Thursday, March 31, 2016

Feed the Good Dog

An old man gathered a group of younger men for a discussion about living the good life. The man began by describing the struggle between good and evil. The man said, “It is like two dogs fighting inside us. There is one good dog who wants to do the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong. Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight."

One of the young men asked a question: “Who is going to win in the end?” The old man answered, “The one you feed.” The dog you feed is going to win the fight.

Like that legend, the Apostle Paul describes an inner struggle in Christians. Paul writes, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” There is an inner struggle between our natural desire to sin and the Spirit’s work for holiness.  Paul encourages the church to feed the Spirit.

Unlike the legend, Christians are not left wondering who will win in the end. Because Jesus Christ was crucified, resurrected, and poured out His Spirit on the church, we know that the righteous dog will win. The Spirit will see our redemption through. We simply feed the Spirit from the vantage point of Christ’s victory.

As you go through the coming week, feed the Spirit that is cultivating the good in your life. Pray, study the scriptures, listen, and wait on the Lord. Invest in your relationship with God as a way of feeding the Holy Spirit’s redemptive work. As you do, you will find energy for living the good life. You will also step closer to the victory that Christ has won on your behalf.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Experiencing Jesus at Easter

Years ago, I read a story about a popular English journalist named Malcolm Muggeridge.  Early on in Muggeridge’s career, he served as a correspondent in the USSR.  In one report, he analyzed religion’s decline in the Soviet block, interviewing Kremlin officials and others hoping to rid society of faith.  During his investigation, Muggeridge also attended a Russian Orthodox Church service to document the “dying” expressions of Christianity.

As Muggeridge observed the service, he focued on the faces of the Russian worshipers.  Nearing the end, the priest yelled, “He is risen!”  The church family responded by yelling back, “He is risen indeed!” As Muggeridge watched the expressions of Russian Christians yelling, “He is risen indeed,” he converted to faith in Jesus – on the spot.

Recounting his conversion years later, Muggeridge said the joy of those shouting, “He is risen indeed” compelled him to convert.  It wasn’t correct ideas or well crafted arguments that convinced Muggeridge.  It was the joyful expressions of faithful worshipers experiencing the living Christ in person.  The joy of the experience, expressed on their faces, could not be refuted.

That may be the most powerful Christian witness of all: a joyful response to the experience of the living Christ.  When we not only believe Jesus rose from the dead, but experience it, expressing it joyfully, we witness in ways that are as powerful as words.  The joy of experiencing Jesus speaks for itself.

This Easter week, we have an opportunity to experience and respond to the living Jesus Christ.  On Friday, 03/25, at 7 pm, Faith Center will host a Good Friday service, filled with scripture, prayer, song and communion.  Then, on Easter Sunday, at 9:00a and 10:45a, we will celebrate that Jesus Christ is risen indeed.  There will be flowers, special food, songs of celebration, baptism and more.  

Please join us for these special worship events.  They give us all a chance to experience the joy of Jesus' resurrection.  They also give us a chance to respond to the Lord joyfully: "He is risen indeed!"

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Palm Sunday and the Arrival of Jesus

This Sunday is commonly called “Palm Sunday.”  Christians refer to this Sunday as “Palm Sunday” in reference to the scene surrounding Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem.  Before Jesus was arrested, crucified or resurrected, Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a colt.  His followers placed palm branches on the road in front of him (Matthew 21:8, Mark 11:8, John 12:13), singing praise: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord,” (Luke 19:38).   That palm-paved march marked the beginning our Lord’s saving work on the cross and through the resurrection.  We remember and celebrate that this Sunday.

Many think of this Sunday, “Palm Sunday,” as a nice remembrance or tradition.  But, for Christians, Palm Sunday is more than tradition.  Because we believe Jesus is alive and present in the Holy Spirit, we have an opportunity to invite Jesus to enter our lives this Palm Sunday afresh and anew.  Just as Jesus marched down the Mount of Olives into the heart of Jewish life (Jerusalem), Jesus can march into the heart of our lives today.  We can join his disciples from long ago, praising God: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”

As you worship Jesus this Sunday, open your heart to His Easter march.  Jesus is offering relationship with God and salvation to all who believe in Him.  That means He is marching into our lives in the here and now.  Open your heart to Him.  As you do, you will experience the very reason for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  You will also be blessed by “the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lost Wallets and the Certainty of Jesus

Reilly Flaherty lost his wallet. According to NBC News, the Brooklyn man attended a show at a local theatre and lost track of the billfold.  He assumed the contents gone, canceled his credit cards, and applied for a new drivers license. Then, unexpectedly, Flaherty received an envelope in the mail. The envelope contained some of the wallet’s items and a note explaining why the rest of the wallet was not returned.

The note read, “I found your wallet, and your drivers license had your address so here's your credit cards and other important stuff. I kept the cash because I needed weed, the MetroCard because, well, the fare's $2.75 now, and the wallet 'cause it's kinda cool. Enjoy the rest of your day. Toodles, Anonymous." The person who found the wallet kept what was useful (to her or him) and politely returned what was not. Reilly posted a picture of the handwritten note on Instagram with the caption, “Thanks…I think?”

Flaherty’s story illustrates a common experience in our world: good works come with a catch. Someone does something seemingly nice and considerate. Then, as you look into to the behavior, you realize it is kind of good…sort of nice. Inevitably, bad attitudes, ulterior motives or some sort of self-interest taint the blessing. We are left thinking, “Thanks…I think?”

Good thing that isn’t how Jesus works. Jesus saves His people with no strings attached. The blessing of salvation in Jesus Christ is pure blessing and nothing more. In Galatians 5, the Apostle Paul writes, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free;” The blessing of freedom is the reason Jesus blessed us with freedom. That is the point. There is no ulterior motive or hidden agenda that leaves us "sort of" grateful or appreciative "to a degree."

As you go through the coming week, praise the Lord for blessing you with no strings attached. Enjoy the perfect, untainted, holy work of Jesus. As you do, you will blessed by God for God's sake. You will also be able to hold onto the things God gave you - like a wallet.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Losing Yourself

A couple weeks ago, a group of tourists reported that a woman had gone missing.  The group was visiting a canyon in Iceland and was instructed to return to the tour bus at a specific time.  When the time came, a leader counted each tourist to make sure everyone was back.  The leader’s count found one woman missing.  Time passed, the woman never returned, and the group began to worry.  They waited for an hour and then notified the police.

The police arrived and organized a search party, including members of the tour group.  They distributed a description of the missing woman and searched and searched to no avail.  The group finally gave up around three in the morning.

At the point of losing hope, someone realized that the woman they had been looking for was in the search party.  She had been with them all along.  In fact, not realizing she was the object of the search, the woman spent a large part of the night searching for herself! 

As it turns out, the group had made several mistakes.  The woman (who was thought to be missing) had changed her clothes and freshened up before meeting the group at the agreed upon time.  Because she was wearing a new outfit, the other tourists didn’t recognize her when they reconvened.  Then, the leader miscounted, mistakenly thinking the group was one short.  On top of that, the woman didn’t recognize the descriptions of herself.  It took hours before she realized she was the person they were searching for.

Many times we approach our spiritual lives in a similar fashion.  We join a church in order to reach the lost.  We focus all our energy on the lost, never taking stock of our own spiritual health.  In the end, we realize that we are people who need to be found.  We are the people who needed saving all along.

As you go through the coming week, recognize your continual need for a savior.  Call on Jesus for grace and mercy anew.  Coming to terms with our own wayward tendencies is actually the first step in truly being found.