed not only people's boundaries but the standards of good taste. However, despite the outrage that they often precipitated, the hosts' fame and wallets grew. It became so that what they said was evaluated not by the content, but by the number of listeners that it reached, and because the best way to keep people talking is to say something shocking, good manners, facts, and society's standards were often left by the wayside.

In the quotation above, Beach suggests the church faces the opposite problem. Written almost a half century ago, the author posits that the Church, in an attempt to not offend anybody, accepts everything. Read that sentence again. It does not say that the folly of the church is to accept everyone, for we know that God wishes all to come to a saving knowledge of Him (See I Timothy 2:3-4). However, loving a person and loving their behavior are two very different things. In many cases, perhaps in an effort to demonstrate love, the church has ceased to preach the hard and difficult aspects of being a Christian. And because of this, the Church ceases to be the representative of Christ in the world, and instead, because a do-good organization bound by the standards of Christianity but void of its power. For just like the Word is the light onto our individual paths, so it is for the Church. Without it, the church no longer serves its purpose.

Much has been said about the need for individuals to find and live their purpose. This idea is intertwined with the often individualistic way of American life.  The idea is that if a person does not do that which they were created for, their life will be meaningless and vapid. It is the same for the Church. If we are willing to put to death all that God called the Church should be, both the provider of love as well as the proclaimer of truth, both the dispenser of discipline as well as the refuge for the recluse, then we should not be surprised when the Church too experiences a slow and stifled death.


Better Things Ahead: March 2010

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