Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Way of the Cross

          “There is a lot of nerves and hand-wringing and worrying right now about the future of the church and how the church in North America is dying.  We are losing all of our money, we are losing all of our power, we are losing all of our influence.  What I want to encourage you with today is that death is something empires worry about.  It’s not something resurrection people worry about.  So maybe all this change in the church means that our empire building days are over.  And maybe that is a good thing. Maybe it means that God is doing what God is always doing -- and that’s making something new.  Chesterton said, “Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died.  Christianity has died many times and risen again for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”...If Christianity as we know it must die, may it die to the old ways of dominance and control and be resurrected to the way of Jesus... resurrected to the way of the cross” (Rachel Held Evans).
          Followers of Jesus, at least in the first two or three centuries of church history, had no political or financial clout.  And, perhaps more telling, they didn’t expect to have any.  They had been taught that the world would hate them just like it hated their Lord (John 15:18-20; 1 John 3:13).  They had be instructed to treat persecution, insults, and slander as a blessing (Matthew 5:10-12).  They knew they were aliens in a hostile environment and expected to be treated accordingly (1 Peter 2:11; 4:12).
          For whatever reason, the modern-day church in the U.S. has different expectations.  We expect to have a seat at the table in politics and government and cry “foul” when we excluded.  We are mistreated and react angrily.  Rather than living as aliens, we live and sound more like worldly citizens than heavenly ones.
          Where did we go astray and how do we get back?

God loves you!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Boast In The Lord

          “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get’”(Luke 18:10–12).
          We can be so full of ourselves, can’t we?  Of all people, disciples of Christ should know better but we boast anyway.  “Look at who I am!”  “Look at what I have done!”  While most of us would never verbally express it in such bold terms, our boasting still exhibits itself in the way we interact with others.  We may have a condescending or judgmental attitude toward others.  We might draw attention to ourselves and our accomplishments through our actions.  However it happens, it is still boasting.
          My guess is that Saul of Tarsus, like most Pharisees, was a man acquainted with boasting.  Even after his conversion and even after he viewed such accomplishments as “rubbish”, the list of his former boastings came easily to mind (Philippians 3:4-8).  But Paul had learned a better way.  He learned to boast about his weaknesses rather than his strengths (2 Corinthians 12:9).  He learned to boast in the work of God rather than his own works (Ephesians 2:8-9).  His boasting came to be centered in the cross of Jesus (Galatians 6:14).
          Rather than boasting about ourselves, let’s boast in our Lord.  “But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord.  For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:17–18).  Self promotion won’t gain the approval that is most important.  May the words we speak and the attitudes and actions we display be of the kind that seek the commendation of God.  May we bring glory to Him and not to ourselves.  Lord, help us to only boast in you!

God loves you!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dress Code

The Sublette County Sheriff's Department in western Wyoming made the news this past week but it had nothing to do with crime.  The newly elected sheriff, Stephen Haskill, has implemented a new dress code for his department. Haskell is requiring deputies to wear black trousers, a tan shirt, black boots and a black ball cap.  He cites the need for safety and uniformity as his rationale for the changes.  The decision has raised a bit of a ruckus in the sparsely populated, rural county.  It seems that cowboy attire, including hats and boots, have long been the dress code of choice and the change has some riled up.  In fact, a 28 year veteran with the department, Deputy Gene Bryson, has opted to retire rather than change uniforms.  He was quoted in one report as saying, “"And I've had a cowboy hat on since 19 -- I don't know.  That's what looks good to me in the sheriff's department. It's Western. It's Wyoming."  Further dialogue, though, did reveal that Bryson, 70, was planning to retire later this year anyway.
Fashion statements aside, it remains the prerogative of the sheriff in Sublette County to determine the dress code for those under his authority.  In a similar way, God determines the way those under his authority dress themselves.  And while he does have an interest in how we dress externally, he seems to be more concerned with how we dress inwardly. Hear the word of God: “...put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).  “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).  “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…” (Colossians 3:12).  “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14).
God has a dress code.  What are you putting on?

God loves you!

Friday, February 6, 2015


“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat” (Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in Hand Me Another Brick, by Charles Swindoll, p. 79, sermonillustrations.com).
Don’t you suppose that Jesus got tired of the critics?  As he “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) in his ministry, there were no shortage of negative individuals that criticized his efforts and did their best to discredit him.  “Who is this man who blasphemes?” (Luke 5:21).  “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5:31).  “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” (Luke 6:2).  “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39).  On and on it went.  
Being a critic is one of the easiest jobs in the world.  There is very little investment or effort involved.  In fact, the critic would rather much rather disparage or denigrate the investment and effort of others.  Don’t be that person!  Rather than criticizing the efforts of others, let’s get involved ourselves!  When we get involved, there is less time to focus on the flaws of others.

God loves you!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015


  The movie “Unbroken” is the cinematic portrayal of the life of WWII hero Louis Zamperini, who spent much of the war as a captive in Japanese prisoner of war camps.  It is an amazing true story of courage and perseverance in the face of extreme pain and suffering.
          The strength of character that helped Zamperini endure such incredible adversity during the war was forged earlier in his life.  As a youngster, he was always getting in trouble, making choices that were setting him on a course for failure.  Thankfully, his older brother, Pete, intervened at a critical point in Louie’s young life.  He saw some athletic potential in his younger brother and tells him: “You keep going the way you’re going, you’ll end up as a bum on the street. You train. You fight harder than those other guys and you win. If you can take it, you can make it. You can do this, Lou, you just gotta believe you can. Pop does. Ma does. I do. Louie, a moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”  To his credit, young Louie listens and changes the whole course of his life.
          “A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”  This is a universal truth that applies to any worthwhile endeavor. Jesus believed it.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross and the shame that accompanied it because He kept his focus on the joy beyond the suffering (Hebrews 12:2).  For Jesus, the road to exaltation ran through the dark valley of emptying, humbling, and suffering (Philippians 2:7-11).  Paul believed it.  Paul knew that “momentary, light affliction” in his life was producing an incomparable “eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).   According to Paul, the sufferings of this world weren’t worthy of being compared to the glory of the world to come (Romans 8:18).
          Does knowing these things make our suffering less painful? No.  But perhaps it can give us some measure of strength to endure it.

God loves you!