Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Kingdom Gap

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ teaching on possessions and contentment in Luke 12:13-34. We’ve learned that a “Kingdom Lifestyle” is when you are “rich toward God” (v.21) by “selling your possessions and giving to the needy” (v.33). That sounds really poetic..., if you are Mother Teresa or something!

And how am I supposed to do that? How am I supposed to let go of my “kingdom”? I want my stuff! Really, the only way I am ever going to actually think about giving away my kingdom is if I’ve already got another kingdom! A better kingdom:

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

As I come to understand that my Father has already given me THE kingdom, I can let go of MY kingdom. I can live a kingdom lifestyle. I can resource my stuff for kingdom purposes.

I can live in the “Kingdom Gap”

Living in the Kingdom Gap means:

  • Increasing the Gap between the level you could live and the level you do live.
  • Decreasing the Gap between what you want and what you already have.

So rather than buying that new set of golf clubs:

  1. Save up the money for them.
  2. Give that money to a “kingdom cause”.
  3. Play with your old set
  4. And joyfully call them “My Kingdom Clubs”!
Or if golf isn’t your thing how about a kingdom car? Or kingdom counter-tops? Or a kingdom TV? Or kingdom clothes? Anything you are being content with for the sake of the kingdom!

And rather than grumble about what you have, or lust for the next best thing, take joy in what you have and what you are doing to advance Christ’s kingdom! Take joy in your “kingdom stuff”!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Tom

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Going Public

“Hypocrite” - The word just rolls off the tongue with a sneer of disgust. It’s a favored word for skeptics and cynics. “Hypocrite” immediately places it’s object in the category of the inauthentic and fake. Hypocrisy is an infestation that works it’s way through organizations, churches, and individuals. When image is everything then he who wears the best mask wins. When hypocrisy reigns, “To Seem” triumphs over “To Be”.

“To Seem” is particularly important when you have something to conceal. When you have something to hide, you must project an appearance of “got-it-all-together-ness”. That’s why it’s called ‘facebook”, not “heartbook”. “Not me,” you say, “I’ve got nothing to hide, nothing to conceal.”

Really, you don’t? Really? I do.

The irony of the whole affair is that one day everything will be made public. Everything concealed will be revealed. Everything hidden will be exposed. No more hypocrisy because the masks will be off. Jesus put it like this:

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Luke 12:1-3

This is a call to be real, especially those of us who claim to be followers of Christ. One day everything will brought to light, all dirty laundry will be aired, and all skeletons will come shuffling out of the closet. Yeah, I’ve got a few myself.

So we might as well be real right now. The “gospel” isn’t about how to be “good”, how to have every (remaining) hair in place, or how to be impressive or respectable. The gospel is about how a Savior loved people who had made a mess of their lives, who took their guilt, judgement, and shame on the cross, and welcomes them back as sons and daughters before they clean up their act (Luke 15:11-32).

That’s a humbling, liberating, and powerful reality. Let’s live it. Be real.

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Tom

Friday, June 3, 2011

How not to be a pharisee...

We love to read Jesus’ rebukes of the Pharisees. We are astonished of how he takes on the “powers that be” in favor of the little guy. We like it until we realize that we are “the powers that be”! You see, we are those who hold to a high view of scripture, are religiously conservative, and who seek personal holiness - just like the Pharisees!

Now, all those things are good, but can be distorted into something cold, dead and ugly. So, how do we hold true to God’s word and not become like the Pharisees? Let me use the “woes” from Luke 11:37-52 to suggest a few ideas (we can learn a lot from their failures!).

  • Emphasize the inward, not the outward: Luke 11:39-40
  • Majors on the majors, not the minors: Luke 11:42
  • Seek humility, and kill pride: Luke 11:43
  • Remember, God’s word is to be a help, not a burden: Luke 11:46
  • Don’t just revere the prophets, do what they say! Luke 11:47-51
  • God’s word is the key to freedom, not a chain for bondage: Luke 11:52

Marin Luther said that the Bible was like a cradle in which we find Jesus. Don’t examine the cradle, honor the cradle, or try to protect the cradle. Find Jesus!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who is in your heart?

A lot of people think following Jesus is about moral transformation, being a better person, or worse, being a “nice” person. Sometimes we even hear phrases like “That is the Christian thing to do” or “That wasn’t very Christian of you”, as if Christianity was founded by Miss Manners.

But being is Christian is less about being a “moral” person, and more about being a “conquered” person.

When a person becomes a Christ-follower, the Lord Jesus plants his flag in the soil of our hearts and begins his conquest. He displaces all rebellion, demonic or otherwise, and slowly, but inevitably, conquers every inch of our lives.

Inviting Jesus “into you heart” is not like inviting your BFF to your own spiritual slumber party where you can snuggle and feel all warm and fuzzy. It’s more like inviting the navy seals to subdue the terrorists of your soul. Even if that “terrorist” is your own domineering ego.

One scholar put it this way:

“The heart of man is a house which must have an occupant, and the only way to ensure that it is not taken over by disreputable squatters is to see that it is inhabited by the God who made it for himself. Exorcism is not enough: the spiritual life, like the natural, abhors a vacuum” C.B. Caird

So, who is in your heart?

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"WE" vs "ME"

“We” vs “me” in prayer

I don’t know about you, but when I pray, MY concerns about ME crowd in and become MY main concern. Thoughts of US and WE are pushed out my the big ME!

But that’s not the way Jesus taught us.

The Lord’s prayer is not a ME prayer but a WE prayer. Look at all the WE, US, and OUR in the prayer Jesus taught us (Luke 11:2-4).

“OUR Father in heaven, Holy be your name” - This expresses the desire of the whole community of faith that God’s name and fame would be desired and revered.

“Give US each day OUR daily bread” - I’m looking to the right and left as I pray for the needs I know my brothers and sisters have for God’s provision, not just my own needs.

“Forgive US our SINS for WE forgive everyone who is indebted to US” - As I live in community with other followers of Christ, toes will be stepped on. I seek God’s forgiveness as I forgive my fellow believers.

“And lead US not into temptation” - I am concerned not merely for my own struggles, but I watch the back of fellow Christ-followers who go through trials and temptations as I do.

So do your prayers reflect more ME or WE? Let US move to the plural as WE seek the Lord TOGETHER!

The well wisher of your OUR soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chose your portion well...

“Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” Luke 10:42

One of the key motivators for moving from “Martha mode” to “Mary mode” is the portion we choose. Martha's chosen “portion” was submitting to the tyranny of the the urgent, outward pressure, and inward expectations. She was “distracted, anxious, and troubled” by these tyrants. She was joyless in the presence of Jesus and joyless in the service of Jesus.

Yet that was the portion Martha chose.

I’d like a different portion, please! I’d like Mary’s portion. And what would that portion be?

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup” Psalm 16:5

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

“I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’” Psalm 142:5

The key to siting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his voice is making his presence your portion. Only the voice of Jesus’ is strong and winsome enough to drown out the demands of the tyrants around you. Only the beauty of Jesus is compelling enough to divert our gaze from the joyless duties we take on. Only a taste of his goodness will keep us out galley slavery.

Jesus is our portion, Chose well!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Too good not to be true...

Have you ever received an offer that was just too good to be true? A great deal, a promise from a “friend”, an advertisement of a new breakthrough product, or a politician who says “Vote for me and all your wildest dreams will come true!”? Sure you have, we all have.

Is the story of the resurrection in that category? Is the resurrection of Christ something too good to be true? The first witnesses to the resurrected Christ seemed to think so. The bible says the disciples were startled, afraid, amazed, and (in my favorite description) they “disbelieved for joy” (Luke 24:41). In other words, this was too good to be true!

Jesus understands their doubts and fears. He gives them evidence for his resurrection: a physical body, an everyday greeting, and even a shared breakfast! And yet they “disbelieved for joy”.

We can’t blame them. The resurrection has staggering implications. If Christ is risen then (among many other truths) death is disarmed, guilt and shame are absorbed, meaning is restored to life, and our alienation is removed.

If Christ is not risen the implications are clear. Macbeth is correct:

“Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” (Act 5, Scene 5)

But if Christ is risen the implication are staggering. C.S. Lewis is correct:

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, "Hope")

May I humbly comment to you the latter! That “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!” is simply just too good not to be true!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,

Pastor Tom

p.s. Here’s a story about our Easter Sunrise service and Lake Swim! And some pictures from our baptism celebration (sign in to Picasa to view)!