Friday, June 24, 2016
Do you ever think about that old song, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”? The Bible never promises that Christians will always have it easy. No rose garden! The Bible says that the Savior will never leave us or forsake us. Even in life’s dark places, we are not abandoned. Repeatedly in the New Testament, Jesus was filled with compassion as he confronted the lepers, the blind, the hungry, the paralyzed and the desperate. As followers of Jesus Christ, our compassion takes us into some dark places. We too confront despair, anger, anxiety, alienation, estrangement, guilt, shame and sin. Romans 8 reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Out of Orlando’s tragedies, we saw signs, posters, pictures, candles, crosses and notes. The persistent theme of the notes was a longing for harmony, love and peace. I believe Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is the source of my peace. He longs to partner with us in opposing hate, killings and terrorism. Jesus is my source of hope. My job is to be hope with skin on it while I am on this earth. My prayers reach out to the Lord on behalf of all the Orlando folks touched by these tragedies.
Emotional deprivation is dangerous. Love is not paid back, it is only passed on. The Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Christian compassion does take us into some very dark places. The good news is, “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”
Friday, June 17, 2016
There is more mercy in God than sin is us. The Bible says, “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.” That sure sounds like infinity to me.
To be in the Church, the body of Christ, is to have some insight concerning the mercy of God. The community of faith always has been, is, and no doubt will be an amazing mix of fallible souls. Only the mercy of God would allow us the opportunity to claim to be part of the body of Christ.
Somebody said, “I love humanity; it’s people that are the problem.” Fortunately, those of us who claim to be part of the Church know that our salvation is an ongoing process. I have had the privilege of serving eight Presbyterian congregations. All of them have been made up of leaders, followers, comics and critics. They are always present; only the faces change.
That’s why we must keep remembering our calling to be new creations in Christ Jesus. The Sacrament of Holy Communion is a constant reminder that we have been bought at an awful price for a redemptive purpose. If there is one place in our culture where we are on equal footing, it is at the Lord’s Table. We are all sinners in need of being embraced by God’s mercy and grace. Grace is God’s unconditional love for those who don’t deserve it. Having celebrated the sacrament, we leave the Lord’s Table with a sense that we can start over.
It reminds me of the old Vince Gill song, “One More Last Chance.” There is more mercy in God than sin in us.
Friday, June 10, 2016
Millennials are hard wired to embrace change. Their world knows that change is a constant. The difference is that change hits them at warp speed. “The speed of information allows transformation to happen at an exponential rate.”
Who makes up this Millennial generation? One third of Americans are Millennials. They consist of people born between 1981 and 2000. These are without doubt our most technologically-literate Americans. They are often described as skeptical of all institutions, liberal, global in their worldview, and ethnically diverse.
These folks want to discover meaning in life. They want their lives to count. Renew, reshape and re-imagine slips into their vocabulary on a daily basis. No institution, including the Church, is immune from this revolutionary mindset. Teamwork fits their style. Affirmation, cooperation and encouragement energize them. They embrace change.
My friend, David Kinnaman, has written extensively on the dropout phenomenon of Millennials from the institutional church. He says 65% of Millennials rarely or never attend church.
Are they rejecting Jesus Christ? No, they have become disenchanted with the institution of the Church. They see the Church as insulated from the world and as a result, unable to impact the culture with the Gospel. They love authenticity. Many ache for a relationship with God. They know God wants a relationship with them and not a performance.
My job and yours is to challenge this generation to live out the Christian Faith in holiness and sold out to sharing the Good News. One Millennial wrote “God seems missing from my experience of church.”
The Church is not real estate. It is a living body, the body of Christ, devoid of barriers. It is not a corporation. As Christ said, it is a spiritual entity. Thankfully, God has not disenfranchised any of us from the body of Christ.
Friday, June 3, 2016
I seem to have a hard time with people who are self-promoting. I am much more comfortable with people that are self-effacing. They tend to be attentive, good listeners and gracious. Self-promoters always make me question their sincerity and the extent of their desire to manipulate.
Humility is a marvelous attribute. Egotism is ravenous for recognition. Humility does not need to prove superiority all the time.
1 Peter 5 says, “All of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another for ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble!’
Humility comes before wisdom. There is plenty that we do not know and that which we do know is limited by our perspective and biases. At some point we have to realize that we are not the General Managers of the Universe. The world does not revolve around us. I often think of Copernicus and his theory that the Sun did not revolve around the earth. The culture despised him for that. He was proven to be accurate.
Our love of truth must have a higher priority than our love for popularity. We all need people around us who will speak the truth – affirm, convict, inspire, discipline and direct us. In humility we should celebrate those courageous members of our circle of love and thank God for their candor.