Thursday, July 26, 2007

Richard Schwieterman tells a story about doing some remodeling on his house. He was fixing an attic fan. He said that as he lifted himself us from the ladder into the attic, he scratched his head on a crossbeam. As he crawled through the attic, he got several splinters in each hand. He actually cut one of his hands as he replaced a fan belt, then on the way down he slipped over the last two rungs and twisted his ankle. He says that when he limped into the kitchen where his wife was cooking, she took a good look at him and asked, “Are those your good pants?”

David and Teresa Ferguson try to help us get the point about paying attention when they write in Devotions for Couples that a wife might say, “I’ve had a really rough day, especially when I went to the shopping mall;” to which too many husbands will respond with a compassionate, “You went to the mall? Did you get that shirt like I asked you?”

Husbands and wives who respond in thoughtless ways like these are not usually, in my experience, rude; they are, well, just thoughtless. The natural tendency of people is to think about themselves. Because it is the natural tendency to think about your own interests first, it takes thought to consider others first.

The sad thing, in this regard, about the state of the American family is that we use our homes as safehomes in which we let our guards down. What I mean is, we let our guards down to the point that we quit practicing the command of Jesus through the Apostle Paul to consider others better than ourselves and to look to the interests of others in addition to our own interests (Phil 2:3-4). We come home from school, work, or play where we have humbly been courteous and considerate; and become discourteous and inconsiderate to our spouses, our parents and our children. And it isn’t because we are choosing to be rude. It is because we quit choosing what to do and we let the natural tendency take over.

So we have to change our minds. I mean literally change our minds. In order for me to be considerate first in my home and then outside my home, I must have the mind of Christ. That’s right. I need a renewing of my mind, so that I begin to think like Jesus all the time, everywhere.

How can you develop the mind of Christ? First, expose yourself often to Jesus in the gospels? Second, be deliberate as you make every effort to add the ways of Jesus to the faith with which you began your Christian walk. Third, pray for the mind of Christ.

The more you develop the mind of Christ, the less thoughtless you will be to your family and to everyone else. That’s Life at Work!

Monday, July 23, 2007

God Shaped Hole

When Jesus found someone hungry, he gave them food. When he found them sick, he gave them health. When people were cast out by the elite, he gave them security. When people mourned, he gave them comfort. Jesus gave, and gives all these things, but Jesus is not grocery store God, hospital God, security blanket God, or an ease-my-emotional-pain God. God is much bigger than any of those and bigger than all those put together.

When people face issues of life, often they become aware of their need for God. I’ve heard people say, “I’ve got a God-shaped hole in my heart.” The truth usually is that there is a hole in the heart, something is missing, but it is actually the shape of something God can help with; not actually shaped like God. As a church, which is the body of Christ – meaning that we do his work in this world – we face a dilemma when we want to present Christ as someone who cares about your hunger, your health, your security, and your tears. The dilemma is expressed by N. T. Wright in an interview with Tim Stafford for Christianity Today magazine (Jan 2007). “… If you simply address the God-shaped blank that people think they’ve got, the God you end up with is the God shaped by the blank.”

As a church, like Jesus, we are dying to help you! The greatest help we can be, though, is to show you all of who God is, not just what God can do. If you’ll let him in – and he is knocking – you’ll discover that he is much, much bigger than any hole in your heart can hold! That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Casting Crowns: LifeSong

Empty hands held high,
Such small sacrifice
If not joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight.
May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You!
Let my lifesong sing to You,
Let my lifesong sing to You
I want to sign Your name to the end of this day
Knowing that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to You.
Lord I give my life,
A living sacrifice
To reach a world in need,
To be Your hands and feet.
So may the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

My life is a song that I sing to God. My song includes my words, but it is not the sum of my words. If my words are not a reflection of my life, my song of words is vain. If I sing “Take my life and let it be,” yet my day is all about me and not about God, my song of words is meaningless. If my song of words is “If I have wounded any soul today,” yet I am unapologetic and cold, I song is useless. If I sing with my mouth, “I love thy kingdom, Lord,” while I harshly judge my fellow disciples, my song does not bring a smile to God.

The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Heb 13:15-16).

We can bring a smile to the face of God! Does that interest you? We can please him. Is that the desire of your heart? Then sing songs and live a life that proves that what you sing is a true expression of your heart.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Understanding "This Is God's Word to Me"

I believe it is important as we approach a sermon that we understand that the Word upon which that sermon is based is God’s Word to us. When Jesus spoke, he wasn’t offering commentary like one of the scribes; his message carries the authority of heaven. His words will judge us in the last day (John 12:47).

To stress the origin and significance of a section, Paul would sometimes write, “I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (1 Cor 11:23; 15:3). The Corinthians failed to recognize a message of authority when they heard it; we do that too, sometimes. While what I say in commentary on a passage is just commentary, the scripture we read is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

I talk to people all the time about scripture and their approach to it. Many in our community and in our church understand the concept of inspiration and believe the Bible is from God; yet a great number of us don’t respond to the Bible as if it is the message to which we are accountable. Lots of people say the Bible is God’s word and then live like it’s not. Plenty of people will walk out of the auditorium, say something about the truth of the message I have preached, and leave without a bit of change. Including me. That’s why I have begun to engage God’s assembly in sermon time with the recitation of “This is God’s Word to Me.”

Recitations are nothing new to God’s people. Worship in the Old and New Testament era has encourage congregational engagement through antiphony (responsive alteration between two groups – often as part of song) and litany (recitations). Psalm 136 has been used for centuries as a leader among God’s people would read the first line of each verse, and the entire congregation would chant “for his love endures forever.” It is an engaging and powerful reminder of how God’s love is evident in creation and his daily care for his people. Do you think that our generation needs some reminders about how the food every creature receives is evidence of God’s enduring love? Seems to me, we take that for granted.

This kind of recitation is not a violation of passages about worship like 1 Corinthians 14:34 or 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Singing is a congregational activity in which everyone, male and female, participates – even when the song is a prayer put to music (i.e. “Father, Hear the Prayer we Offer”). Recitation of a Psalm or a common pledge is in the same category.

Reciting “This Is God’s Word to Me” is certainly not intended to make anyone uncomfortable, unless the discomfort is because of inattention to God’s authoritative word. Certainly, no one is required to participate in the recital. The intent is to raise awareness that the Bible we are studying reveals the authority of Jesus; and our approach to it must involve our love for the hope it makes known and our determination to be transformed! That’s Life at Work!

This Is God's Word to Me

In the past few months, I have initiated a recitation prior to my Sunday morning sermons regard the role of the Word in our lives. It is a litany that I wrote to move our assembly to good thinking as we approach the Word.

This Is God’s Word to Me
It Has the Power to Light My Path
To Judge My Heart
To Convict Me of My Sin
And the Power to Set Me Free

I Will Meditate On God’s Word to Me Day and Night
I Will Search for Its Meaning
I Will Desire the Knowledge It Provides
I Will Receive God’s Word to Me
And I Will Do What It Says

I Expect that My Life Will Be Changed
That Who I Was Before God’s Word, I Will Never Be Again
I Expect to Be Built Up by God’s Word Today
And by the Power of God’s Word I Will Receive the Inheritance of the Holy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Foundation for Kingdom Explosion

Where do we begin? If we are going to do personal work like Jesus, if we are going to start telling people the good news, where do we start. Peter and Jesus offer a good idea. Start at home.

“When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him” (Matt 8:14-15).

You’ve heard me say that our homes are to be evangelistic centers. Let’s call our homes Foundations for Kingdom Explosion! If you and I were to use our homes as the entry points for people to whom we want to give the gift of the gospel, we would have no trouble knowing where to start.

First, as I challenged you a few weeks ago, put your home back in its place as the primary location for discipling your children. Let the church help, certainly, but the church’s role is secondary. Teach your children the good news in your own home.

Next, whoever is in your home on any kind of consistent basis is a great person with whom to begin revealing the gift of Jesus. Teenagers, you’ve got friends who play video games in front of your TV, swim in your pool, jump on your trampoline, crash on your couch, and drink your Dr. Peppers from your refrigerator. Let them open your gift from your hand. You received the gift of eternal life – regift it! Your friends will receive it better in your home!

The people in your home may be your relatives who live close enough to come over regularly. They may be your friends who you invite over for dessert and Bible Study – just the few of you. They may be people you met at church for the first time on a Sunday morning that you invited to your home for a small group study on Sunday night. They may be your golfing buddies or fellow card fanatics. Whoever they are, open your home and open your mouth about Jesus. Make your home your Foundation for Kingdom Explosion.

Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law without anyone asking. She immediately got up and served him. People appreciate it when you care about them enough to help them – it can mean more if you’ll offer before they even ask!

The Meaning of Freedom

“Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose…” (Janis Joplin in “Me and Bobby McGee”).

“And freedom, oh freedom well, that’s just some people talkin.’ Your prison is walking through this world all alone…” (Eagles in “Desperado”).

“Some say that freedom's the power to do what one pleases; you can live like the devil or hold on to Jesus…” (Kenny Chesney in “Freedom”).

We can appreciate the sentiment behind each of the ideas of freedom expressed in songs like those. I hope we can appreciate the concept of freedom expressed in scripture. Peter wrote, “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity-for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning” (2 Peter 2:19-21).

You are a slave to whatever overcomes you; and if what overcomes you doesn’t bring life in the end, then you aren’t free. You can live your life nearly any way that you want, but if you end up in everlasting destruction, you haven’t been free. As a country, we can do nearly anything we want, but if our way doesn’t bring us life in the end, we aren’t free. We are slaves to whatever overcomes us and many are moving toward slavery to sin. Move toward Jesus in whom there is life eternal life! That is freedom! That’s Life at Work!