April 20, 2007

Boasting only in the Cross

Galatians 6:14 Paul says that we are to boast only in the cross. Boast meaning, rejoice, exult, or glory in the cross of Christ. Think about how strange that is. We are called to rejoice in and exult in, the horrific murder of the completely innocent Son of God. Boast only in the cross?

Paul actually boasts in other things in the New Testament. He boasts in the glory of God, he boasts in his suffering, he boasts in his weaknesses, he boasts in the people he led to Christ. So then how can he say boast ONLY in the cross?

Here's why I think he can say that.

Because every good thing, and every bad thing that God turns to good is experienced because of what Jesus did on the cross 2,000 years ago. People, you and me, deserve nothing but God's judgment for our sin. He is the creator, we are the creation, we have no rights before Him, we are entitled to nothing, he owes us nothing, but on the cross Jesus took the punishment we deserved and now those who trust in him receive all of God's love and goodness.

So, a boasting in the glory of God is a boasting in the cross, a boasting in suffering, is a boasting in the cross, a boasting in weakness is a boasting in the cross, and a boasting in new believers is a boasting in the cross, a boasting in friendships is a boasting in the cross, a boasting in sports is a boasting in the cross, a boasting in life is a boasting in the cross.

I wanted to say this because I fear there is a different view of the cross creeping into Christianity. A cross that's simply symbolic, or a cross that merely points to an example of great love, or a cross that shows how weakness and submission can defeat evil.

Boast only in the cross, because in the cross the wrath of God against His sinful, rebellious creation was satisfied for once and for all. Through the cross the bridge over the great expanse has been built with the blood and body of Christ. Now, because of the cross, we can experience the relentless grace, the endless forgiveness, the perfect love, of our Creator.

Rejoice in that, exult in that, boast in that.

Yeah, that was pretty heavy for my first one. Sorry.

April 18, 2007

Gone Fishin'?

Jesus had no concept of line fishing, the way most of us grew up being taught how to fish. You know, where you take a pole, a line, and some bait in order to catch a particular kind of fish. This idea of fishing would make no sense to the fishermen of Jesus' day. Why? Because they used nets and any fish that happened to jump into the net was exactly the kind of fish they were fishing for. Doesn't this give Jesus' words more weight when he says, "I will make you fishers of men"...using nets, not poles! Too often those of us in church "fish" with a particular kind of person in mind, we use a certain kind of "bait" and if we don't catch the right kind of person for our church, we throw them back. That is not the kind of "fishermen" Jesus intended you and I to be, not even close! He desires for us to cast our nets out into the world and bring into the boat anyone that is willing to come, even if they are different than us. Jesus never threw anyone back. So what type of "fishermen" or maybe better said, disciple, are you? Are you casting your net of love, hope and forgiveness into a world that desperately needs to be found in its grasp willing to keep whoever you might find in it? See the great thing about it; Jesus tells us to catch the fish, He doesn't say we have to clean them because He will take care of the mess...

Pillar of Faith

I'm at a large church staff conference this week down in AL and found myself thinking about my Grandma Maureen. Now I know that I don't think of her nearly enough or talk to her as much as I should but there are 2 reasons she has been on my mind the past day and a half: 1) she had a successful hip replacement surgery yesterday and 2) throughout our worship times today we sang a couple classic hymns that I can vividly remember her singing when I was much younger. A couple of the hymns that instantly time-warp me back to being in kindergarten and 1st grade are "He Lives", "How Great Thou Art", "And Can It Be that I Should Gain", and especially "Victory in Jesus". It's almost as if I can hear her singing them right now as she stands in her kitchen cooking goulash or doing dishes as I sit here in my hotel room. As we sang these hymns today in our worship time, I found myself almost moved to tears thinking about the impact my Grandma has made on my life and most importantly on my relationship with Christ. If it was not for her love, persistence and constant singing I'm not sure I would have ever come to walk with Jesus as close as I walk with Him today. She has always been and continues to be a pillar of faith in my life. And like the pillar of cloud and fire that went before the Israelites as God brought them out of slavery in Egypt, I think God puts people in our lives to be pillars of faith for us, giving us strong shoulders of prayer to lean on in times of confusion, doubt, fear and uncertainty. It is through my Grandma being a pillar of faith that she helps me see that there is an even stronger pillar on which I can lean, the pillar of Jesus Christ! And through the example she leads of a life dedicated to Christ, I know the truth in the words of the great hymn I can hear her singing even now, "He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow ways...you ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart"

April 3, 2007

Unexpected Solitude

Now this might sound weird but I've been trying to practice the spiritual discipline of solitude. I just started trying to make a point of doing this in the last week and the place so far that I've found it easiest is, as you would never guess, in the airport. As I write this I'm sitting in the Pittsburg airport on my way to South Carolina to check out a mission trip site. I don't know if you've ever flown before but airports are one of those places where there are a ton of people walking around but no one interacts with each other. It's this very reason that makes it really easy for me to practice solitude by being by myself and yet having the opportunity to people-watch, not in a creepy sort of way but simply observing those around me. When I found myself watching people and having an attitude of solitude, I could sense myself being more sensitive to possible joys or struggles individuals might be experiencing in their lives at the moment.

It's really a pretty cool experiment to try…people-watching with an attitude of solitude allowed me to quit thinking about me, become more sensitive to the issues those around me might be dealing with and even spend some time praying for the complete strangers that happen to be my fellow travelers today.