Thursday, October 23, 2014

What is the Good Life?

A few weeks ago in our gathering, we were looking at the Gospel of John, chapter 5. In this passage we find Jesus in Jerusalem for a feast. While there, he healed a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Jesus asked the man if he wanted to get well. We could restate that question as, "What is the good life?"

There are at least three answers to that question. Each of us has our own. The first answer came from the man himself. "I don't have anyone to help me." I can't do it. He was looking for someone else to provide for him.While I would guess that he did want to get well, it's also possible that he had become comfortable in his condition and was content to just lay there and let others take care of him. Perhaps he had given up. His idea of the good life was to be physically whole and it just wasn't happening. Many times we get the idea that the good life involves good health, a nice house, late model car, and smart children who do well in school. In other words, the American Dream. Those are good things that God sometimes blesses us with. Jesus did heal the man. However, that is not the good life.

The second answer comes from the religious leaders. They told the man that he was breaking the Sabbath by carrying his mat after Jesus healed him. Their idea of the good life was following the rules, being a good, religious person. They believed that rigidly walking in lockstep with the law and all of their addendums would lead to God's favor. In their thinking, Israel would be restored to its former glory when everyone started keeping the law.

Looking over the religious landscape, there are churches and organizations that would give either of the answers above. On the one hand are those who preach that God's favor comes in the form of material blessings. Others preach that "being right with God" by following certain rules is the way. While God does provide for his children and there are commands in Scripture, those things are not the good life. One can have material things or follow the rules, and still not have the good life. One can have little and not follow all the religious rules, and have it.

Jesus gives us the third, and best, answer. He found the man that he healed and told him to stop sinning. Now, Jesus was not telling him that following the rules would bring the good
life. In verses 16-30 Jesus states that the good life is the life to come and could only be found in him. Jesus says that the Son gives life to whomever he pleases, and that those who put their trust in him have crossed over from death to eternal life. This life is not just some far off, future thing. It is life that is right now. It is the abundant life that Jesus promised to his followers. That is the good life and it is available to all who believe, whether wealthy or poor, healthy or sick. It is a life for those who realize that they can't keep enough rules to make God accept them and who fall entirely on the grace of God through the finished work of Christ on the cross.

The invitation is there. Come, live the good life.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekend Wanderings

It's time once again for everyone's favorite blog post! Fall is definitely here in the sunny South. The temperatures are cooler, the shadows longer, and the days shorter.

Here are the links:

Did cars create the mega-church?
Speaking of mega-churches.
Some thoughts on the sermon flap in Houston.
Breakfast.
China's secret churches.

Mark Driscoll, grace, and accountability.
Keith Giles on the mark of the Beast.
Beauty from brutality.
Balancing act.
Nate Pruitt continues his series on Sabbath with part 15.

Good post from Mike Erich.
When they are not sorry.
The real reason churches fail.
Arthur Sido on tax deductions.
Benjamin L. Corey on myth.

Evidently, there's more to the story of a certain famous preacher's resignation.
Scot McKnight on spiritual disciplines.
Good post from Anthony Smith.
Intellectual legalism.
Prayer.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Blast From the Past: Exult in What You Do

This was first published on September 27, 2010.

During the 2006 Winter Olympics, I watched an Italian female figure skater finish her Olympic routine. She had retired in 2002, but came out of retirement just to skate in her home country. She really didn't have a chance to medal, but it was enough for her to skate at home. Near the end of her program she did two spin jumps in a row and nailed both of them. She threw up her hands and you could just feel the joy. I actually got chills and thought that, even though she might not realize it, she was bringing glory to God by doing what she had been gifted to do and thoroughly exulting in doing it well. It reminded me of what Eric Liddell said in Chariots of Fire - "God made me fast, and when I run I can feel His pleasure."

How would our lives be if we recognized what God made us to do, and felt His pleasure when we did it to the best of our ability? What would our witness to the culture look like? I suspect far different than it currently does.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

World Vision Wednesday

Tomorrow is World Food Day. While we usually think of hunger as happening in other parts of the world, there are many in the United States who also deal with not having enough food on a daily basis. To find out more, go here.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Weekend Wanderings

Ebola, ISIS, global warming, elections, moral decline. There are a number of things that could cause us to worry if we allowed ourselves to. Thankfully, there is a God in heaven who loves us.

On to the important stuff. The links for this week:

Escape from Flatland.
Tell me this isn't true.
The 10 worst airports.
7 great spots to see the leaves.

Fake news sites.
Good article by Andy Gill.
Forty portraits in forty years.
Green burials.

Marilynne Robinson on faith.
Nina Strochlic on women in Rwanda.
Steve Brown says we are born for hope.
Scot McKnight on kingdom.

Tullian Tchividjian on compliance.
Beer vs. wine.
Eastern Orthodox view of Scripture.
iMonk on interpreting Scripture.

Nate Pruitt continues his series on Sabbath. Part 10. Check out the entire series.
Blah, blah, blah?
Keith Giles on the Blood Moon.
Frank Viola gets personal. Sort of.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Church Signs: When We Love Christ...

A few weeks ago, I saw another church sign that arrested my attention. This time it was in a good way. The sign read, "When we love Christ, we love others." As I thought about the message on the sign, I thought about how true that is, and how it pretty much sums up our profession of faith in Christ.

There are a lot of people going around who proclaim their devotion to Jesus, who stand up in churches every week and loudly sing of their love for him. Now, it's way above my pay grade to determine how many of those people truly belong to Christ, so I am not judging their spiritual state. I am simply putting this out there as an encouragement for all of us to look at how the way we relate to others matches up with who we say we are in Christ.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is spending time with his disciples on the night he was to be betrayed. He is giving them some last minute teaching and encouragement because he is going to be leaving them. One of the things Jesus gives to his followers is a new command. In Chapter 13, he says that the new command is to love one another as Jesus has loved us. This comes right after the Teacher performs a menial task and serves his disciples by washing their feet, and just before he lays down his life for them. Jesus says that this kind of sacrificial love for others is the way the world will know that we belong to him. In Chapter 15 Jesus calls us to keep his commands and obey his teaching, and then follows with the statement that his command is to love others.

In his first letter, John reminds his us of that command given by Jesus, and then goes on to state that love for others is a test of whether we are truly walking in the light or are still in darkness. John later says that our love for others shows that we have passed from death to life. If we hate, we are proclaiming that we are still in darkness. This love is to be shown, not by flowery words, but by action, by laying down our lives for others.

The command to love was given to followers of Jesus who were facing a world that was totally against them. They were told to love their fellow disciples because there was great danger that their fellowship could be destroyed if they weren't willing to give themselves up for one another. We don't face the same opposition that the early believers faced, but I would venture that all of us have either seen or experienced fellowships that have been destroyed by a lack of love. People have left churches, churches have split or dissolved because folks refused to think of others before themselves. Whole denominations have even come into existence because of a failure to love.

Some may say, "That's all well and good, but we don't have to show the same kind of love for those outside. Right?" I beg to differ. Jesus stated that the second greatest command was to love our neighbor. He also said that our neighbor was essentially anyone with whom we come into contact. The early church understood this. They were known for the love they showed each other and for the love they showed their pagan neighbors, even for the ones who persecuted them. The first Christians were known for their love. They were not known for their "spiritual" vocabulary, for their dress, for what they were against. Yes, they proclaimed truth. Yes, they were not afraid to speak out when a believer was not living out his profession. Yes, they proclaimed that Jesus was the only way, the true King. But, the sacrificial manner in which they lived out their lives in relationship to others put weight behind their words. They showed the world that this Jesus stuff was real and was life changing. With that they turned the world upside down.

Let us all look at our lives and ask ourselves if what we say we believe works out in our day-to-day relationships, both with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and with those who don't don't know him.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Prayer for Faith and Faithfulness

In our gathering this morning, we prayed this. It's adapted from a prayer by Scotty Smith.

The most fundamental change we need is to become like you, Jesus. With the knowledge that one day we'll be as lovely and as loving as you, we gladly surrender to the work of the gospel in our lives. You are making all things new, right now--right before our very eyes, if we have eyes to see and a heart to accept. Because of your life, death, and resurrection, we're destined for a place, family, and eternity in which everything will be the way it's supposed to be, forever. Hasten that magnificent Day. Until then, Jesus, may we love you with abandon, trust you with gladness, and serve you with passion. In your name. Amen.