Thursday, January 29, 2009

Turn around to Turn Around

"In the newly released directory [Churches of Christ in the United States], 21st Century Christian identifies 12,629 a cappella Churches of Christ with 1,578,281 adherents nationwide. Those figures represent 526 fewer churches and 78,436 fewer people in the pews than just six years ago" (Bobby Ross, "Church in America Marked by Decline," Christian Chronicle, February 2009).

We can survey, surf blogs, and guess at what has brought about the decline? We might discover what causes people to leave and churches to permanently close their doors. We might find 2,009 reasons. But what can be done to reverse the trend beginning this year?

Here's what I believe we must do turn things around. We must repent. Turn around to turn around.

Jesus entrusted us with good news to share, and we don't share it enough. We do not tell our friends about Jesus' death for their sins and how they, by grace through faith, can be saved. We talk about sharing it. We believe "the church" ought to share it. Yet, days pass, then weeks, and we cannot name one person to whom we have deliberately revealed "What Jesus has done" for us. Turn around to turn around.

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you repent, you too will perish."

Our silence about the good news has caused us to look like we have already perished. We've got to repent of our silence or we will die. Who will you tell about the goodness of Jesus this week? Turn around to turn around. That's Life at Work.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One More Thing

"Oh, yeah. One more thing."

"That reminds me. One more thing."

Paul told the Galatians that he was astonished that they had turned to a different gospel which, because the teaching was about just "one more thing" they had to do, became a message that was not good news at all (Galatians 1:1-6).

The good news is that because of his tremendous love for us, God gave Jesus to die for our sins. Jesus was buried and three days later, just as he said he would, he rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). When people believe that message and respond by turning to live for Jesus and are baptized, their sins are forgiven (Acts 2:26-38). Those who are forgiven have been added to the number of the saved. When we ourselves, because grace is just too hard to believe, or when others begin to put conditions of salvation on us, the message ceases to be good news. There is a message to believe. That is our faith. God has revealed to us how we can respond in faith. That's our practice. Faith and practice. That's Life at Work.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Faith and Practice

Do you believe that it is important for unbelievers to hear the good news about how Jesus can take their sins away? What is more important for them to hear, do you believe?

Do you believe it is important for Christians to feed the hungry, care for the oppressed, and take care of orphaned children? What is a better use of our time and money, do you believe?

Do you believe that it is important for Christians to stand up for the principle of the impartiality of God – the truth that God does not show favoritism and all people are invited to enter the kingdom?

That last question was the one that Paul and Peter grappled with in Jerusalem. Peter, talked the talk of impartiality, but when Jews and Gentiles were in the room together, he favored the Jews. His reputation with the other Jews suddenly became more important than the truth that God does not play favorites with the nations. Paul, in his argument to the Galatians (chapter 1) that he is not out to please men, used his reaction to Peter to make a powerful point. He knew that his approval rating among the Jews was low, but his message of impartiality that he believed was from God was more important than his reputation; so he confronted Peter the apostle face-to face about his hypocrisy.

Our actions show what we believe the most. If racism that keeps the gospel out of the hearts of people of other groups around us goes unchallenged, we might believe racism is wrong; but the need to get along is a deeper conviction.

If we do not do all we can to feed the hungry we may be telling the truth when we say it's important; but we believe something else more deeply.

What do we really believe? Watch us and see. That's Life at Work!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just Carry a Watch

    Herbert Tree, a British actor from a while back, encountered a man in the street who was struggling under the weight of a grandfather clock. Tree stopped him and asked, "My good man, why not just carry a watch?"

    That's a pretty good question, I suppose. When I read that anecdote, I thought of a couple of things that may be worthy reading. First, we do troubles like Tree joked about this man doing timepieces. In regard to our sin trouble, we carry the guilt of that sin around, while Jesus says things like, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Jesus forgives us; shouldn't we forgive ourselves?

    In regard to other "everyday troubles" we carry the burden of worry that takes away our joy, health, and hope for tomorrow. Jesus told us that worry doesn't accomplish anything of value. We should "seek first his kingdom and righteousness," letting God provide our "everyday needs."

    Then, since I'm thinking about this figuratively anyway, when we see someone carrying a burden that is too much to for them to tackle, or even awkward for them to deal with, shouldn't we ask if we can help carry the burden. Maybe a joke would be a good place to start, but not a good place to stop. A sincere offer of help, a cup of cold water or a share of the load would be the way to proceed. That's living like Jesus. That's Life at Work!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Fresh Starts

We all want fresh starts in the new year. Where we've ended 2008 struggling to get back in the black, we have a sense of getting back to even this first week of January. Even if we are still less than zero, there's a feeling, a sense, of potential for better things. Hope is a byproduct of newness. I'll be praying that God's plan to give you hope and future is realized for you in the new year (Jeremiah 29:11).

Nicodemus was part of an old sect. He had old ideas that kept him condemned in his old sin. He didn't come to Jesus looking for newness, necessarily, but Jesus knew he needed the new birth anyway. "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again," Jesus told him (John 3:5).

Spiritual newness is not achieved in the making of New Year's resolutions. Real "starting over" is not the result of giving up the hang-ups, hurts and habits of 2008. The New Birth is not achieved. The New Birth is a gift from God. Only God can cleanse the conscience. That reality compelled the writer of Hebrews to declare, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14)!

Are you ready for a fresh start? Is your soul craving for a new beginning? It is time to let God give you a New Birth! That's Life at Work!