Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Enemies of the Sheep

Sir Walter Scott and his wife were enjoying a stroll around the grounds at their home and passed by some lambs in a field playfully enjoying the spring day. Scott remarked, “It’s no wonder that poets from the earliest of times have made lambs the symbols of peace and innocence.”

His wife agreed that lambs are special, yet with something quite different in mind. She said, “Delightful creatures indeed, especially with mint sauce.”

You get a strange mix of the metaphor in the Bible because sheep are people, but the greatest enemies of sheep are also people. When the Psalmist writes, “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies,” the enemies are people. When Jesus warns about those who would steal, kill, and destroy the sheep; the thieves are people. When Paul told the shepherds of the church in Ephesus to protect the flock of God from the savage wolves, the wolves were people.

Shepherds that protect you, fellow sheep that fellowship with you, and enemies who would destroy you can all look very much alike. So Jesus offers one more warning in metaphor: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Be as innocent as sheep, but be shrewd, too. It is likely that someone is thinking about you with mint sauce. Know the difference between those who will protect you and those who would destroy you spiritually. That’s Life at Work!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Balanced Preaching and Listening

Preaching  (March – April 2006) features a cartoon in which two preachers are standing by the signs in front of their respective side-by-side church buildings.  The signs advertise the titles of the sermons upcoming in each church.  The preacher on the left is preaching momentarily on the topic “Taking Sin Seriously.”  The preacher on the right is preaching a sermon titled, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”  One preacher looks excitedly happy because he has a standing room only crowd waiting to enter.  The other preacher looks distraught because no one is entering through his building’s doors.  Guess which sermon people line up to hear in the cartoon.  You probably guessed right.  They are not lined up outside the door where “Taking Sin Seriously” is the topic for the morning.

I understand jokes like that.  Jokes about the people in pews can be humorous without truly revealing the hearts of people in the pews.  Likewise, jokes about preachers can be humorous without truly revealing the hearts of people in the pulpit.  But when I saw that cartoon it caused me to consider my own preaching.  Right now, I am preaching through the Sermon on the Mount.  I’m preaching a series of sermons on a sermon.

The people lined up to hear Jesus were called to take sin seriously.  Jesus warned his hearers about anger, lust, divorce, hatred, and dishonesty, in the end telling them if they failed to do what he said they would experience a “great fall.”  Take sin seriously.  Yet in the same sermon, he said, “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow.”  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

We all need to hear a balance of sermons about the kindness and sternness of God.  Preachers can probably do a better job of balancing them.  I’ll try.  Will you?  That’s Life at Work!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday is Mother’s Day! Make your mom happy. Do something special for her! Teach your young children to do something surprising for their mother by leading the way – involve them in the fun, in other words.

Proverbs is full of blessings for various people. Occasionally there will be a blessing for someone, but the happiness is generated in the life of another. Here’s what I hope for you:

May your father and mother be glad;
may she who gave you birth rejoice!
(Proverbs 23:25; NIV)

Rejoicing isn’t just going to happen. In Proverbs, a mother rejoices because her teaching is not forsaken by her children, and her children wisely work diligently to help the poor. Mothers rejoice when the discipline they hated to administer is effective at the time of application and into old age. Mothers rejoice when the children they made secure, return that security when the mother is old.

Whether your mom or the mother of your children has a Happy Mother’s Day is largely up to you. Make it happen. That’s Life at Work!

Looking for Grace

The actor W.C. Fields was an agnostic. A fellow actor once walked unannounced into his dressing room and found Fields reading the Bible. Like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, in embarrassment, Fields shut the Bible quickly and explained, "Just looking for loopholes." Philip Yancey in What's So Amazing about Grace commented, "Probably, he was looking for grace."

The Bible reveals the God who loved his creation so much, he gave his Son to rescue the creation from eternal punishment for sin. There has never been a greater love, nor will there ever be. If you want to experience it, there is only one place -- in Christ. There has never been a greater gift; nor will there ever be. There is only one place to learn about it -- the revelation from God in your Bible. People hunger for kindness directed toward them. In this world, kindness is rare. When someone reads about the loving kindness of God as revealed in Jesus, one can't help but be impressed. God wants us to be so impressed that we love him back. Do you know of his love for you? Open your Bible, but don't look for loopholes. That would be wasting time. Look for grace. That will be easy to find. That's Life at Work!