Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hebrews 5 -- What Ya Eating

In our house right about mid-day there is a question which permeates the air, what are you having for lunch? With three young children you can guess this can be a very entertaining and exasperating activity. The requests are often far ranging and often do not include items we have. Over the years the requests have changed. When the children were really young they would be nursed by their mother. Eventually they moved to the fine line of baby food. Before long they began to eat more and more solid food. No longer do they live on milk.

The writer of Hebrews is telling us the same progression exists in our relationship with God. When we first realize the love God has for us in Christ Jesus, we need spiritual milk. Easy to digest, not teeth required. However, we cannot stay there, and many in the faith do. As we journey with Christ we are called to deepen our understanding and walk. To do this we will need to add to our spiritual diet. This will mean gaining the tools to not just read the bible but study it. It means reading books which push our understandings. What it really means is not being passive in our faith, expecting someone else to do the work.

So what are you eating? Is it time to take some next steps? Is it time to order up some spiritual steak? My hope and prayer is that we would all be growing in our relationship with God, maturing in our spiritual diet.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hebrews 4 -- Sabbath

For me it is Friday most weeks. The day set aside to rest, relax and reconnect with my family. Now there are times when this is interrupted and other details of life and ministry must be attended to, but for the most part Fridays are a day apart. Rest is such a vital part of life for all of us, yet we so often neglect it. The non-work days get filled with all kinds of errands and life maintenance activities that we often do not feel refreshed and renewed when we head back to work.

There is another byproduct of not really resting, and that comes with our service of God's mission. Because we become so busy, and try to cram so many things into our lives when we actually have time open for the service of God's mission we are too... tired, busy, or scattered. Having time for rest, not catch up on all the stuff of life, will allow us to be available to God's calling.

In the Jewish tradition this day of rest is set aside and there are strict rules about what can and cannot be done on the Sabbath. Here in Hebrews 4 there is a little different picture painted. Sabbath is not necessarily a day of the week, rather it is when the Lord returns and sets all of creation right. Until the return of Christ we will toil. During the waiting, we must practice rest in anticipation of that Glorious day called Today by the writer. Even now we struggle with what to do when times of rest come. Many of us scramble to stay busy. What will we do on that day when rest comes? Will we know how to rest? We don't seem to now.

Rest or Sabbath is something I am not very good at. I am a doer and resting does not come natural to me. I can tell you all the benefits of rest, and even encourage you to take rest. Still I will struggle. God is growing me in this area so that I will be ready when that Today comes. I pray that you all are growing in this as well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hebrews 3 -- Pushing It

If we remember Hebrews original audience is the Jewish community, then this section of the book is quite controversial. In the Jewish tradition there are a few who are the major figures. There is Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then there is Moses, the deliverer and receiver of the law. There are not many more revered than Moses in the tradition, yet the writer of Hebrews claims Jesus to be greater than Moses. This would have been just too much for many in the community. Already uncertain about this Jesus guy, now the claim he is greater than Moses, that is just pushing it.

The ministry of Jesus challenges everything that was held sacred by the Jewish community. I wonder if the same is happening for us now. Think about the American icon/heroes. Jesus is greater than JFK, or Martin Luther King Jr., or ____________ fill in the blank. There is not another person in all history who is greater than Jesus. The challenge is living like we believe that.

The highest percentage of people in America would tell you they believe Jesus to have been real, and they even leave the door open about Messiah. The gap is found in the claimed beliefs and the seen actions. Unbelief shows itself in actions long before it is heard in words. As evidence from later in this section of Hebrews and other places in scripture, unbelief is a dead end. Words are cheap and easy, conforming our lives to Christ is much more difficult.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hebrews 2 -- It Had To Be

Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to come to earth? There are the obvious answers of living to show us how to live, and his death to atone for our sin, followed by the resurrection which conquered death. But couldn't the God of all creation have come up with a better plan? The resources of eternity were available to God and yet incarnation was the way chosen. Hebrews 2 starts to answer that very question. It matters that Jesus was like us.

Jesus entered the human condition so that he could experience the fullness of being human. Essentially Jesus is able to say I have been there I understand what you are going through. The writer of Hebrews talks about this in the sense of Jesus being made like his brothers in every way, so that He could do the work of God for which he was sent to do. For the bulk of eternity Jesus sits at the right hand of God. For what is a blink in eternity Jesus has an earthly pilgrimage so that he would experience the temptation we experience, so he could interact with humanity.

Our Savior and Lord is not a remote and removed God. Our condition is known not just from afar, rather it is known intimately, as one who has walked a mile in our shoes as it were. This Jesus who died and rose on our behalf knows exactly what he is doing, and who he is doing it for. He has been there, and understands what we go through from personal experience. That brings me a certain level of comfort and joy in Christ.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hebrews 1 -- The Ultimate Messenger

The book of Hebrews is written to a mostly Jewish audience who is very well connected with the account of the People of God, Israel, throughout history. There is a deep connection with Old Testament in this book as evidenced in chapter on of which most is quoted passages from the Old Testament.

The preface to the whole book tells the reader/listener that throughout history God has been sending messengers to communicate with the people. However, now God is no longer appointing prophets, God has send the Son as the ultimate messenger. Jesus as messenger is far above the messengers who had come before. That is what the writer is showing with all the Old Testament quotes, Jesus is greater than the prophets, and greater than angels, He is the Son.

It might be easy to sit back and think about how all those people missed the ultimate messenger. I wonder how often the ultimate messenger speaks and I do not hear, or flat out ignore.? I have the same evidence and more to support Jesus as ultimate messenger. I can look at the amazing track record of Jesus' faithfulness, yet I still stumble. Thus we find another aspect of the ultimate messenger, persistence. Jesus does not give up on us, He keeps after us with grace and gentleness. If needed there are times when Jesus is more bold and confronting, yet He never gives up so why do we consider it as an option.


This wonderful yet short book is often one of the most misunderstood books of the Bible. The common thought is that Onesimus is a runaway slave who comes into contact with Paul. While with Paul, Onesimus commits his life to Christ and begins to grow in the faith. Once it is time for Onesimus to go back to his "owner" Philemon, Paul sends the letter to encourage Philemon to let Onesismus be free. This understanding is adequate, however it contains a major assumption which is hard to support in the text. No where does it tell us Onesimus is a runaway slave. It is entirely possible he is a slave, but the runaway part in conjecture.

It is entirely possible Onesimus was sent by Philemon to care for Paul in Rome for a defined amount of time. The letter is written as that time frame has come to a close. While with Paul Onesimus becomes a follower of the Way. Paul recognizing the condition of Onesimus, who most likely owes Philemon money, that is why he is a slave, tells Philemon he will settle the account.

If we look carefully we can see ourselves in the letter. God created us and send us into life. We owe God a great debt, due to sin. While on this earthly voyage we encounter Christ. If we choose to follow Christ, a letter is then sent on our behalf so to speak. Jesus tells the Father that he will settle the debt that we might be free. It is not that we were runaway slaves, it is that we have not been as useful to God because of our time away. Through Jesus we are made useful for the work of God. Interesting that Onesimus means useful.

Can you see yourself in the letter?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Titus 3 -- Foolish Controversies

Have you ever noticed the debates and arguments we get into often are looked back upon as foolish. In the heat of the moment there is great energy and passion displayed around each persons particular point of view. Yet when removed from the moment, the energy and passion seem to be used on something this is of little import in the grand scheme. There are issues, debates and even arguments which are worthy of much energy and passion, however, many are not.

Paul warns Titus and us to be careful about the controversies we engage in. Arguments often are unprofitable and useless. In fact the most common product is division. Paul addresses that as well with Titus. Warn the person instigating division once, then twice. If it continues have nothing to do with them. Wow that seems harsh but that is exactly what Paul teaches. It highlights the importance of not getting into meaningless arguments.

To put this into practice is going to require a good measure of humility. For many of us when we feel someone is being foolish we take it upon ourselves to correct them. What would happen if we let it go? Again, there needs to be a filter to measure how much the issue really matters. If it is an issue of great import, correction of the fool is warranted. On the flip side if it is of little consequence, you might join the fool rather than impact the situation. This is not an issue of right or wrong, it is an issue of fruit. If there is no fruit to the conversation, then take care in how you engage it. In the end the foolishness will bear itself out. We must make choices to determine where we will stand.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Titus 2 -- What to Teach

In this portion of his letter to Titus Paul outlines what things are to be taught to various groups in the church. Then about verse 11 Paul offers what I think is the overall teaching which is for all people, no matter what their identity or station in life is. "It teaches us to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." v.12.

It matter how we live out our lives. This seems like a simple truth, yet it can be so hard to put into practice. Worldly passions are all around us, encouraged and sold as normal. Yet for followers of Jesus Christ we are to live differently, say no to the pull of the world and live self-controlled and upright. This is no simple task.

How long must we live this way? Until Christ returns. That is our hope, that when Christ returns all that we have appeared to sacrifice will seem small compared to what is offered to us in the glorious appearance. Our blessed hope, in a world looking for hope, in lives where hopelessness is found, Christ offers hope.

There are many things to teach, and many people to teach. In them all we are teaching about the hope of living now for the glory of the age to come. This does not excuse us from anything now, it only means we have a hope in the future God is preparing for us. This is the heart of what Jesus teaches, and is the call of all who teach.

Titus 1 - Qualifications

The more I journey in the church the more I find people who want to be in charge of something, but are not willing to do what it takes to be in a leadership role. This must not be a new thing as Paul writes to Titus to let him know what to look for in a leader in the church. The qualifications are clear and rigorous. I wonder how many of us as leaders in the church can honestly measure up?

It is easy to look at lists such as this and consider them nice but ancient and therefore not applicable. On the contrary while these qualifications have been around for thousands of years they are not less valid, in fact their longevity seems to add to their validity. Leadership in the church is open to all people, and I do mean all people. The catch if you will, is we have to be willing to submit to something greater than ourselves and our own wants and desires. Leadership is not an anything goes activity.

Many great leaders forfeit their opportunities to lead because they are not willing to conform their lives to a standard other than their own. In the church that standard is the teachings of Scripture about how we are to live our lives. We might not like it, and can easily see where it might exclude some. However, it is not the standard which excludes, it is the choice to not meet the standard which excludes.

If you are not called to leadership, are you exempt from the teachings. Absolutely not. The qualifications for a leader are the standards by which all followers of Jesus are called to live. Leaders merely are called to model this lifestyle to the community of followers and the world at large in a more up front way. May we all live the call of Christ in our lives.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2 Thessalonians 3 -- Cruise Control

One of the most important features on a car for me is cruise control. I can get my motor running, get out on the highway and look for adventure without worrying about getting a speeding ticket. All I must do is set the speed and forget about it. Paul is warning the Thessalonian church about doing this in their life journey. We are not to simply sit around and revel in the glory of being followers of Jesus, we are to do the work Christ showed us to do.

This does not simply mean being busy for the Lord, it means not being idle for the Lord. Not setting the cruise control and going through the motions until the ride is over. Not being idle is not just about taking action it is about taking the right actions. It is real easy to allow our faith to become stagnant, not developing into a deeper relationship with Jesus. As followers of Jesus the love shown to us in Christ Jesus should be making all the difference in how we live our lives. Works of mercy, compassion and grace should not be a specialized activity, rather it should be the way our lives are known by others. This is not accomplished in cruise control.

Cruise control is great in the car, it is tragic in life. My pick up truck does not have cruise control, I have to pay more attention to what I am doing. I cannot simply go through the driving motions, I must actually be responsive to what is going on around me. Perhaps it is time to remove the cruise control from your life, and pay attention to what is going on around you. Perhaps it is time to become and active participant in the journey rather than letting it simply happen to you.

2 Thessalonians 2 -- Stand Firm

It seems as though everyday the world becomes more chaotic. Watching the news, reading the paper or surfing the news sites all return more evidence that our world is experiencing some interesting times. Some would say that we have reached the logical conclusion of the age of enlightenment. Others would say things are just fine. Yet others are looking at the events of our age as the signs of the End of Times. None of these points will I argue with or agree with today, rather simply look to the Scriptures.

Here in 2 Thessalonians 2 we find Paul's teaching about the Man of Lawlessness. We are not told when this man will appear on the scene of world history. We are not even told many details to know what the coming will look like. However, it is clear that a time of lawlessness is coming. This lawlessness might include world affairs, but the spiritual desecration is the greater clue. When the age of lawlessness comes there will be counterfeit miracles, the man will claim to be the Messiah. The people will not believe the truth but the lies, and people will delight in wickedness.

So what are we to do? Paul says stand firm because you have the truth. Whether the Man of Lawlessness is already at work or not, those who trust in the Lord have protection from deception. The truth is offered to us through Jesus Christ, we must choose to stand firm and trust in that truth. When that day comes there will be a great sorting. The wheat and the chaff will finally be recognized for what it is. Our task is not to sort now, our task is to live as fully as possible the live Jesus granted us when the tomb could not contain him.

As our world becomes more and more chaotic, we are to stand firm. As financial woes increase and war becomes commonplace, we must stand firm. We have but one hope, and that is Jesus Christ. In that hope we must stand firm.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

2 Thessalonians 1 -- Worthy of The Calling

The second letter to the Thessalonians starts as most of Paul's letters, with words of greeting and thanksgiving. Toward the end of the chapter there is a simple statement which has commanded my attention. "With this in mind we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith."v 11 Okay so maybe not that simple, yet it has captured me.

At first read it seems overwhelming. Most of us struggle with worthiness anyway, then to add this verse is like adding insult to injury. Another opportunity to not measure up. Take a good look at the verse. One the prayer is God who as at work not us. God's calling, God's reckoning, God's power. What is required from you and I, faith. We have our part to do, however, it is God who is the primary actor in this drama. Our worthiness is connected with the power of God. Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but God has no limit in power.

The passage reminds us all the power and work of God is initiated with our faith. When we follow after God more than other things in our lives, then we initiate all the power of heaven on our behalf. So, do we control God? Not at all. God is going to do what God is going to do. The remaining question is whether we will participate, sit on the sidelines, or work against what God is doing. Paul's prayer for the Thessalonian church, and I think for us, is that we may have the faith to see God work just as he has described. Not for our glory, that Jesus Christ might be glorified.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

1 Thessalonians 5 -- Holy Fire

Here in the northeast the time of year has come when you walk outside in the crisp evening and you can smell the wood fires burning to heat homes. I grew up in a home where our primary heat source was a wood burning stove. The worst thing that could happen would be the fire went out. Compounding the problem would be the days when there was no desire to rebuild the fire. I have always been amazed at how cold I was willing to get before pursuing a fire in the stove.

It seems the same thing happens with the holy fire which burns in our midst. Paul could see this potential, in fact he probably say places where the fire had not just gone out, but was put out. The encouragement to the churches is do not quench the spirit. Let God keep the home fire burning bright and hot. When working with a wood stove it is up to us to build the fire. When following God we do not need to build the fire, we have to make sure we keep it burning.

The great tragedy of church today is when we allow the fire of God, the Holy fire to go out. It continues to amaze me how once the fire is out there will be reflection about how nice the fire was, but there seems to be little desire to seek Holy fire again. It is almost as if we would rather be cold, depressed, oppressed and all together empty than to seek after the passion and fire of God. It is not only the individual who suffers when this happens, whole communities begin to die. Satan begins to fill the open spaces and before long hopelessness sets in and the fire seems very distant. Could it be Paul was warning in Thessalonians because he knew how hard it is to reclaim the Holy Fire of the spirit?

There is Good News however. If we seek the fire we will find it when we seek with all our hearts. The prophet Jeremiah was speaking to a people who were in exile, captivity, enslaved, when he spoke words of hope. Jeremiah 29 is where we see some words of hope, skip verse 11 for a moment and look at verse 13, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." When we pursue the fire, we will find it when we search with reckless abandon.

Has the fire gone out? Are you seeking? What are we holding back?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1 Thessalonians 4 -- The Coming of The Lord

In this chapter of Thessalonians we find Paul addressing a basic aspect of life. He admonishes them on what to stay away from, and encourages them in the paths of living which lead to life. At the end of the chapter he plugs in a little glimpse of what the return of Jesus will be like. This is one of the passages often cited by the supporters of the rapture.

I do not want to get into a lot of detail in this forum, but the end of the chapter requires some understanding about the return of Jesus. The image Paul uses is the image of a king coming to a city. When the king is in the distance the people of the village would run out and greet the king celebrating as the king continued on to the city. This is the echo of the triumphal entry of Jesus in to Jerusalem just before the cross. The return of Jesus will happen in much the same fashion.

Note the people to greet the king, but they are not taken away from the city, they follow the king back to the city in great celebration. When Jesus returns it is not to take the Christians away to another place, rather it will be to return this world to the way things were before the Fall in Genesis. The place where people and God are in perfect relationship, and sin is absent. When the King returns to this place, we will greet Him and enter into the fullness of the created Kingdom.

In all reality the details do not really matter as much as the question of preparedness. Are you and I ready if that day is today? Are we living our lives in such a way that we would run to the king, celebrate and experience the fullness? The return of Jesus is not the question.

1 Thessalonians 3 -- Standing Firm

A reality of following Christ is persecution. Like no other people in history aside from the Jews, has there been as much persecution as Christ followers experience. Since the outset, Jesus himself experienced persecution from the religious people. By the time we read the books of the New Testament, with in 50- 70 years of Christ's death for most of them, the followers are being persecuted on all fronts. The church is Thessalonica is no different.

Here Paul praises them for standing firm in the face of opposition. They had faced persecution and stood up to it. Though it does not tell how they stand up to it, the chapter reveals it is possible. There are seasons of live when the hows are not as important as the fact that it can happen. The most fierce opposition is often from the people who are suppose to understand. We are not told who was opposing the followers in the church, but often across Asia minor it was the religious people in the cities.

The call for us to stand firm. Struggle will come, yet when it comes it still can knock us off our feet. The question is, do we stay down, or do we get up and stand firm? In the short-term giving up might seem like the thing to do, however the long-term requires that we stand firm.

1 Thessalonians 2 -- Pleasing Who?

The world of the church is a funny thing. Its greatest asset can also be its greatest struggle, people. For the most part we like people to like us and support what we are doing. The problem comes when what we feel God calling us to do is not what makes people happy. Paul undoubtedly faced this many times in his ministry. Here in the letter to the church we find Paul answering the issue.

"We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed -- God is our witness. We are not looking for praise from men, not you or anyone else" vv 4-6. These are some strong words that in and of themselves will not make men happy with you. Paul was I am sure wanted people to like him and the ministry God had given him, yet he was not going about his ministry in a way where the opinion of people guided what he did.

We live lives where what others think about us deeply impacts us. If others like and support what we do, we are encouraged to keep going. When there is friction, it is easy to shrink away allowing the public opinion to derail us. Paul's words cut the heart of the issue. Who are we trying to please? If it is humanity, we will never get there. If it is God, there will be a struggle but that is the only opinion that really matters.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

1 Thessalonians 1 -- To An Old Friend

1 Thessalonians is thought to be one of the earliest written books of the New Testament. In it we find Paul writing to a church he planted during the missionary journeys. As he begins the letter it opens with the familiar greeting and thanksgiving. In this case Paul is celebrating the faith of those in the church, and is praising the ways they have remained faithful in spite of persecution.

This opening makes me wonder what it would be like if someone wrote back to me, or the church I serve in. How would that old friend talk about the faithfulness they have seen in me, or the church? When we are in the midst of the struggle we can have an inaccurate picture of what is really happening. It is possible we would over estimate where we are. Thinking we had progressed more than we had. The other possibility is we have come farther in the journey than we realize. The letter from an old friend would bring clarity to that, and remind us of our connection to Christ.

It is important to take a step back from time to time and evaluate where you are at. It could mean inviting people you trust to offer such an evaluation. There is great value in getting an accurate portrait of what our journey looks like at this point in time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Matthew 28 -- The Big Deal

In this the final chapter of Matthew, we find the moment in time that was the big deal. In fact it is the main deal, by which all other deals depend. The women get to the tomb and Jesus is not there. Just as he had taught, on the third day he rose from the dead. This is no inconsequential activity. The resurrection of Jesus, validated all the other acts and teachings of his life. Without the resurrection, death still has victory, and Jesus is not the Messiah.

If Jesus were still in the tomb, dead, not only would he have been a liar, our hope would have been further deferred. The Jews who do not acknowledge Jesus for who he is, Messiah, are still waiting in hope of the redeemer to come. The resurrection, made our hope a realization. We no longer need to look for the one who offers us restoration and wholeness. Now our hope is in the return of Jesus. But we are not lost while we wait, we can continue to experience the joy of salvation now, and look forward to the grand celebration in the future.

All throughout history there have been days and events which are noted as forever changing the course of humanity. While these days continue to be significant, they all are only a glimmer compared to the light of the resurrection. Celebrating the resurrection with his disciples must have been great for Jesus. Still he quickly moves from the celebration to the commissioning. We should celebrate the resurrection, but we should do more than celebrate, we are to go and be about the work showed to us by the life of Jesus. When we don't, we diminish the impact of the resurrection in our lives, it could become just another day. That day of resurrection is not just another day it is the big deal.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Matthew 27 -- The Death

In this chapter we get the second most important part of Jesus earthly mission. The second you ask? Yes. Tomorrow we will look at the most important. Jesus death on the cross matters, and is essential to our relationship with God, however, if there is no resurrection, the cross becomes irrelevant. Looking at the cross, is still important as we seek to understand what God has done through Jesus, for us.

A Roman tool of execution, the cross was a gruesome and horrible way to day. The cross was placed in a very public setting so people could see the agony and pain associated with its death. This was done in order to show others what happens when you go against the Roman government. After the resurrection, the teachings of Jesus, and the work of Jesus on the cross worked in the opposite direction. The cross became a tool of life rather than death. The cross became an example of what it means to give up your life and allow God to work.

I am always amazed at how God takes our human inventions, whether for good or evil, and uses them for the plan of establishing relationship with all people. How God can use horrible events to bring about good for us astounds me. That is exactly what happens at the cross. That is why we call it Good Friday. God took what was intended for death, and brought life out of it. I wonder what things God is longing to bring life out of in our lives?

Matthew 26 -- Rebellion?

Here we reach the passion account of Matthew's Gospel. Many of the details are echoed in the other Biblical accounts. I am always interested in the exchange of Jesus with the mob/crowd that comes to take him away. After one of the followers slices the ear of the temple guard, Jesus asks a penetrating question, " Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs to capture me?" This question captures me because I have thought of Jesus as leading a rebellion.

The reality is Jesus came to quell a rebellion. Humanities rebellion against God is the reason Jesus came, so that we might establish a the relationship with God, that God had intended for us. Still it seems that many of the things Jesus did were directly in conflict with the leadership of the day, and therefore could be considered rebellion. Perhaps a better word would be revolution. Jesus did not hide from anyone, nor did he keep secret the plan. As Jesus himself says he was there in the temple courts regularly, why not get him then. Revolution is when the whole order of things is changed, all the value sets are turned upside down. Rebellion may have similar results, but the method is different. Rebellion is based in violence and often physical altercation. Revolution, might include those things, but is build on a different footing.

In the American Revolution there was a great deal of violence, but only after there was great effort made to completely change the relationship between the colonies and England through diplomacy. So to speak, the plan was known, the teaching was offered, and an invitation to change was made. Rebellion would have engaged the battle first and then looked at the conversation.

Jesus was not interested in a violent battle, but he was interested in revolutionizing the relationship between God and humanity. This resulted in violence, that was of human origin, or should I say that was following our rebellion. Jesus came to offer us life, and wholeness, not rebellion. He offered new life. Do we continue to rebel?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Matthew 25 -- More Than Knowing

As I write this it is Sunday morning. In fact it is world communion Sunday, when we more intentionally recognize the connection of all followers of Christ through the wonderful mystery of Holy Communion. As people gather in churches this day all around the world the same challenging balance will be played out. No one can know the true condition of another persons heart, or the relationship they have with Jesus. What we can know is the result of that relationship. People will gather and celebrate in Jesus name this morning, the question is, does it go beyond just knowing.

Our relationship with Jesus is more than just knowing the name, and knowing about Jesus. We are called, and showed, to live the life Christ lived. This means being about the work Christ was about. It means living the pace and style of life Christ lives. Valuing what Christ values, and being Christ to a broken world. This will require much more than knowing, this will require us to wrap ourselves around Jesus. It is about using what we know of Jesus, and allowing the change in our lives because of Jesus, to transform the ways we live moment by moment.

Stepping beyond ourselves is what Jesus keeps calling us to. First we must be ready to step beyond when the moment comes, the lamp oil issue in Matthew 25. Then we must be willing to risk what the Lord has invested in us, the parable of the talents. Finally, we must be about the work of the Lord in the world, the sheep and the goats. So do you simply know Jesus, or has Jesus transformed your very being and life?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Matthew 24 -- 50 Million Dollar Question

In this chapter of Matthew we find Jesus describing what the end times will be like. Many people have uses this chapter and many others from the Bible to create a checklist of events which will usher in the end of times and return of Christ. It is easy to see how this would be done, as there are many details offered. These are details which have been playing out since Christ spoke them. Yet we seem to still be waiting. Every era of people have determined the end to be near, and it may well be. The second half of the passage, however, is very important to lift up.

Jesus is clear that while all these signs might happen, the exact time and day are not known. Only God knows the timing of all these things. As we read through the chapter we find the point is not the details of the return, rather that we should be living lives that are always ready for that day. Like the book of Revelation there are details here one can understand and others that cannot be, but the main message is the same. Christ is coming again, and we are to be ready. There is a great deal of energy spent on trying to figure out when all this will happen. There is still more energy spent of figuring out how it will all happen. Still others spend energy on figuring out who will get in and who will be left out. The reality is all that energy should be spent on living the Kingdom life to which God has called us. We do not know when it will happen, we do not know how it will happen, and it is not our role to determine who will end up where. Our vocation, if you will, is to live our lives so deeply connected to God through Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we are ready for that day whenever it comes.