Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gold Medals and the Worth of Christ

I heard an interesting fact about the top prize of the Olympics.  The gold medal, awarded to the first place winner of each Olympic event, is mostly silver.  Those who achieve Olympic greatness, standing on the top podium, listening to their national anthem, wear a silver medal, covered in a thin plate of gold.

It is funny that the top prize of the world’s most prestigious athletic event doesn’t live up to it’s billing.  The gold medal technically misleads people with a thin veneer.  That is a great illustration of all the world’s trophies.

The greatest prizes in the world are not nearly as satisfying at their core.  They look beautiful on the outside, maybe they give us a euphoric feeling for a moment, but there isn’t anything beyond that.  Their glory is only on the surface.  When pressed for more, we find that they are made of a far less valuable substance. 

To be clear, that doesn’t mean great accomplishments and achievement are bad.  It only means that accomplishments and achievements will not satisfy in a deep, eternal kind of way.  They are not as true and good and pure and glorious as we might think.

The Apostle Paul talked about his greatest accomplishments (and he had many) in saying this: “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  The greatest accomplishments, the most glorious events in the world, pale in comparison to the incredible worth of knowing Jesus.  They have a thin, misleading veneer that is worthless next to the real treasure of life in Christ.

As you worship today, give the glory to Jesus.  He is where pure, 100% glory comes from.  As you go through the week, root your accomplishments and achievements in a relationship with Him.  Do great things for His glory.  When we accomplish great things for Him, we enjoy something far more satisfying than the glories of Olympic medals.  We enjoy life in Him.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Psalm 51:1-5 On Evil

This is a great article on human brokenness.  We are quick to point out, harp on, and condemn the brokenness of others, but forget the foundational, biblical message that we are all broken.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done...

John Dickson on early Christian charity.

The Heritage of the Church

When I was growing up, people loved to tell me about the importance of heritage.  Some would say, “You’ve gotta know where you’ve been in order to know where you’re going.”  Others said, “Don’t forget where you come from.”  Still others insisted, “Take pride in your roots!”

I had a problem with that.  I didn’t like everything about my heritage.  I had wonderful parents, but there was a history of addiction and abuse in my extended family.  We were poor and lived in a small, rural town.  People in the city referred to my kind of people as “red necks.”  I didn’t like any of that.  I dreamt of the day that I would grow up and leave those parts of my heritage behind.

The challenges of that heritage didn’t bother my parents as much.  They identified more with their friends at church then they did their family members.  The people at church worshiped Jesus like they did and that created a powerful bond.  In honest moments, I’d admit a close bond with them too.  They were the ones who taught me the read the Bible, gave me piano lessons, gave me birthday gifts, and showed up when our car was broke down on the side of the road. 

Looking back, I realize that the church gave my parents a new heritage.  Because the people at church worshiped Jesus like us, they became our family.  The riches and wholeness of the church’s Godly heritage replaced the poverty and brokenness of our earthly heritage.  We were adopted into the family of God.

The Gospel of John describes that adoption beautifully.  John writes, “Yet to all who received (Jesus), to those who believed in (Jesus’) name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”   What John is saying is this: when you come to faith in Jesus, you are given a new heritage – no matter where you come from or what is in your past.  You are a part of the family of God.

As you worship this morning, remember your heritage in Christ.  You are one of Jesus’ people.  Members of your family are worshiping Jesus along side you this morning.  In fact, people of every tribe and tongue, all over the world, are declaring Jesus’ worth as members of your family this morning.  We all trace our family tree to the same root of David.  Don’t forget where you come from, Christian.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Remote Controls and Relationship with God

This Spring, we lost a true American hero.  Eugene Polley, the inventor of the remote control, passed away at the age of 96.  Channel surfers will forever be grateful for Polley’s invention.

Though he was happy that he had made a lasting contribution to electronics, Polley was concerned about the lifestyle the remote created.  Polley told the Palm Beach Post, “Everything has to be done remotely now or forget it.  Nobody wants to get off their fat and flabby to control these electronic devices.”  Polley seemed to think that the convenience of the remote control had created a bunch of lazy, entitled consumers.

His concern was fair.  People have a tendency to treat yesterday’s innovative luxury as today’s God given right.  We take the luxury for granted, feeling entitled to the convenience it offers, and impatiently look for the next innovation to make life even easier (When an average teenager uses a dial up connection to access the Internet, they look as if they a being tortured.   A slow Internet connection is treated like personal insult.  The teen cannot fathom a world without high-speed hot spots in every coffee shop).

This mindset isn’t confined to technology.  We do it in the spiritual life too.  Jesus has given us the incredible innovation for relationship with God.  We appreciate the gift for a moment and then move on.  Going forward, we want Jesus to upgrade, making relationship with God more convenient.  Jesus says, “Come unto me all you who labor and I will give you rest.”   We respond in saying, “You said the same thing in the 80’s.  Could you possibly come to me and give me rest?  I’m a little too busy to come to you.  It’s 2012.  Come to me, throw in a mocha, and I’ll think about it.”  We treat relationship with God like a consumer product, insisting the manufacturer sweeten the deal for the sake of progress.

As you go through the coming week, don’t do that.  Remember that the chance to have relationship with God cannot be improved.  Lets all put some effort into our relationship with God.  Though salvation is won, Jesus is calling you to intentionally participate in life with Him.  Go ahead, put the remote control down, get off the couch, and seek your Lord.  Because He hasn’t changed, He will be there.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Information and Action

Michael Nicholson loves going to school.  He loves going to school so much he’s earned 29 degrees and doesn’t plan on stopping.  Nicholson has one bachelor’s degree, two associates degrees, twenty-two masters degrees, one doctorate, and will begin his 30th degree program in the Fall.

Nicholson enjoys the experience of learning for learning sake.  Nicholson told ABC News, “It's stimulation to go to the class, look at the material that's required and meet the teacher and students. It makes life interesting for me.”  Nicholson finds satisfaction in gathering information, but has no intention of putting it use in the real world.  He plans on going to school for the rest of his life.

We can be tempted to treat Christianity that way.  We learn about Jesus.  We recite the Creeds, memorize the Bible, and study books about church history.  We take Sunday school classes about being a Christian.   We spend so much time learning about being a Christian we don’t take time to put our knowledge into practice.           

Ironically, that is far from the goal of Jesus and His Church.  The Bible makes a very close connection between teachings and practice.  Jesus insisted that all the teachings of the Law and the Prophets were summed up by two actions: loving God and loving neighbor.  James says, “As the body without Spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”  Gathering information with no purpose makes little sense in the Christian life.

As you go through the coming week, put the teachings of the scriptures, songs, and sermon into action.  Let the worship that declares our love for God drive actions of love for God and neighbor.  The teachings of Christ and His church call us all to faithful living.  See how you can put that information into action this week.  No degree required.