Friday, July 15, 2016

Imago Dei

In the very first chapter of the Bible, we read these words, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Gen 1:27, ESV) In the wake of the insanity that has dominated the headlines for the last couple of weeks (perhaps longer), I am heartbroken that these people, created in the image of God, have been slaughtered so callously. I have seen Christian friends try to vilify one side or the other. My intention is to not really vilify anyone, but to call fellow Christians to something different.

It is easy to get sucked into the latest debate about whose life matters more. However, as I read my Bible, I see that to our Creator every. single. life. matters. Discrimination based on color, language, age, nationality, religion, or anything else debase those created in the image of God.

Jesus came to redeem people of EVERY tongue, tribe, and nation for himself. And for those who are saved, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that there should be no division. To belong to Jesus is to put off those things that identify us with this world and put on a new identification.

Friends, no life matters more than any other. I wonder if God is pleased when Christians refuse to be reconciled. I wonder if God is pleased when we post memes that denigrate one group of people or exalt a different group of people. I wonder if God would like to remind us that we are strangers and aliens. That we are not of this world. That our value, our very lives, are not going to be won or lost in the debate of who was right or who was wrong. There will come a day when all will be made right. The Great Judge will, with perfect accuracy, divide the sheep from the goats. Until that day, Christians are called to make disciples of Jesus. So ask yourself this simple question, "How will my words or actions give me the opportunity to talk to someone about Jesus today?"

And then join me as I weep and pray for the lives that were considered so cheap. For the loved ones left behind. "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Seeing God in His creation

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in things that have been made. ~Rom 1:19-20

I have determined that I hate sin. Or, maybe, I hate the results of sin. I'm not sure which is more accurate. To be sure, I have my pet sins that "aren't as bad as that guy over there," but I'm not really talking about individual sins. Rather, I'm talking about the problem of sin. Sin being the rebellion of man against his Creator. It all began in Genesis 3. That first rebellion tainted the whole earth. It introduced death and disease and chaos into God's perfect order. And someone is thinking to themselves right now, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it. But why is sin on your thoughts today?" I'm so glad you asked.

A couple of days ago, we had to euthanize our 2 pet dogs. They were 13 and 14 years old which, for their breeds, was already above average lifespan. They were suffering. It was so hard to watch. The one had become skin and bones and refused to eat. She had joint aches that kept her basically lying still unless she had to go out or go get food or water. But toward the end, she didn't even want to muster enough energy for any of that. She was in too much pain. The other had a problem with her hind legs. Every now and then, her entire back end would just collapse. Which wasn't so bad in itself, but our family room is in our basement. And we saw those hind legs collapse going up the stairs more and more frequently. And when they collapsed on the stairs, she would curl up as much as she could and roughly roll down the stairs. That was the painful thing. So, we decided the kindest thing we could do to these animals was to put them down. But the kind thing is not always the easy thing. Many tears were shed. It hurt more than I ever thought it would.

It hurt because these dogs showed us some things about our Creator. When we traveled away from home, they waited patiently for our return. They rejoiced when they saw us. A couple of times we left them with friends instead of having someone come to our home. And even those times they were very happy to see us come and pick them up. We could just take them to be groomed, but they were excited to see us when we came to get them. They demonstrated an unconditional love for us that is hard to find among humans. And I truly believe they gave us a glimpse of God's love for us (See Rom 1:19-20). They were a part of the creation that truly touched our hearts.

When our family went through some very difficult times, these two animals would nuzzle our hands as if to say, "Don't worry. It will be okay." They provided a physical touch of the comfort we were receiving from God. Precious friends, faithful to the end. Even when we left them at the Humane Society with the red tags on the gates, they stood in the kennels, tails wagging, wondering what was going on. We knew they were in pain, and we had to leave them. And I am tearing up right now at the memory.

Which brings me back to sin. Sin introduced pain and death into this world. And I blame sin for the pain I am feeling after having to put them down. However, not only do I see God's hand in them as they "ministered" to us, in the end, I think I have a small taste of what God feels as He sees His Creation in rebellion. He knows we are marching toward our own destruction. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23a). And I think it breaks His heart. I think my tears at leaving my dogs to die are just a hint of what God experiences as we continue in our sinful ways.

Unlike my pets, however, God has provided a remedy for our death sentence. ...The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 6:23b). I couldn't stop the ravages of this sin-cursed world for Candy or Lady, but God provided a way for my suffering to be stopped. He provided a solution to the sin problem. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:9)

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Spoiled children

I love my house. I won't go into all the reasons why I love this particular house, but there is one I would like point out. In the "living room" are floor-to-almost-ceiling windows facing east and the street in front of the house. Right now, I am sitting on the sofa looking out those windows. Why? Because I am waiting for my computer to be delivered. I had in my possession a new computer for about 6 months, but it stopped working correctly and I had to send it in to be serviced (it's still under warranty). The good news is that the service will cost me nothing, not even shipping. The bad news is I had to drop back to my old computer for the 7-14 days my new one was gone. I really liked that new model. It is faster and has a larger display. And I really want it back. Do you hear a spoiled child yet?

On Monday of this week, I got notice that the service was done and they were shipping it back and it was to be delivered Wednesday by 4:30pm. So, I am sitting in front of my beautiful windows looking for the FedEx truck and checking the shipping status every 15 minutes or so. Imagine my surprise/shock/horror when a red banner appeared at the top of the tracking page saying FedEx was experiencing a nation-wide service disruption and packages designated for delivery today might not make it. I want my computer back! Do you hear the spoiled child now?

If this older computer quits working for some reason, I can always drop back to my desktop computer that is in the basement. And if that one quits working, I still have some even older laptops that will at least let me get email and browse the internet. But I still want my new one back! Do you hear it?

I keep asking if you hear it because I started listening to my own inner voice whining and thought how incredibly spoiled I sounded. Here I have access to at least 3 working computers which is more than many people I know have and I'm complaining about not having the newer one. Here I sit with the one generation back smart phone and I'm contemplating upgrading to the newest generation because my current isn't "fast enough". Fast enough for what? Fast enough to appease the spoiled child in me who wants what he wants right now.

And I think this attitude gets a lot of attention in churches in America today. Will the next new program make churches grow any faster? Is there really any such thing as a "new" church program (See Ecclesiastes 1:9)? But it also works the other way. Will maintaining what we have always done make the church grow any faster? If it "worked" in the past, is it guaranteed to work in the future? And in both cases the positions become entrenched and demanding of their own way. I submit that there is a better way than either of those.

What if God's people earnestly sought God's desire for the local church? Not by looking at the latest Christian book list, but by diligently and fervently praying for God to lead His church. I'm not against gleaning ideas from other places, but every church is unique and what God did through a particular church at a particular place and time and in a particular way, is not necessarily applicable to every church in every place always. Each of us has been called by God. Each of us has been miraculously saved. And each of us has access before the throne of grace. So let's approach the throne of grace with boldness and ask God to do what Jesus promised He would do. Namely: BUILD THE CHURCH.