Thursday, May 15, 2014

God In the Day-To-Day

In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, John the Baptist comes on the scene, baptizing and calling people to repentance. A group of priests and Levites asked John who he was. They wondered if he was the Messiah, or Elijah, or maybe the Prophet that was to come. They thought that, since he was baptizing and drawing large crowds, that maybe he was the Christ, or at least a forerunner. They were looking for a big name. After all, the Messiah would have someone major setting things up for his coming, someone who would make a splash. John, however, answered that he was nothing more than a voice crying in the wilderness. The priests then asked why John was baptizing, if he wasn't an important person. He didn't answer the why question, but again stated that he was a nobody who was  unworthy to perform even the duties of a common slave who would untie the sandals of his master. John also stated that the One to come was among them, but they were missing it.

The people of Jesus' day were looking for a Messiah to come as a conquering hero, one whose arrival would be heralded by great prophets like Elijah, one whose rank would be obvious. Instead, he arrived as an ordinary man in a group of ordinary people and was announced by a strange character who wore skins, ate locusts and honey, and hung out in the desert. Not at all what they expected. All through Jesus's time here on earth, he failed to live up to folks' expectations of himself, all the while bringing God's kingdom to earth. Finally, he died as a criminal, crucified by the forces of the empire. Most of the folks didn't recognize that by dying, Jesus defeated the powers that be, including death itself. Most of them missed it because they were looking for the wrong thing in the wrong places.

I wonder how many times we miss Jesus. Like the 1st century folks, we have a tendency to look for the next big thing. We run from conference to conference. We read about this ministry or that church and their flashy programs, and try to copy them. Look at the speakers at conferences, or the popular speakers on television. They are the ones who have the huge churches, who write all the best sellers. We have created a class of celebrity Christians, just like other generations before us. Our celebrities are more famous because of the reach of media. We search for churches that have great music, dynamic speakers, and plenty of programs. We get so proud of them that we put their names on our cars, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and whatever else we can put out there for others to see. I wonder if we have given the watching world the impression that Christianity is for those who have it all together, that our celebrities are better than theirs. We try to compete with all the flash that is out there.

As humans, we can easily get our eyes off the One we say we are following and onto the ones who are putting on the show for us. I'm convinced that many of the scandals that have happened in recent years are because a ministry began with good intentions, and then got too big too fast for the people involved. Those people then began to believe their press and started to think of themselves as bullet proof. Their are plenty of examples out there of good people being corrupted by the celebrity cult.

If we are not one of those that "God is greatly using," as evidenced by a lot of outward good stuff, we can too easily think that we don't matter. A mother who stays at home to raise her children, a man who works your basic 9-5 job, the pastor who shepherds a small flock with no TV presence and no invitations to speak before thousands of people. These are the folks that get missed when we think about the ones God is using for the kingdom. We forget that Jesus came as an ordinary man. His arrival was proclaimed by an ordinary preacher. The spectacular was not a part of what he did. Most of his followers down through the centuries have been ordinary men and woman who were simply following their Master as they went through their ordinary days. These are the kinds of people who turned the world upside down in the 1st century.

If you are one of those "ordinary" pastors, moms, dads, whatever, take heart. Jesus does not ask us to be great. He simply calls us us to be faithful with what he has given us. Everything we have is a gift from our Father, and everything we do with love is important in his eyes. Simply live your life as a disciple of Jesus. Focus on loving God and loving others as you go about your day-to-day. Be who God made you to be. That is enough. Let God work through you as he worked through the countless unnamed disciples through the centuries.

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