Friday, December 3, 2010

Don't Miss "Christ"mas!

The hustle and bustle has been going on now for several weeks now as people forage for for the latest developments in fashion, grab the newest gadgets or snatch all the stocking fillers they can find. I can’t say that I’m staying above the fray either. It’s our culture; one that we’ve exported to the world en masse. But despite our leanings we need to cultivate a culture of Christ.

Originally December 25th did not have Christian significance as far as we know. There is no document that tells us with certainty when Christ was born. In fact the impetus for Christmas was actually reactionary. Romans celebrated the “Day of the Birth of the Sun” on December 25th and it is likely that Christians reacted by promoting worship of Christ on this day.

Promoting Christ should be our principle concern. We may be preoccupied by presents but returning to our roots as Christians we should realize it is better to give than to receive. So give the gift of Christ in thoughts, words, and actions. In a paraphrase of the apostle Peter do not let your adornments be merely decorative, arranging the tree, wearing green and red, or putting on Christmas music, but rather let it be the hidden person of the heart.

Christ is knocking this season like He does every season waiting for you and I to respond. But He doesn’t just want us to respond He also wants us to report the blessing that He has bestowed upon us individually and as the body of Christ.

As we enjoy Christmas this year we should remember to continue to seek for Christ in all the gifts we share and in all the moments we record. Perhaps December 25th did not begin with Christ, but there is no reason that it can’t end with our Lord and Savior. As we await for the blessed hope to return don’t miss Christ this Christmas.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Mask

Halloween is over and little children have generally stopped dressing up like supeheroes, princesses and ghosts. But despite the untimeliness we still need to put on masks. Not masks worn to frighten, but masks to cover our sins. At our core we are sinful people. We were conceived in iniquity into a world filled with iniquity and we need to put on a mask.

Recently I was watching Conan O'brien's self-titled show "Conan" the day after it aired (I don't stay up that late anymore) and in a segment of the show Conan pulled out masks for himself and his sidekick Andy Richter. The masks were suppose to resemble Conan himself, but because the company that produced the masks did not have the right to produce masks named after Conan they were instead called "The Ex-talk Show Host" masks. Conan feigned anger that they could be so cruel to name the masks that way given his recent and public exit from being the host of the Tonight Show. But the truth is that is exactly what he had been up until that night: an ex-talk show host.

Too often we have a hard time coming to grips with who we really are. But the fact is that apart from Christ we are blind and naked. We bring nothing into this world and if we were left to our own devices we would bring nothing out of it. That is why we need to put on a mask; not a mask of Conan, but of Christ.

Christ's righteousness should wrap our sinful sores like mummified corpses. If we daily choose to put on Christ so that others can see Him when they look at us, then I believe that by faith we will be changed into His likeness and someday when we take the mask off there really won't be anything to take off because we will be like him.

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." 1 Corinthians 13:11,12

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sacred Vs. Secular

The terms sacred and secular are often used to describe two distinct areas of life. We may equate sacred as referring to things that are not for everyday use but are set aside for religious purposes. Secular than would mean the opposite and refer to anything that is used in the everyday course of life. Is this dichotomy helpful or even natural? Should this type of thinking be embraced or ignored?

In the ancient biblical world God Himself declared that there are somethings that are Holy or set apart from other things. In Exodus 16:23 God said: ‘Tomorrow (the seventh day of the week) is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD." In Exodus 20:8-11 God explained that while the Israelites had six days to work the seventh day was a day of rest where no work of any kind would be done. Later in Exodus 31:13 God would say "Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. "

Jesus kept this sign of sanctification in His life and declared that He was Lord of the Sabbath in Mark 2:28. This evidences that God intended that the Sabbath be eternally set apart from the rest of the week. At the very least there is one institution that reminds us that the dichotomy of sacred and secular continues to exist.

If God intended that the seventh day be set apart for remembrance and reverence does this imply that during the other six days we are allowed a Godless existence? Certainly not, but the distinction of sacred and secular still remains because of our human limitations. It is very important for us not to mix the sacred and the secular. At this point there are some that believe this type of thinking smacks of legalism sighting such well known texts as "in everything you do, do it all to the glory of God." But texts like these do not imply that there is not a distinction between the secular and the sacred.

Paul himself says in 1 Corinthians 46 "However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual." The physical comes first just as the six days of God's work came before the sacredness of the seventh day Sabbath and each week this cycle continues and will continue for all time.

There can be problems when people begin to artificially and independently make there own separations. For example when people believe they can lie and deceive outside the walls of the church but they need to be good and honest inside the walls they are missing the point. This is not the purpose of the distinction between sacred and secular. The purpose of this distinction is merely to provide a time and a place for human beings to the everyday things of life and a time and a place to allow the spiritual side to flourish. We are not without spirituality at the office, or at the construction site, but we are less able to focus on spiritual things.

The separation between what is sacred and secular is meant to optimize our ability to function in both places by providing a time and place for reflection that cannot exist to the same degree when we are concentrating on completing secular activities. This does not make the other six days of the week a time for debasement it only means that that there is a specialness in sacred things that allow us to pause and reflect on the greatness of our God.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Melting From Pressure

Pressure produces heat. When a material like air or water is condensed as the result of pressure heat is created because the space between particles is reduced causing more collisions between the particles and the subsequent release of energy from the collisions. This may sound like a science textbook but the reality is that we as human beings find ourselves under pressure quite often.

There are external forces in our lives that seem to weigh down on us and create heat that tends to destabilize the integrity of the support systems in our lives. The question is are we merely subject to external forces or can we repel these forces to keep them from reshaping our lives?

The bible tells us that there are many times that our "soul melts from heaviness." Psalm 119:28a We are after all physical beings with limitations. And yet are we really limited by our natural state of being? It often feels that way, but the bible tells us that there is a way to buttress ourselves under the impending stress that we feel. Continuing on in Psalm 119 the author says to the Lord "Strengthen me according to Your word."

God's word is our strength. This is not some generic prescription for success, but a carefully proscribed tool for our success.

Are you lonely? The bible says

"I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Are you tempted? The bible says:

"Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

Do you lack wisdom? The bible says:

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. " James 1:5

Doubting the power of these texts? Well the bible unequivocally tells us that the word of God is our source of strength. We have a choice: do we melt from the pressure or do we listen to God's word? May you find strength in God's word for today's challenges.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

For His Sake

We all come to Jesus at first because we want to be saved. After all after a while most of us like the prodigal son realize that the grass wasn't greener on the other side and that God's way really is the best way. The funny thing of course is that as much as God loves you and me He has a lot of other people that He cares about as well.

This puts God in an awkward position. You see in order to be able save the universe from imploding, and by that I mean every selfish person sucking the life out of everything else, He has to restore His job approval rating. He says that people really shouldn't be sucking the life out of things for themselves, but giving life to others, but there is some doubt as to whether or not that's the best way to do things. After all if we give to others whose going to give to us.

God says not to worry about that. He says that in His way everything we need will be taken care of by Him and others. The problem is the devil argues that's just not the case and that there is no reason to trust God because He's just saying all of those things so that we do things for Him. You see the devil is making accusations about God's character and that means that unless God disproves those allegations we can never be sure that somebody else might not try and not God off the hill.

So God sent His son to show that He's not in this for Himself. I have to say that He did a pretty good job of illustrating that on the cross. But that doesn't mean He's out of the woods. I mean even if God love's others more than Himself, and He does, does it really make a difference if the rebels keep on causing problems. If His government really isn't self serving shouldn't people be better living under His rules.

Well that's just it: we are. And that's what God is proving right now by carefully recording the differences in those that just say they believe in His government and those that are actually living by His commands. He's going to point to the one's living by His commands and show how their lives actually got better in meaningful ways.

That's why we need to be thinking more about helping God out of a bind than just saving our own skin. Yeah sure there's nothing wrong with being on the right side, but being on the right side means that we're on the side of something besides just ourselves. It means that we're fighting for something bigger than whether or not we can make our lives better. We're trying to advance a cause a principle that if victorious will set the course right for everyone, not just ourselves.

So the next time you're pondering whether or not you should put down that offending magazine, or pick up the phone to give an encouraging call, don't just do it for yourself, do it for His sake.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rest from Works

When I was in school I was told that if I worked hard and gave the right answers than I would get good grades and then people would pat me on the head and tell that me that I was bright. Okay nobody ever said that last part would come true. I guess that's just what I hoped would come true.

Regardless each one of us believes that if we do something we should get something whether it's prestige, payment, power or all of the above. An there is truth and justice to this way of thinking. It's the way we're wired.

The problem is however that we don't want to be paid for all the things we do, just some of them and this type of thinking is illogical. It's like telling your boss that you only want to be paid for half of the report you wrote on changing conditions in the marketplace. It's like telling the contractor that you only want to be paid for half of the dry wall that you put up. Sure your employers want to do it, but if there fair people they'll know that it's just not right.

And yet when it comes to sin we don't want to be paid for all of the sin we've piled up in our little corner of the universe. We just want to be compensated for the smiles we've sprung on people from time to time.

The reality is of course that we cannot choose what we receive payment for because we're not the ones paying. The sign on our door simply reads "I just work here." God as the great employer renders what is just.

Fortunately God knew that He could pay someone else for our pile of sin so that we didn't have to be weighed down by our misdeeds. That is why He invites us to join Him on a day off for the "workers" called sabbath. It's a day of rest from our labors. This is a very special day off of work. This day commemorates the day the great employer paid for all the time we've spent misusing company resources. It's a good day indeed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Sign to Heaven

When I was little my parents used to commute to work. My day care awaited me near where they worked so everyday we would load up the car and be on our way. There were many times that we would be in the car for several hours as we waited in traffic. You can imagine the boredom and certain frustration that would often ensue as we tried to get to work or home.

As we made those journeys day in and day out I began to look forward to the signs that indicated we were getting close to our destination.

In the spiritual world there are also signs. The Rainbow was a sign that God would keep is covenant never to destroy the earth again by a flood. Perhaps we take for granted this beautiful arch, but to the people immediately following Noah's day this was a wonderful reminder of God's mercy and provision. Abraham was told to circumcise his household. From the day God made a promise or covenant with Abraham circumcision was a physical sign that through Abraham's descendants all the world would be blessed.When the Israelites left Egypt God told them to bind the law in their hearts and minds as a sign that God delivered them from Egypt with a mighty hand.

Signs both remind us of where we've been, i.e. the flood, without blessing, in Egypt, and where we are going as in counting on seed time and harvest, blessings from God, and freedom from slavery both physical and spiritual. Perhaps this is why the Sabbath is so important.

The Sabbath is a tremendous sign because it points backwards to our origins as beings created by a benevolent God and forwards to our final redemption from this fallen world. However the Sabbath is unique because it is not only a sign that tells us where we have been and where we are going, it is also a sign of where we are right now with God.

"You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you." Exodus 31:13

There are many signs along the road to heaven but perhaps none is as worth noticing as the Sign of the Sabbath.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The First Principle

Could there be a first principle in the universe? Is there one singular concept that outweighs all the others? In addition is there a foundational axiom from which every other concept, idea and principle can follow?

This principle not only exists, but is named in the words of scripture. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:13 "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Love is a foundational principle. In fact it is the foundational principle. Faith and hope are not far behind, but love is first and foremost. Thus upon love, the principle and the actual outworking in reality, are built every other concept both spiritually and physically.

This is why John could succinctly state in his self title epistle of 1 John 4 that "God is love." Thus love is entwined with both the spiritual world and the physical world. God built His universe on love.

The principle of love spiritually means that beings are to be others-centered. The principle of love physically creates a beautiful interdependence that sustains every atomic structure in the cosmos.

Love creates both balance and growth and thereby both sustaining and extending the reaches of the universe.

Unfortunately we live in a universe where the first principle was discarded. The resulting chaos has brought the opposite of true love: it's evil counterpart known as self-love. Self-love is not others directed and therefore breaks down the very structure of the universe. Self-love is myopic in nature and disconnects every thing that is affected from every thing else.

God wants us to return to the principle of return and rightly place love where it should be. Perhaps this is why God ask us to lift up our eyes to see that our salvation draws near. For how can we be focusing on ourselves when our attention is wrapped around our Savior?