Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Divisive Gospel

I don’t know why you want to be around all of those Christians all the time. All they want from you is your time and money. If you were strong, like I am, you wouldn’t need that kind of support. In fact, you wouldn’t need anyone,” it seemed that this is what he said to her week after week. They had been married for 17 years, and she loved him dearly, but it was certainly difficult to live with him and be a follower of Jesus Christ at the same time.

Do you know people like? Are you that person that is struggling to live in household filled with unbelievers while you try to grow in the Christian faith? Jesus tells us to expect this struggle in life.

In today’s Bible reading from Luke 12:41-59, Jesus says that He has not come to bring peace, but division. What? Now, this does not mean that Jesus does not provide peace. He certainly does. He gives us peace with God through the forgiveness of our sins. He gives us peace through the One that is actually called the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. There are numerous ways that Jesus gives and promises peace. However, He does not promise that the Christian life will be all peace. No, in fact He promises that there will be turmoil.

So, how do you deal with this problem of divisiveness in your relationships with family, friends and coworkers?

Do Not Return Evil for Evil

First, recognize that Jesus does not call us to return evil for evil. When non-Christians say derogatory things to us because of our faith, we are not to return their snide remarks. In fact, we are to speak to them in kindness even though they persecute us through their words and actions. This is difficult battle. Our sinful desire is to fight fire with fire. Yet, we are called to be a witness to even the most difficult people in our lives. This leads us to our second way to deal with hostile non-believers.

Be A Light for Christ

The second way we can work through this strain is by realizing we have a wonderful witnessing opportunity. Remember those fights back in the school yard? When one boy hit another, and the match was on that seemed very predictable. Yet, when one boy hit another and the victim walked away, we were left with questions. In a similar way, when a non-believer mocks or ridicules you, they expect you to return the venom. When you don’t it leaves them to wonder how or why you could walk away. Make it your hope that this mysterious behavior will eventually lead the non-Christian to ask you why you react the way you do to hostility. Then, you will have the opportunity to be the light Christ desires you to be in a dark place.

Pursue Peace

Finally, we are called to be at peace with all people if at all possible. As we have already said, even though you are being assailed, you should not look to return the evil. The Apostle Paul tells us that we should be at peace with all people if at all possible. There are some people that will not allow peace to exist around them, but there are others that can live peacefully around Christians when they feel as if they are not being judged or bashed over the head. Our responsibility, then, is to find ways to share and live out the Gospel without doing it in a preachy way. Stand firm, but do it gently and thoughtfully.

Jesus promises this will be hard. The Gospel will turn people against us. Our love for Christ will remind them of their sin and rebellion against God. While we certainly don’t want to minimize our faith to the point that we fade into the background, we must strive to speak and live the truth in love. Remember, God uses these challenges to help us grow to be more like faith and to share the Gospel with those we love.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pursuing Your Calling

What were your responsibilities in life five years ago? Are they more or less today? Do they take more energy or are they more leisurely? Life is constantly changing. That means many of our callings in life are constantly changing. In this week's radio program we talk with Colin Creel, the author of the book Crossroads. In his book, Colin talks about how there are many ways that we can use all of our callings in life to honor God.

First, we discussed how our primary calling is to be a child of God. Any other calling in life will only make sense if you have this primary calling secured. It is only through Jesus Christ that we are able to truly understand our purpose for life. The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 1 that the creation was created by Christ, for Christ and it only makes sense when it flows through Christ. This means that we must have a relationship with Jesus Christ if we are to make sense of life and live it for real purpose. We must constantly be seeking Him to change our hearts so that our desire is to love Him and others more.

The secondary calling is not quite so easy to explain. According to Creel, this calling is subjective and changes from person to person. Your calling changes based upon the abilities, talents and desires God has given you. In addition, it changes throughout life. This means that a 35 year old father has a different secondary calling than a 65 year old grandfather. This relieves the pressure of this comparison when it comes to our secondary calling because too often I find myself comparing me to others. I am freed up to pursue pleasing God with callings in life and turn loose of my worry about how I stack up to others.

By secondary calling we mean our families, our community, our careers and so forth. God desires for us to pursue this secondary calling for His glory. That means that our constant objective, even in this calling...whatever it may be for you, is to honor Christ. How do you do that? It will take some thinking and imagination. How do you work in the factory for the glory of God? How do you work in the sandwich shop for the glory of God? How do you raise your children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren for the glory of God? How do you relate to your next door neighbor for the glory of God? Get the point? It takes conscience effort to think about how we can use this secondary calling for the glory of God. Then, we must be intentional in carrying it out.

Please find the freedom God intends here. This is not to be a stone bound around your neck. It is a concept that will help turn the daily work of life into something that has eternal impact. It makes those ordinary conversations out by the driveway or at the mailbox significant. Are you pursuing your calling? Or, are you missing out on the right-in-your-face opportunities God is giving you? You want your life to make an impact on this world...good news...God does too!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Big Promises...Little Faith

Have you noticed the increase in the storage unit business across the United States? It seems to be common everywhere that people need more and more space to store their stuff. Is that because their homes are smaller than ever before? I don’t think so. At least where we live, I am often surprised at the large size of homes that are being built on lots that don’t seem to be much larger than postage stamps. What is going on? I think we are in a real battle between our wants and our needs.

What is your definition of success? Does it include your income? Is the neighborhood you live in thrown in there? How about the car you drive? Maybe its how many storage units you can fill up?

All the while we are left wondering if we have enough. Can we ever really have enough?

This is not an uncommon human problem. Think about the children of Israel as they are wandering in the wilderness. God tells us them that He will provide a bread-like food called manna for them every day. On six out of seven days every week they are to take only enough for their family that day. What happens when they take too much? It spoils making a nasty and smelly mess overnight. They knew this in advance and they actually took more than they needed? Yes, and their neighbors greatly regretted it.

Why would they do this?

There are several possibilities here. Perhaps they didn’t trust God. They didn’t believe that He would actually provide for them the next day. What if He overslept one day or was just too busy working on some other project. They needed to take matters into their own hands to make sure their needs are met. This led them to falsely believe that they were the only ones that could adequately care for their own needs so they stored more than they needed. In essence, they turned from trusting God to trusting themselves.

Isn’t that the root of many of our fears, worries and anxieties? We want to provide for ourselves even though we are often powerless to do so. I can’t end a drought or cause a tsunami to turn back. I can’t control how long I am going to live or what the economy is going to do in three months. Yet, I worry as if I can. I waste tons of thought and energy fearing that my little kingdom will fall apart if I can’t get a grip on these things.

Why don’t I trust God more than I do? He has certainly proved to be faithful in the past. Why would He be any different in the future? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t save and prepare for the future. After all, it was God that gave us the intelligence to plan. We must be cautious in our planning though. Are we planning for our wants or for our needs? And, one more time for me…the slow learner, who promises to provide our needs? In Matthew 6:32, Jesus says that God knows our needs and will provide for us. What should we get busy doing? We should go to work seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in our life daily and start finding ways to turn in the keys to our storage buildings.