Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Retooled

Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it. - Winston Churchill

I am rethinking purpose this summer. This is not to say that I am thinking of a new purpose, but more of rediscovering the purpose in the youth ministry I lead. And I think there are several good reasons to read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in order to be refreshed. In regards to purpose, Jesus says a lot in these chapters of Matthew and Luke that are important.

For example, in Matthew 5:1-10, Jesus starts right off with what we know as the Beatitudes. Now some people simply see this section as some nice poetry where Jesus tells us to be nice. But it's more than that. He is pointing out, subtly or not, that things have been done and accepted for a long time, but there is, in fact, another way that God views things.

Blessed are the poor in spirit? Guess what? It's a good thing if you're not bragging about your good deeds. Blessed are those who mourn, who are meek, and who are merciful? Sounds like the makings of Team Weak if we apply the world's standards, but Jesus has a different objective. And while I am not exactly excited like a cheerleader at the prospects of being persecuted, I am quite passionate about doing things God's way.

So if my life, my ministry, and my way of thinking has to be retooled, then so be it. I would rather look to the original purposes given to me by God and stay true to that than to continue doing stuff the way it's always been done. After all, how many times do I want to repeat history?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Good Consequences?

For the three of you that read my blog, I'm still stuck on this ides of consequences that I blogged about the other day. If you want the 1-line summary, it's simply this; we don't like consequences.

But I realize this is not entirely true. I can think of at least two instances when we do.

The first is when other people face consequences. We may not be sadistic about it, but bad people deserve punishment. Right? Murderers should spend time in jail and child molesters should have parts of their body cut off. We may not always say it that way, but we do often talk about fair and unfair, which clearly puts us in the category of people who believe consequences should happen. Just not for us, because we're clearly not as bad as other people and unlike other people, we learn from our mistakes without consequences.

The second is a bit more subtle and involves less of me sounding like a street preacher. (Of course, if the street preacher speaks truth, then what's my problem?) We like consequences when they are good consequences. We do not normally term it this way, which is a problem of semantics. But the fact is that when we do good things, we expect that good will result. We would call it blessings or results, but we live in such a way as to reveal that we want a good cause to lead to a good effect. As long as it is positive. It always has to be positive.

See how this has still been all about us? It may not change our actions, good or bad, but the result will certainly have us accepting the blessings or casting the blame.

But it's not about us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Consequences are about me?

Ok, I get that sin, by definition, is the choosing of the selfish nature over what God wants. I get that it naturally means I am choosing ME when I choose to SIN. But have you ever considered just how easily we make our sin about ourselves? I am defining sin as the willful choosing of something that God says NO to.

Consider this. We commit a sin, which is the first way we make it about ourselves. Let’s assume we get caught by someone other than God who sees everything. When we get caught, we continue to make it about ourselves as we try to come up with various reasons why the consequences, natural or otherwise, should not be ours to bear. Do you get this?

Let’s say I cam up with a book of rules and a corresponding list of consequences when we do wrong. No one should say that the consequences are unfair since we are all aware of the consequences. But that is what we do. Think of it in terms of a game. If I was explaining the game of baseball to you for the first time, I would take time to make sure you understand the rules about strikes and outs before we played. But not wanting to live with consequences is like saying you’ve been mistreated when called out according to the rules.

In affect, we are arguing that God is unfair. This is the second way we make it about ourselves…or third when you remember all that complaining we do. Either way, when we choose not to accept consequences, we continue our sin as we look out only for ourselves. I don’t recall enjoying any of the discipline my parents handed down to me when I did wrong, but I have God’s Word which tells me that discipline is good for me. Check it out at Hebrews 12:5-11.

I have a better idea. Instead of worrying about discipline and consequences, let’s concern ourselves with not sinning in the first place. What habit are you hanging on to? What kind of stuff gets in your way and causes you to lose control? I would encourage you to change the sinful habits to godly habits and to apply self-discipline…before the consequences become yours to bear.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Want My Own Way

I believe it was Fleetwood Mac who told me I could go my own way. Of course, they weren't the first and they will not be the last. Even Burger King encourages me toward this own way of mine.

But I found this in 1 Peter 4:2 this morning. "Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way." We could go several directions with a verse like this. I don't want to compare my sufferings with the millions of Christians who actually suffer for Jesus' name. I get that, and I think deep down, so do you.

But from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep, and then sometimes in my dreaming, I'm all about me. I'm my biggest fan. I desperately need to be weaned. (I realize there are several reasons why that doesn't sound right.) But it's true. While I may not always expect to get my way, I normally do. If I'm being totally honest, I probably even expect certain sufferings to be done in a timely and not-so-suffering kind of way.

According to Peter, it needs to stop. It's a sinful habit. I should work on that. Of course, you know what happens when you pray for God to be more and yourself to be less. God may just answer this prayer. Well, I say, bring on the suffering.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Miracle Workers

John 14:12 is ridiculous, even for the fervent believer. It's Jesus talking, so I know I should believe it. He says whoever has faith in Him will do greater things than Him. Let's just make a little mental list right here.

Jesus: healing the sick, recovering the sight of the blind, raising the dead, including Himself, and making massive amounts of food out of small lunches.

Me: giving my kids Tylenol when they're sick, telling my wife where her glasses are, waking up sleepy children, and making a pretty tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I'll go ahead and say it. I think Jesus' list is more impressive. It just is. Although it is a really good pb&j. But Jesus said I would do greater things. I was talking with my wife about this stuff going through my head and she agreed that it seemed implausible that I would do something greater than Jesus. We were discussing this during supper and then I looked at the time. We had one hour to finish putting laundry away, do the dishes, bathe the children, brush their teeth and get them into bed at bedtime. Emphasis on bedtime. It's not a feat we accomplish very often.

We did a quick mental review and realized there is no recorded event of Jesus doing this, so we thought this might be our chance to put faith into action. (Cue the Chris Tomlin music for God of This City.)

Dish soap was flying, clothes were folded and with only 2 minutes to go, we had only to convince a 2-year old that she did, in fact, wish to go to sleep. Praying with them at precisely 8 o'clock, we smiled a satisfied smile at one another. (Does it count against the miracle if they kept coming back out for one more drink?)

I could get used to doing greater things.