Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Good Old Days

From time to time, people tell me, “I miss the good old days.”  They usually mean that they miss a time in the past when things were better than they are now.  They miss a time when everyone lived with good morals and a sense of common decency.   

I have a hard time relating to that statement.  “The good old days” never existed in the Payne house.  My parents and grandparents didn’t know Jesus until later in life.  Before Jesus, their lives and relationships were filled with challenges.  They will be the first to tell you that the good old days were actually quite difficult days for the Paynes. 

Because of Jesus, my family will also tell you that their best days are not behind them.  Because of Jesus, there is no such thing as “the good old days.”  Christ has arrived, saving His people from sin.  Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we are being made into His image until He returns.  The good old days are the days Jesus is preparing us for now.   

In the Bible, God tells the prophet Isaiah, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now, it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  God tells His people to not get distracted by the past, but focus on the good work God is doing right now.  And, look forward to what God is going to do in the days to come.

As you go through the coming week, see how God is creating the “good old days” in the here and now.  Recognize all He is doing to make you into His image.  Joyfully anticipate where He is leading you, your loved ones, and the future generations of your family.  God is doing a new thing in Jesus, through His Spirit.  It is far better than anything the good, old days could ever offer.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jesus is Taking Out the Trash

Oslo, Norway is having a garbage crisis.  It is not the type of crises you might think.  Oslo needs more trash – a lot more.

The New York Times reports that half of Norway’s capital is heated by garbage burning power plants.  Oslo also boasts a highly effective recycling program.  The recycling program is so effective the city doesn’t have enough trash to fuel its power plants.  So, Oslo is buying garbage from other countries.
Oslo’s garbage crisis illustrates a spiritual crisis we all face.  Because of messes in our lives, we recognize that we have a spiritual garbage problem (sin).  So, we work really hard to clean it up.  We invent systems and procedures to maintenance the problem.  In the process, we create new problems for ourselves.  We end up realizing our lives are so rooted in sin, we can’t do without it.  Our lives are a part of system dependent on spiritual garbage.
Jesus Christ steps into our crisis and offers freedom from the system itself.  Jesus offers to make us a different type of human that doesn’t consume or produce spiritual garbage.  When we accept Jesus’ offer, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and begins changing us.  We open our lives to the Spirit through prayer and study and devotion and become more like Jesus.  Becoming more like Jesus involves becoming truly independent of the spiritual garbage system.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus describes this type of freedom well.  Jesus says, “If the Son set you free, you will be free indeed.”  We can be free from the garbage of the past and the dependence on garbage going forward.  Praise the Lord!

This week, find freedom from all spiritual garbage in Christ.  Ask the Holy Spirit to make you into Jesus’ image so that you can experience the freedom He promises.  As you do, you will find great joy in a life dependent on Jesus instead of trash. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Madonna, Giving, and God's Glory

The pop diva Madonna recently visited Malawi to finalize her adoption of two Malawian children.  She wasn’t happy with the visit.  She requested a meeting with the country’s President and it wasn’t granted.  Then, airport officials insisted Madonna and her family go through security checkpoints with regular passengers instead of offering special treatment.  The pop diva complained publically.

In response, the Malawian State House issued a statement.  The statement read, “Granted, Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi. According to the record, this gesture was humanitarian and of her accord. It, therefore, comes across as strange and depressing that for a humanitarian act, prompted only by her, Madonna wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude. Kindness, as far as its ordinary meaning is concerned, is free and anonymous. If it can't be free and silent, it is not kindness; it is something else. Blackmail is the closest it becomes.”  Ouch.

I don’t know Madonna’s side of the story, but I can relate to expecting something in return for my kindness.  I have been miffed when people didn’t appreciate an act of service the way I thought they should.  Jesus warns against such behavior. 

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus encourages folks to practice anonymous giving: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets...” In other words, give and serve for God’s sake and not your ego’s sake.  Jesus teaches His people to give and serve for God’s glory and not their own.

As you go through the coming week, look for opportunities to give and serve anonymously - for God's glory.  Send a small gift to someone having a difficult time, letting them know God loves them.  Help someone in need in the name of Jesus instead of your own.  Root your acts of service and kindness in devotion to God and find fulfillment in Him.  As you do, you will find rewards far greater than meetings with Presidents or special privileges at the airport.  You will find God's goodness.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Apostle Mom

For Christians, Apostles are people the resurrected Jesus commissioned to go and tell the world the good news of Jesus Christ.  After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples (minus Judas) and told them to go to all nations and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).  As a result, we call disciples like Peter, James, John, and Andrew Apostles.  Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and commissioned him to witness to the gentiles (Acts 9, 22, & 26).  As a result, Paul described himself as the Apostle to the gentiles (Romans 11:13).

With that definition of apostle in mind, Mary Magdalene is the first Apostle of the Christian church.  Each of the Gospels tell us that Mary was one of the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection.  In John, Jesus commissions Mary to go and tell the disciples of His resurrection (20:17).  Mary races to the disciples with the good news: “I have seen the Lord!”

There are women in each of our lives that follow Mary’s apostolic example every day.  They answer Jesus’ call and tell us the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I am a follower of Jesus because of it.  My mom, Sunday school teachers, preachers and professors have made me a better disciple of Jesus Christ through their obedience to Jesus’ call.  I know many of you are too.

This Mothers Day, as we honor our biological moms, remember the mothers of Jesus’ church.  Celebrate the many faithful women who announce Jesus’ resurrection in work places, homes, and communities every day.  Take time to thank and hug the women who came into your life and announced, “I have seen the Lord!”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

All Walks of Worship

I attended an academic conference where my wife Leah was presenting.  The conference was full of people from all over the world: Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, and on, and on.  These people did all kinds of different work: scientists, psychologists, theologians, historians, and other fields that I don’t know how to spell. It was probably the most diverse group of people I have ever been a part of. 

Attending such a conference, some might ask, “What in the world do all these people have in common?  That is a good question.  On the last evening, I learned the answer. 

As the conference closed, the keynote speaker gave his closing remarks to the general assembly – in all its diversity.  I could understand very little of what he was talking about.  But at the end of his talk he began to sing.  He sang, “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light.”  I understood that.  The audience did too.  We all joined in and sang loudly.  Some added harmony.  Others hummed the words they didn’t know.  In the middle of a conference filled with very different people, a “worship song” broke out.  That was the one thing we all had in common: the worship of Jesus Christ.

On a smaller scale, the same is true for us at Faith Center. Though we may be a diverse mix of people, we have the worship of the risen Lord in common. We come together week after week and make hundreds of different voices into one. “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light.”  Young, old, rich, poor, men, women, Beaverton, Banks, Aloha, and beyond: we worship together.  Those new to the faith, those raised years in the faith, and everything in-between: we worship together. “At the cross, at the cross, where WE first saw the light.”

Join the body of Christ in worship this Sunday morning.  Sing with all your heart.  Pray with all your might.  Jesus has brought together people from all walks of life to worship His holy name.  We can all agree that He alone is worth it.