Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tsunamis, Radiation, and the Sacrificial Love of God

A former manager at the famous Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant died last week.  He had managed the plant the day the 2011 Tsunami struck and became known for his heroic response.  His story is inspiring.
In 2011, a record setting earthquake and tsunami damaged several reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.  The reactor overheated and threatened northern Japan with toxic levels of radiation.  The manager led 250 plant employees in repairing the damage and minimizing the threat.  They worked around the clock, exposed to high levels of radiation, risking their lives.  They did it because they cared about their community.  They did it because they loved Japan. 

These types of stories inspire Christians.  They inspire us because we recognize the incredible sacrifices people make for those they love.  They inspire us because it reminds us of the love God has for us.  God sacrificed his son out of love for us.  The Gospel John says there is no purer form of love than that sacrificial love.  John writes  There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.”

We may not be asked to give our life this week, but we can sacrifice small things out of love.  We can give the time we intended to be “me time” to our loved ones.  We can save the money we wanted to spend eating out and give to a friend in need.  We can give a little less to our career and a little more to the people we love.  We can sacrifice out of love.  The testimonies of those at Fukushima show us that such sacrifice is truly great.  The Gospel of John tells us that, through Christ, sacrificial love will save the world. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Breaking Into Captivity

A week ago, NBC news reported that a bear broke into a zoo in Tennessee.  A Knoxville resident reported seeing the bear in a city park and alerted local authorities.  The responding officer found the bear climbing over a fence surrounding the Knoxville Zoo.  After alerting the zoo’s staff and counting every bear in the park, authorities decided the bear had come from the wild.  The bear broke into captivity in order to escape its freedom.

That is a funny story, but it often resembles the temptation of spiritual freedom.  Jesus sets us free, we face challenges in our freedom, and we do everything we can to return to our captivity.  Freedom makes us uneasy.  In our weakness, we prefer the confines of captivity.

Humans have wrestled with this temptation for a long time.  God used Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  As Israel began living a life of freedom, they longed for their captivity.  The Israelites questioned Moses: “If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted.”  The Israelites preferred to die in captivity rather than live in freedom.
As you go through the coming week, embrace the freedom Jesus has given.  Make God honoring decisions because you are free.  As you do, you will find real liberty.  And, you’ll avoid all the challenges of life lived in a zoo.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Freedom From, Freedom For

Yesterday, people all over the U.S. celebrated Independence Day.  We set off fire works, spent time with family, and ate a lot of good food in order to commemorate America’s adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  In other words, we threw a big birthday party for America.

When we throw a birthday party for America, we often take time to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy as its citizens.  We appreciate freedom from tyranny.  We enjoy freedom from taxation without representation.  We value freedom from censorship.

Christians celebrate freedom too, but we recognize that freedom in Christ is a bit different.  Jesus not only saves people from sin, death, guilt, fear, isolation, and so on.  Jesus frees His people for a purpose.  Christians are freed so that we might live lives that glorify God.  The author of Hebrews describes it this way: “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus…equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever."  Being saved from death, frees us for a life lived for God's glory.

Having just celebrated all that you are freed from, take time to think about what Jesus freed you for as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  What has God freed you up to do?  If you have a story of deliverance, share it with others.  If God has freed you from financial worries, give.  If God has healed you, use your newfound health to serve and care for others.  Recognize the opportunities Christ has given you through His saving work.  Use that independence and liberty to bring God glory.  This Sunday, let freedom in Christ ring!