Nov 24, 2009

The Sermon

One more time...a quotation from Francis Chan's Crazy Love: "We've conditioned ourselves to hear messages without responding. Sermons have become Christian entertainment. We go to church to hear a well-developed sermon and a convicting thought. We've trained ourselves to believe that if we're convicted, our job is done. If you're just hearing the Word and not actually doing something with it, you're deceiving yourself" (p. 184).

Is that what the sermon is, "Christian entertainment?" A few weeks ago I was privileged to hear a preacher par exellence. He is a homiletics professor, has written several best-sellers and is a outstanding man of God. As I listened and observed I was impressed by how good he was--easy to hear, friendly, engaging, etc. It's almost as if I was critiquing his message, style, mannerisms, and so on. This preacher was giving me a WORD from God and here I was checking out his style. I almost missed the word from God.

How do you listen to sermons? Ever hear/say any of these? (1) "I just wasn't into it today." Really? Was God for some reason unworthy of your praise on this day? (2) "I just didn't get anything out of the sermon today." Ok, did you give God anything or was it all about you? Worship is designed far more to give God something (praise) that to give you something (good entertainment). (3) "I had trouble staying focused during the sermon." Ok, is that because you stayed up late last night, had plans after church or maybe didn't want to see God and be challenged by his glory? Worship, including the sermon, is not about you. Anyone who comes to worship looking for God will find him. Anyone coming to worship for entertainment will find himself.

The sermon is all about bridge-building, connecting God's eternal world and our world in the anticipation that the gap between the two will be narrowed. The sermon is about learning to reflect God, to look like God, to smell like Christ. The sermon is not about entertainment. Or if it should have any entertainment value at all it is that of entertaining God by displaying him and his calling to hearers.

So, next time you hear a sermon try this: ask yourself what God is calling you to do or be or change as a result of that sermon? Rather than judging the sermon, how about letting the sermon judge you? At least that's what I'm going to try to do the next time I hear a sermon.

Nov 13, 2009

Even In Death...

...I am reminded about what it means to live.

This past week we ventured to Oklahoma to attend the funeral services for Sara's grandfather. It was a beautiful time of remembrance and celebration of a life lived to the glory of God. As much as we often fear death though, it is funny how death often has the potential to teach us so much about life.

Floyd was a man who gave of himself as much as he could. He loved the Lord. He loved people. He loved his church. He loved his family. The more stories I got to hear about grandpa, the more I found myself being reminded of a few simple truths. Life is short. He lived a good life and was blessed in many years, but I am reminded that we never really know how long we have on this earth. So, what am I going to do with this life I have been given? How am I going to live? What will be my legacy?

I believe we are called to Live Intentionally and not just live with good intentions. I want to make conscious decisions every day to live for God and for others. Life goes by too quickly to choose not to live intentionally. I'm also reminded to take time to love others. Even when it might not "fit in my schedule."

I remember playing with a pair of my dad's shoes when I was a lot younger. I remember how big they seemed compared to the size of my own feet. I would put them on and try to walk around. It felt awkward, clumsy...I would even stumble and fall a few times. But there was a simple joy to be found in doing my best to try to walk around in my father's shoes. Sometimes I think that's how we feel about our life with God. The shoes can seem so huge, even overwhelming when we try to follow in his footsteps. As we try to live out his way of life in this world we can feel awkward, and clumsy...we might even stumble and fall from time to time. As we continue to wear the shoes on a daily basis though, eventually we will begin to grow into them. But we have to be intentional about walking in them even when it feels uncomfortable and it may not feel like it's the right fit.

I believe God wants us to dream walk forward in faith, trusting Him to do great things! But I think He also wants us to be mindful of the simple things life that as we continue to learn to die to ourselves and follow Him, even in death we can be reminded about what it means to truly live.


Nov 11, 2009

Transforming Waters

I just read a story about a convicted felon who was baptized while in prison. He was lowered into a wooden coffin that had been lined with plastic and filled with water. He carefully stepped into the water and was immersed. His dead body was given new life by the power of God. The man sat in the coffin weeping, saying "I want to wear these clothes as long as I can. I am now a free man...this (razor) wire can't shackle my soul. I know that I deserved to come here, to pay for what I did. But I also learned here that someone else paid for my crimes." (Hicks & Taylor, Down in the River to Pray, 216). A similar coffin would hold his body again but death would have no power over him at that time.

The power of God at work in baptism is more powerful than our wickedness, more powerful than all the wickedness of the whole world. Uniting with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus through our own death, burial and resurrection is a powerful act of faith, submission, obedience in which transformation into the image of God is powerfully displayed. All who experience this new birth have new hope and new life. Everyone! I truly mean everyone. Including the above prisoner who had molested his 10-year-old daughter. But who am I to cast the first stone? All sinners, regardless of the nature of their sins, are in need of the transforming power of God which is uniquely unleashed in baptism. So let's drop the rocks in our hands.

What do you think?

Nov 4, 2009

Can A Christian Be A Patriot?

Interesting question, huh? Maybe you've never thought about it before? Maybe you don't see it to be an issue at all and wonder what's the deal? Maybe it sounds unChristian or unAmerican to even ask the question? Anyway, it's being discussed more in Christian circles nowadays and we should welcome the discussion and be civil in our participation.

Over 100 years ago David Lipscomb questioned to what extent Christians should be involved in civil government. After all, what do the kingdoms of men have to do with the kingdom of God? So, Lipscomb opposed Christians running for political office, voting, etc. He most certainly would have opposed any American symbol being a part of a religious service, such as a flag.

What brought this to my attention again is the latest issue of Restoration Quarterly wherein an article by an ACU professor, Victor McCracken, is titled "Can A Christian Be A Patriot?" It's an interesting read. He notes how the American flag has sometimes received recognition in churches and schools and wonders whether Christians should question this activity. One of our national mottos, often seen as a bumper sticker, is "God bless America." Shouldn't we want God to bless all nations? McCracken shares the development of his own view as he has considered this subject.

Personally, I beleive we should be proud to be Americans--just like a dozen songs proclaim. Not arrogant though. Maybe rather than proud, perhaps we should think "fortunate." Then again, to be fortunate or blessed has little to do with geography and culture and is far, far more a matter of spiritual inheritance. In the kingdom of God there are no "Americans." God's people are "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female" (Gal. 3:28).

As this kind of discussion will continue, you might be thinking about your first allegiance. Our first allegiance must always be pledged to God. All other allegiances pale compare to this. Let us never forget that we are first patriots of the kingdom of God.