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)!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

See, Feel, Go, Care

“He saw him, he had compassion, he went to him …and took care of him” Luke 10:33-34,37

See, Feel, Go, Care.

When asked “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus instead answered, “What does it mean to be a neighbor?” Those four actions are what defined the “neighborliness” of the Good Samaritan. Okay, I’ll admit, the priest and the Levite also “saw”, but they passed by on the other side. The Samaritan saw, felt, went, and cared.

And Jesus says to us, “You go, and do likewise”. So how do we do that?

  1. See those in need. Don’t turn away. Don’t avoid eye contact. Don’t avoid that neighborhood. And definitely don’t pass by on the other side!
  2. Feel compassion. Feel the need of the other. Know that you too were once stripped, beaten, and left for dead. And Jesus came and had compassion on you.
  3. Go to them. Life is hard and life gets messy. We tend to with draw from other’s messiness. Marital messiness. Family messiness. Financial messiness. Emotional messiness. Don’t be afraid to go to people in their messiness. Don’t send someone else. You don’t have to fix them. You just have to be with them.
  4. Care for them. “But I can’t do everything for everyone!” Don’t worry about what you can’t do. Just do what you can. It may not be much. But it’s a lot more than nothing!

See, Feel, Go, Care.

And think about this on a local level: if a neighbor is someone who sees others in need, has compassion, goes to them, and takes care of them, then how does this radically redefine the word “neighborhood”?! What if we said this is what a neighborhood is – people on a block/street/subdivision who see, feel, go, and care for one another? What would that look like? How would that transform the dynamic of your neighborhood?

We might even call it, “Thy Kingdom Come”!

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Now, where did I put my joy...?

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:20

Joy is a fleeting feeling. We take joy in pleasant experiences, personal successes, goals obtained, satisfying relationships, and vicarious victories (insert your favorite sports team here). All those feel good.

But what about when experiences aren’t pleasant? What about when goals are blocked, relationships are strained, and victories are few? What about when we fail?

Jesus challenged his disciples, fresh of a successful short-term missions trip, to find joy. But he challenged them to ground it on a firmer foundation than ministry victories. Jesus said, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven”.

If you are a follower of Christ, your joy comes not in what you do, but who you are. Or rather who God says you are. And he says you name is written in heaven. That is shorthand for all the security that a forgiven, accepted, adopted, justified, beloved child of the Father can have! There is nothing you can do to make God love you anymore. And there is nothing you can do to make God love you any less.

The joy of success only remains as long as the memory of success. And the sting of failure seems to last forever. Those who are justified by faith shall live (Romans 1:17). Those who are justified by performance will die at every disappointment.

But succeed or fail, if you are united to Christ by faith, your name is written in heaven! And in that is true joy!

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