Friday, April 18, 2014

Let’s Go Outside

Hebrews 13:13-15
So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name.

There is a murky and messy world beyond the walls of church buildings. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves—it’s also inside the church buildings. No matter how hard we may try to justify otherwise, our calling is go be with people; to love them as ourselves. We cannot hide within the church and expect anything to change. We are the hands and feet of Jesus and we must go where Jesus wants to go. But that’s dangerous and dirty, uncomfortable and intimidating. We can find strength in God’s word, however, that he has not given us a spirit of fear. If we’re serious and committed to loving others, we have to actually do it. Our faith is in Jesus, and not in some person, thing or safety net. The brokenness may often be too difficult to bear, but that’s where Jesus thrives.

For the sake of your name, Jesus, lead and guide us.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Latest and Greatest

Hebrews 13:9-12
Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them.

The altar from which God gives us the gift of himself is not for exploitation by insiders who grab and loot. In the old system, the animals are killed and the bodies disposed of outside the camp. The blood is then brought inside to the altar as a sacrifice for sin. It’s the same with Jesus. He was crucified outside the city gates—that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God’s altar to cleanse his people.

It is remarkably easy to become lured into a false sense of spirituality. The latest and greatest Bible, the earth-shattering worship experience or the incredible speaker with a sold-out audience. There are countless more “opportunities” to become “closer” to God—to find that mountaintop experience. But we are never intended to stay on the mountaintop. We are meant to learn from those experiences and compel the mundane nature of reality to become beautiful and experiential. The common thread between it all is money; it will always come down to money. If Jesus wanted the latest and greatest Bible with super-commentaries and cross-references, he would have preached those things.

Jesus’ message was simple, and we inevitably muddy the waters. If those “tools” are useful to you in understanding Jesus’ message, then go for it. But we cannot expect the latest and greatest to save our souls. The grace of Jesus is constant, from one age to the next, one generation to the one after. That’s where we ought to be looking. Our spirituality must be dictated by relationship, not by marketing.

Have you ever found yourself convinced some thing or some person will bring you closer to God? 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Weight of Learning

Hebrews 13:7-8
Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.

God often hands us a two-edged sword. We need to embrace and appreciate our spiritual leaders, learning from their very lives, faithfulness and truthfulness. But what if they let us down? Were our standards too high, or was their faith too weak? Did we expect too much or anticipate too greatly? Probably so. We should be looking to our leaders for wisdom and guidance, but we must always remember they are also human, not any different from ourselves. We have much to learn from them and with them, but we cannot place more weight of learning on any person than on Jesus.

What standards do we set for our leaders, and are we setting ourselves up for failure in doing so?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Diminishing Marginal Utility

Hebrews 13:5-6
Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote,

God is there, ready to help;
I’m fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?

We live in a culture of accumulation and quests for instant gratification. Yet those things we’re so anxious to get eventually become meaningless, thus compelling us to fill the void with something new. That [insert item here] we knew would be amazing always ends up in the corner, the attic or the garage sale.

In Economics, this is called diminishing marginal utility, or more easily stated, diminishing satisfaction. The more we accumulate, or the longer we have it, the less it satisfies us. Eventually, something else will have to fill its place. The same can be said for alcohol: the more we drink and with greater intensity, the more we need to fill the same void.

God, however, wants to fill that void for us, and is far more capable. God is committed to us, and we find peace knowing he is with us. But we have to believe that—we have to “boldly quote…God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what.” God desires for us to long for him and not for excess. And he makes it worth it, more today even than yesterday.

Do we actively pursue God and his commitment to stand by us?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Standards and Invitations

Hebrews 13:1-4
Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.

We are called to create and steward a community, where together we make life about one another. Wherein we live in a world about me, I and how can I win, God has something different in mind: we, us and how can we thrive—together. God’s community is not built upon the individual, but upon the body. We are the body of Christ, not one part but many. Each and every person has unique gifts, talents and life experiences; God does not weight any one over the other. But we do. We, as a society, tend to value extroversion to introversion, boldness to humility. We idolize individuals who perpetually fail to meet our expectations. We judge, we stare, we scorn and we abandon. We assume others intentions and determine their character without ever having met them. 

God is calling us to be something more than the world. The world’s standards are simple, selfish and unattainable. God’s are much more difficult but magnanimously more rewarding. Whether full or hungry, lacking or in plenty, thriving or surviving; we make one body. The standards by which we are called are far higher than the expectations of the world. We may feel that we’ll never reach that place, yet in trying, and even failing, we’ll have surpassed the world’s expectations. And that’s an invitation to welcome the Kingdom of God.

By what standards do we measure our lives?