Thursday, May 28, 2015

It is Not Good for Kobe Bryant to Be Alone

A few months ago, Kobe Bryant spoke candidly with a writer from GQ Magazine. The writer asked a pretty pointed question: “Do you have any friends?” Kobe gave a surprisingly honest response. He said, “I have ‘like minds.’ You know, I've been fortunate to play in Los Angeles, where there are a lot of people like me. Actors. Musicians. Businessmen. Obsessives. People who feel like God put them on earth to do whatever it is that they do. Now, do we have time to build great relationships? Do we have time to build great friendships? No. Do we have time to socialize and to hangout aimlessly? No. Do we want to do that? No. We want to work. I enjoy working.”  The reporter quickly asked a follow up question: “Do you miss the idea of having a great friendship?” Kope replied, “Of course. It's not like I'm saying, ‘I don't need friends because I'm so strong.’ It's a weakness….” 

In a surprisingly candid moment, a famed basketball player recognizes that his success has come at a price. He hasn’t had time for relationships. He admits it is a weakness of character instead of a strength.

Kobe’s confession is a chilling reminder of an important Biblical lesson: humans are not meant to live alone. Genesis says that God created all things and periodically paused, appreciated the work, and called it good. That is, God did so until he created Adam. God looked at Adam (the first human) and said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” (2:18). Lesson: people need people. God created us for relationship with others.

As you go through the coming week, take time to invest in one of the meaningful relationships of your life. Take a friend to lunch. Stop and play with your kids. Invite your spouse to coffee. As you do, you’ll have a chance to let the people you love know it. You’ll also have a chance to enjoy the relationship God created you for.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Gifts of the Spirit and the Unity of the Church

There are two famous stories about language in the Bible.  The first, in Genesis 11, people speak a human language in order to build a big tower as a vanity project. As they do, their language becomes confused and people end up divided. The lesson: human language used for very human ends leaves people confused and divided.

The second story, in Acts 2, describes the effects of Godly language. God’s people gather in the upper room in anticipation of God fulfilling His promises. The Holy Spirit falls in power and God’s people speak in heavenly and foreign languages (tongues). Thousands of people, from all nations, come to faith in response. The lesson: God’s language used for God’s ends brings people together as God’s church.

The lesson of Pentecost is a lesson for all of us. The Spirit of God empowers His people with gifts and abilities in order to bring the church together and edify the church for God’s purposes. Jesus told His people to be together and wait in the upper room. They came together in obedience. The Holy Spirit fell in power and all nations were brought together by the miracle of heavenly tongues. Upshot: the gifts of the Spirit – like tongues – brings people together.

This Pentecost, if the Holy Spirit has given you a gift, ask how you might use that gift to bring the church together. If God hasn’t given you a gift like tongues or prophesy or administration, ask for the gift in earnest. Ask the Lord so that all nations might come to together around the Lordship of Jesus. As you do, you will enjoy a life lived in the Spirit. You will also see how the Holy Spirit works in a through individual gifts to build the church as a whole.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Power in the Name of Jesus

There is a worship song that says, “There is power in the name of Jesus. There is power in the name of the Jesus. There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain!” I love that song lyric.

That lyric doesn’t claim that Jesus carries an electrical current. The lyric doesn’t claim that Jesus is a saws-all, able to cut through metal either. The song is using figurative language to say that Jesus is able to liberate His people from the bondage that accompanies sin and death.

We know that things that can creep into out lives, weigh us down and tie us up like a bunch of chains. Addiction makes us a slave to our appetites and desires. Bitterness allows frustrations and disappoints to consume our thoughts and imagination. Abusive relationships make us feel like we are worthless and helpless. These challenges feel a lot like chains that hold us back from what God is calling us to be.

Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” That Jesus sounds powerful. That Jesus sounds powerful enough to offer real freedom from the things that bind us. That Jesus sounds powerful enough to break every chain.

As you go through the coming week, remember that Jesus has the power to deliver you from the chains that bind you. Addiction, self-hatred, bitterness, and abuse have no claim on you. You belong to Jesus. He is powerful enough to deliver you and sustain you in a life free every chain.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mary Thomas and the Jesus Gang

Mary Thomas had nine kids: seven boys and two girls. Mary raised her family in a rough neighborhood. She did what she could to invest the very best in her children.

One day, Mary heard a knock at her front door. She answered and found a group of young men who were associated with a local gang. The leader told Mary that her seven sons would be joining their gang. She dropped her eyes and said, “Oh, ok. Hold on just one second.” Mary disappeared into the house and later returned with a shot gun. She pointed the gun at the group and said, “There’s only one gang around here, and that’s the Thomas gang!”

That gang didn’t initiate Mary’s boys. In fact, they had very little influence on the “Thomas gang."  Mary made sure each one of her children graduated high school. Her youngest, Isiah, ended up winning a scholarship to the University of Indiana. He went on to fame and notoriety, becoming a Hall of Fame basketball player with the Detroit Pistons. Years later, the “Thomas Gang” attributes much of their success to their mother’s willingness to fight for their well being.

There is something admirable about a mother who is willing to fight for her loved ones. I praise the Lord for biological mothers, adoptive mothers and church mothers who intentionally and proactively invest in our lives. We are far better off because of it.

The Apostle Paul celebrates mothers and grandmothers who are willing to fight for the faith of their loved ones. Writing to a young Pastor named Timothy, Paul writes, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” Praise the Lord for women who fight for our faith.

This Mother’s Day, thank the women who have fought for you. Thank the moms and spiritual mentors and church leaders who invested in your life and fought for your faith in Jesus. As you do, you will recognize some of the many saints that God has graced the church with. You may also be reminded “there’s only one gang around here, and that’s the Jesus gang!”