Thursday, March 28, 2013

Graffiti, the Church, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

A pastor in Spain commissioned a couple graffiti artists to paint the church where he served.  Folks were scandalized by the idea.  After all, their art was associated with criminal activity.
The pastor didn’t think it a problem and took the idea a step further.  He invested in the artists.  He insisted they learn about the history of art in the church and encouraged them to visit a museum in Barcelona.  The artists complied.

As a result, that church’s dome hosts a beautiful portrait of Jesus and His people – painted by two graffiti artists.  The graffiti artists’ portrait is so well done it is being celebrated all over the world.  One article describes it in saying, “The result is a spectacular splash of color…on the rounded ceiling dominating the main sanctuary. But don’t think street art.  In fact, the style of the painting is faithfully Romanesque…”

I see the fingerprints of Jesus and Easter all over that story.  Two artists that many would write off as criminals were invited into God’s house.  The church loved them and invested in them.  As a result, their art is glorifying God around the world.  How many of our lives might be compared to that art?  Criminal art gets invited to church and is changed into God glorifying art.

This Easter, take time to see the masterpiece that Jesus is creating in and through His church.  His resurrection is at work in the world and we are His masterpieces.  He is taking criminals and making them into "Michelangelos."  Praise the Lord for His love of graffiti like you and me and the hope that He can make us a masterpiece for His glory.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Giving and Receiving

Spain is in the middle of a severe recession.  Because times are tough, Coca-Cola decided to spread some joy.  Coca-Cola customized an ATM machine to distribute 100 Euros ($131) to users with one condition: takers had to use the money to purchase a gift for someone else.  It worked.
Coke recorded peoples’ responses to the gifts and compiled them in a video.  The video began with ordinary people being surprised by the free money from the ATM machine.  They smiled and then laughed.  Later, the video showed them giving gifts purchased with the money to others.           
What I loved about the video was this: the expressions on peoples’ faces were more excited when giving the gifts than when receiving the cash.  People appeared thrilled and could hardly contain themselves when giving.  They laughed and cried and danced with excitement as they surprised others with seemingly random generosity.  Their expressions were much more animated than when being surprised by the free cash.

That isn’t all that surprising to church folks.  Christians have said it is better to give than to receive for centuries.  Acts 20:35 tells us “Jesus himself said it: ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  So it seems that Coca-Cola and the Son of God agree on some things.

As you go through the coming week, preparing for Easter, let me encourage you to give.  Give of your time.  Give of your money.  Give your life to Christ and others.  You will find more joy in the act of giving than you ever could receive.  It is a time tested truth taught and lived by Jesus Himself.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Reminders of Humility and Simplicity

This week, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.  As is tradition, he changed his name upon taking office.  The name he chose was Francis.  He will be known as Pope Francis I, named after Francis of Assisi.

The new pope chose the name for symbolic reasons.  One news outlet explains the symbolism this way: “(Francis of Assisi) symbolizes poverty, humility, simplicity, and rebuilding…” Taking the name Francis reminds the Pope (and the world) of the importance of humility and simplicity in Christian leadership.    

Christians are weird.  Reminding people of the importance of poverty, humility, and simplicity while becoming one of the most powerful people in the world is weird.  It is weird in the way Jesus was weird.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus celebrates the power of simplicity and humility while warning of the temptations of wealth and power.  Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” and “blessed are the meek.”  Jesus teaches that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Jesus warns, “it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Power and wealth are treated like temptations while humility and simplicity are celebrated like marks of God’s reign.

As you go through the coming week, give yourself a reminder of the importance of humility and simplicity.  Write a Bible verse celebrating humility on your hand.  Pray every morning that Jesus will cultivate humility and simplicity in your heart.  Give one thing away every day and thank Jesus for blessing you with the many things you have.  In a world that celebrates wealth and power, remind yourself of things Jesus celebrated.  As you do, you will find riches beyond anything that fame, fortune, power, and/or titles could ever offer.  You will find provision in Jesus.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pastor Tom on Hypocrisy

N.T. Wright critiques the media and their coverage of church scandals.  Read the original article by clicking here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Open Door of Christian Confession

It is hard to get in trouble in Sweden.  Even if you’ve done something wrong and want to make things right, Swedish police won’t make it easy.  You have to work for it.

Last week, a Swedish man connected to a murder visited a police station to turn himself in.  He had been on the run for over a year, living as a fugitive.  He was tired of hiding and wanted to make things right.  So, he stopped by a local police station to be arrested.

When the man rang the bell of the police station, the attendant said that the station was closed and he would need to come back later.  The man responded: "Closed? I'm suspected of murder and a wanted man – you guys really want to get ahold of me."  The attendant explained that it wasn’t a good time.   The station was closed for remodeling and things were a bit messy.  If the man wanted to turn himself in, he would need to do it at another station.  The man followed the attendant’s instructions and was arrested elsewhere.

Good thing life with Christ doesn’t work that way.  The moment we want to confess our guilt and be forgiven, He is there with arms wide open.  No office hours to be considered.  No referrals.  Jesus is very clear: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”  In other words, Christ is ready and available to every contrite heart that seeks Him. 

As you go through the coming week, begin by turning your life over to Jesus.  Quit running, call on Him, be forgiven, and enjoy life with Him.  You will be free from guilt and condemnation.  You will find grace and mercy and life changing power in Him.  Though police stations may not have the time and space, Christ is always ready and waiting.