Friday, June 29, 2012

This reminded me of our youth director Ryan's message last Sunday.

When Elmo Goes Bad

Most people would say Sesame Street’s Elmo character is joyful.  He laughs a lot and says he loves everyone.  His “Tickle Me Elmo” doll is known for giggling with glee when squeezed.  Some might say that Elmo is a source of joy.

As it turns out, Elmo isn’t always joyful.  In New York, a man dressed in an Elmo costume was arrested for bad behavior last week.  The adult sized Muppet got upset while pestering people to take pictures with him.   Elmo began yelling and screaming, using profanity and racial stereotypes.  Children and parents were upset by Elmo’s melt down and the police got involved.  Elmo was taken away in an ambulance.

If Elmo is our only source of joy, we are in trouble.  Our joy hangs in the balance, depending on the mood of a fictitious character.  Since a man dressed like Elmo had a really bad day, our joy is lost.

The Bible describes a less volatile, permanent source of joy.  In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah insists the Israelites celebrate and worship the Lord because the joy of the Lord is their strength.  The joy of the Lord is strong.  Though there are other things that offer joy in life (like Elmo on a good day), those things change.  Real, strong joy is found in the joy of the Lord.

As you approach the coming week, find strength in the joy of Christ instead of the ever-changing things of this world.  Jesus will sustain you in your work place, home, commute, family time, vacation, and so on.  Though each of those areas may include challenges, the joy of the Lord is strong enough to meet those challenges.  Call on Jesus for His joy.  He will sustain you - even when Elmo goes bad.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This is a good one.  Bless the Lord, oh my soul!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Obligation to Party

A couple years ago, my friend experienced his first Bar Mitzvah party.  A Bar Mitzvah is a ritual in which Jewish families recognize a son’s spiritual coming of age.  After the ritual, the family hosts a huge party.  My friend attended and really enjoyed himself.

At the height of the celebration, my friend told the family hosting the event how he appreciated the festivities.  The Dad was happy to hear it.  He told my friend, “Celebrating is a part of our religion.”

We don’t often think of celebrations as an obligation of our faith.  But, the Psalms command us to party for God.  The Psalm writer insists, “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”  This is the equivalent of being told to yell, “Yipee!” and “Woo-Hoo!” out of gratitude for what God has done.

This morning is “Promotion Sunday.”  Faith Center will be celebrating the growth of Faith Center’s young people.  Let me encourage you to follow the Psalm writer’s instruction.  Clap your hands and shout to God in celebration.  Jesus is doing great things in the lives of our children.

Let the party carry outside of the church building as well.  Many of us are in the middle of a season of graduation parties and end of school celebrations.  We have seen God do miraculous things in our lives and the lives of our families.  As your celebrate those milestones, take time to remember what God has done.  Take time to yell, “yippee!” out of gratitude to God. 

As you go through the days ahead, party for God’s glory, Faith Center.  It is a part of your religion.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Strength in Weakness

It is the season of graduation speeches.  Students all over the country are being encouraged to “dream big” and “do what you love.”  Speakers are assuring 2012 graduates that they can “change the world.”

Tufts University invited a former Navy Seal to give their commencement address.  Eric Greitens served several tours fighting terrorism, but was relatively unknown compared to other famous speakers.  The school newspaper described him as “the best graduation speaker we’ve never heard of.” 

In spite of Greitens’ lack of reputation, his message made national headlines.   He encouraged graduates to find strength in weakness.  Recalling some of his most challenging experiences, he said, “The more I thought about myself, the weaker I became.  The more I recognized that I was serving a purpose larger than myself, the stronger I became."

In many ways, the Apostle Paul would have agreed.  Describing his own challenges, Paul wrote, “But (Jesus) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” 

Christians serve a purpose larger than themselves in Christ.  Recognizing our weakness and calling on Christ gives us strength.  We don’t find it by focusing on ourselves.

That isn’t a popular message at graduations.  Personal achievement is the language of commencement.  Humility is saved for less formal occasions.

As you approach the coming week, have the humility to admit your weakness.  That humility is the beginning of strength in Christ.  When we recognize we need Jesus, He gracefully offers strength for the day.  Though we may not be able to change the world the way graduation speeches typically tell us, Jesus can.              

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wealth and Want

Want is on the rise.  UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute has been surveying incoming freshman about their basic out look on life for the past several decades.  For years, researchers asked college freshman about the importance of “being wealthy.”  It was very important to 45% of Baby Boomers (surveyed between 1966 and 1978), 70% of Gen X, and 75% of Millennials.  As the years go by, America’s young people are putting a greater emphasis the possession of wealth.

The interesting thing about that research is this: American wealth has increased over the same period of time.  The Gross Domestic Product per capita in the United States in 1966 was $3972.  As of 2010, that number is $47,153.  It seems that the wealthier we get, the more we want.

That is a common problem with materialism.  No matter how much stuff we acquire, we want more.  The things of this world never satisfy.  They only create more desire.

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  Jesus warns us that true life is not found in wealth.  True life is found elsewhere – in Christ.

As we continue our series of messages on the joy of the Lord, let me encourage you to be satisfied in Christ instead of the things of this world.  Statistics and the scripture show us that satisfaction cannot be found in money.  It only creates more want and greed.  Real satisfaction is found in Christ alone.  Let that satisfaction, the joy of the Lord, sustain you regardless of how much or little this world has to offer.