Saturday, December 31, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

This is the weekend we say goodbye (farewell, good riddance) to 2016 and hello to 2017. A lot of individuals departed from this life during the past year but, contrary to what seems to be public opinion, the year didn't kill anyone. There are any number of theories as to the number of people who have died. You are welcome to pick whichever one suits you. We'll see what comes to pass in 2017.

On to the good stuff:

See if you agree with this list of top ten films of 2016.
Be careful with those Christmas cards.
Dominick Santore on the new year.
Evidently, this almost didn't happen.
Christmas shipwreck.

In case you go to a lot of meetings.
The myth of self control.
Another 2016 list.
Finding freedom.
Getting better?

Here is something I never noticed.
Yet another 2016 list.
Good post from Chaplain Mike.
About time!
Karl Vaters asks a good question.

Witness to the powers.
The long goodbye.
The Babylon Bee gives us their list.
Zack Hunt on 2016.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Just Jesus and Me?

 When I was growing up, we used to sing a song about how it was "Jesus and me" traveling the road of life together. This went right along with the idea that salvation was an individual thing and that Jesus was "my personal Savior." While there is a sense in which God redeems us as individuals, I believe that there is much more to the work of Christ than just Jesus and me.

I no longer believe that following Jesus is just about making him your personal Savior or that the Christian life is lived individually. As I have studied Scripture I have come to believe that when God calls us and makes us his children, he is making us members of a family, a body. The word for church means a called out assembly, not a collection of separate individuals.

The idea that salvation and the Christian life is an individual thing has done damage to the body of Christ. If you look around at the Church in the United States you see the results of an individualistic faith. In many places there is a lack of commitment to the larger body. People move from church to church for various reasons. Many times folks leave because of problems in relationships. Someone has done something against them and it's easier to simply find another church than do the hard work of repenting, forgiving, and reconciling. It seems as if many look for a place where they can be served and "fed" (whatever that means) by a weekly concert and inspirational talk. They aren't looking for community, or they don't understand what community entails.

We are redeemed to be part of one another. We are a body and each part of the body needs each other part. I believe the day may come when those who claim Christ will have to come together and live as one body. We will no longer have the luxury of dividing over things that are not worth dividing over. We will be forced to live in harmony, forgiving each other no matter how many times they sin against us and loving each other with a selfless love, just as Jesus loved us. Maybe we ought to start doing that now so it won't be such a shock.

May God help us to live together as fellow children of the Father who are members of one body.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Challenges and Opportunities

As this year draws to a close, and we enter a new year that promises to be very different, Christians in America will be faced with many challenges. Along with the challenges, there will be plenty of opportunities.

This year has been hard on the church as a whole. Deep divisions have been revealed. Along with that, there is a growing distrust of Christianity. While some of these problems are a part of the way the world naturally views followers of Jesus, others are of our own making. One challenge is to be agents of healing where there is division. For too long, we have worried more about the things that make us different rather than the things we share. I know that there are issues that are important that must be dealt with and may be cause for separation. That is not what I am talking about. Much of the time, the things we divide over have more to do with preference and style than substance.

Another challenge we face is the way we are perceived. Jesus said that we would be hated and persecuted. That is true, and I think it could very well be worse than it is now. We need to make sure that we are really being persecuted, and then if we are, that it is because we belong to Jesus and not because we are arrogant jerks. We should be known more by our love and grace than by the size of our protests or the condemnation we speak. We should be known for our allegiance to the King of Kings, and not who we voted for.

I believe that our faith itself is going to be challenged. The days of Christendom are gone. I really don't think the incoming president will keep his promises to make Christians influential again. If he does, I think it will end up hurting the church. We can no longer expect to have government enforce our beliefs. We can probably expect to be looking more and more at a society that is indifferent to us at best, or hostile at worst. The time may be coming when we will be forced to consider whether our faith is worth all of the stuff that will be happening.

The future may be quite challenging, but it will also present the church with opportunities. As we face more hostility, we will have the opportunity to examine ourselves for the reason behind it. If it is truly because of Christ, then we can rejoice that we have been counted worthy to suffer for the gospel. If the hostility comes as a reaction to our own hostility, then we will have the opportunity to repent and become the disciples we can be. We will have the opportunity to show the truth, goodness, and beauty of Jesus. As the face of the church changes and those who are not committed to following Jesus fall away, we will have have the opportunity to show who we belong to, not by our stands on issues, or our style of worship, our our doctrinal statement, but by our love to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to our neighbors. As our influence wanes, we will have the opportunity to affect culture by speaking and living the gospel.

May God give us the grace to be people who love, who are willing to live as a spiritual family which puts others first, and who show the world that the gospel is indeed Good News.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent

I'm thankful for the season of the church calendar called Advent. To me, it is a good antidote to the sometimes crazy Christmas season. This year the message of longing, hope, and anticipation resonates with me more than it has in previous years.
This has been a tough year. Ten people that I know have died this year, including my father-in-law, a dear friend, and some of my bus passengers, among others. Add to that the craziness of the political scene and other things, and I pray, "Even so, come Lord Jesus," with more longing. As the people of Israel longed for their Messiah to come and deliver them, so I long for the King to return and set all things to right. I long for the day when all will be restored, when everything sad will become untrue.

Fortunately, along with the longing there is hope. Simeon and Anna lived with hope that the Messiah would come and their hope was rewarded. We can have hope that our Savior will return as he promised and that all our longing will be fulfilled. Because we know our Father loves us, we can live in expectancy that he will do as he has promised.

Embrace the longing, the unmet desires of the heart. Trust that all of the promises of a new creation will be kept. Celebrate the season as one who waits and hopes for the fulfillment of what our Christmas celebrations are but a dream.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

It's getting a bit chilly here in the sunny South. We're finally getting some rain and the mountain wildfires are being contained after devastating a large chunk of real estate. The college football season is winding down and the debate over how many teams should be included in the playoffs begins anew. The roads are getting more crowded as folks are getting their Christmas shopping in.

On to the good stuff:

Contentment.
Death and the gospel.
Sending them away.
Keeping a soft heart.
Now you know why.

I guess it's still a question.
History lesson.
Good idea.
Never a waste.
Where all the pictures are taken.

Good post from Bob Edwards.
Thoughtful Advent post.
Good post from Christopher Smith.
Tim Suttle asks a good question.
Finding freedom.

An historic birthday.
Why is this a thing?
Interesting post.
Criticism.
Good post from Dan Edelen.

Have a blessed week!



A New Morning

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