Thursday, March 26, 2015

Entertainment and Christian Discipleship

Michael Crighton’s best selling novel Timeline describes society’s obsession with entertainment. One character says, “Today, everybody expects to be entertained, and they expect to be entertained all the time…Everyone must be amused, or they will switch: switch brands, switch channels, switch parties, switch loyalties. This is the intellectual reality of Western society [today]. In other centuries, human beings wanted to be saved, or improved, or freed, or educated. But [now] they want to be entertained. The great fear is not of disease or death, but of boredom.” Crichton’s character describes a love for entertainment that runs so deep that it trumps everything else.

Though Timeline is a work of fiction, the description of society’s obsession with entertainment sounds familiar. We love to be entertained. Many folks want everything in life to give them a euphoric feeling. When something ceases to keep our attention or make us feel good (in other words, entertain us), we move on.

That doesn’t work well with the Christian life. Jesus calls His people to follow Him, even when it isn’t entertaining. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus tells His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” According to that passage, there is a side to Christian discipleship that involves overcoming challenges, perseverance and old-fashioned growth. That process may not be entertaining, but it is always good for God’s people.

As you go through the coming week, recognize that following Jesus is way more than entertainment. Devote your life to Him, even when other things are calling for your attention. As you do, you will find fulfillment that runs deeper than the giggles of concerts and comedy. You’ll find fulfillment in a Lord who is worth following through every up and down of life.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wearing Your Faith on Their Sleeve

I love the story about an old professor telling his student about his first interaction with a Christian pastor. The professor said the pastor was nice, but “wore his faith on his sleeve.” The student told the teacher, “I think you misunderstand Christianity.” The professor asked, “What do you mean?” The student said, “Christians don’t wear their faith on their sleeve. Christians wear their faith on your sleeve!”

The student was obviously making light of the evangelistic zeal of many Christians.  And, there is some truth there. The Christian life doesn’t exist solely for those who are Christians. The Christian life exists for the sake of all people – including non-Christians. That means we do extend our faith into the lives (or onto “the sleeves”) of non-Christians.

At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. At that moment, Christian fellowship became a fellowship built to reach outsiders. The Christian life is intended to invite and incorporate people into Christian fellowship.

As you go through the coming week, share your faith with a neighbor. Live your faith in a way that connects with those outside the faith. This may not involve “wearing your faith on their sleeve.” But, it can invite outsiders into the riches of Christian fellowship that all Jesus’ people enjoy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bob Dylan and the Apostle Paul Serve Somebody

Bob Dylan sings a great song about the inevitability of service. The lyric says, “You gotta serve somebody. Yes, indeed, you gotta serve somebody. It may be devil. It may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody!” In other words, the question is not if you will serve, but whom you will serve.

This is not a new idea for Christian folk. The Apostle Paul told the church in Rome that they would indeed serve someone. In Romans 6:16, Paul writes, “Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient servants, you are servants of the one you obey--whether you are servants to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Again, the question is not if you will serve, but whom you will serve.

Keep in mind that (for Paul) choosing whom you will serve is not a matter of deciding between equals. Serving Jesus blesses people with righteousness and life. Serving sin and the devil leads to death.  Even though we have to serve somebody, the benefits and blessings of service to Christ far outweigh the alternative.

As you go through the coming week, serve Jesus. Serve Jesus intentionally. Serve Jesus persistently. In doing so, you will find blessings and riches in serving a good and faithful God. You will also find freedom from the less than equal alternative.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tug of War and the Unity of the Church

I love a good game of tug of war. Whether at camp or a youth group event, tug of war is a blast. It builds a sense of community, cooperation and provides a lot of laughs for both sides of the match.

In participating in a tug of war, you quickly realize that your team needs to coordinate. Agreeing on common timing, direction, and responsibilities on the rope allow the team to create the greatest amount of pull. If team members pull in different directions, at different times, while disagreeing on responsibilities, they are no match for the opponent. The team must be on the same page.

The same is true in the church. God has called us all to pull in the same direction. We pull in different areas of the rope, fulfilling different roles, with different gifts, but the direction is the same. We are called to tell the world about the good news of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul instructed the church in Philippi to pull in the same direction. In Philippians 2:2, Paul writes, “…make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being one in Spirit and of one mind.” In the tug of war of life, Paul teaches the church to pull in the same direction, following the Spirit's direction.

As you worship this morning, recognize that the Christians worshiping with you are on your team. The Spirit is calling us all to pull in the same direction for the sake of the gospel. So, grab your part of the rope and give a tug. Serve, pray, give, encourage and share. As you do, you will see the Spirit do great things in and through the church. You will also participate in the victory that is guaranteed in Jesus Christ.