Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The "Key" to Being a Christian

Wow! You can tell that the spring semester is more busy than the fall semester just by looking at how much I post. That makes the posts more meaningful I guess.


We got stuck outside our house on Sunday trying to lock and unlock our front door! The key would not move. The sad thing is that I knew my key was getting harder and harder to use each day I used it. I have always had to lift up on the key to unlock it...but not too much. Sometimes I could push the key in and out a couple of times quickly and it would do the trick. Other times...well...I don't know how I got it open.

But Sunday was different. Sunday was the day that Tanya's key wasn't working either. After her failed attempts, I gave it a whirl (because guys can always do what women can't, right?). Five minutes later (after being humbled in my pride) the door opened. I don't know what I did except get a little bit more impatient with my efforts and this dumb door!

Finally, we got it locked in time to go to church. As we were pulling out of the driveway, Tanya realized that we had forgotten something! What!!?? You are kidding me!! So, my door and I had another go-round. It didn't take quite as long, but I switched from my key to Tanya's several times. It was frustrating. The door finally opened and we went to church.

The next morning I finally got around to taking it apart and fixing our door lock. A little lever was a little bent, and it needed some lubrication. All is well now and our keys work fine. The door unlocks and opens when we want it too.

This got me to thinking (surprise, surprise!). This passage jumped to my mind:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

I noticed the door being opened. There is no key to the door mentioned. It is not "knock and a key will be given so you can open the door." No, knock and the door will be opened to you. It is not by my power that the door opens. The door just opens. It is not by my efforts. It is not by my efforts. God is working, not Chris.

Let us knock on the door and have the patience for it to open.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


How does God clean us? This is the question that lingers in my mind this morning after reading Psalm 51. Surely it has something to do with my sacrifices, doesn't it? That makes sense...I think. When I am "dirty" with sin, my sacrifices somehow cleanse me and pacify God's wrath against me. Blood has to be shed when there is sin, so sacrifice is a necessity. That is what I normally might think.

But I read about something different in David's Psalm here. Sin is doubt about it. David wants mercy. He wants to be washed. He wants joy and gladness. David wants to be clean.
So, how does he get clean? I see David appealing to God's character. It is because God is an unfailing-love kind of God. It is because he is a compassionate God. It is because God is the one who saves. God cleans us because God is all these things. He cleans us by being all the things. God's character is powerful enough to bring cleanliness to us.

Well, surely we have to do something, don't we?

Yes, but it is not burnt offerings. And it is only in response to his cleaning us.

Well, what do we do?

According to this Psalm, we fall down in humility. Our sacrifice is a broken spirit, a contrite heart. There is nothing we can do, but appeal to God in true humility. Any justifying of my actions that happens shows that true humility is not yet present. I must know and recognize that I am sinful...period.

I also notice that we teach others, but only afterwards. David says that he will teach transgressors God's ways and sinners will turn back to God. It is only after God cleanses us that we are able to tell others about what God has done. This brings glory to God and God alone.

So, God cleans us by his being God. We are cleansed in our humility before the God who was and is and is to come. Let us fall before the throne of the one who is highly exalted above all gods. Amen!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What do you put in?

"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the
crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in
large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,
worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'I
tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the
others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in
everything--all she had to live on.'" Mark 12:41-44

This morning as I read this familiar passage, I am struck anew with an assumption in the passage. The assumption is: everyone gave. The rich and poor alike. Everyone gave to God's work in the temple.

There are some Sunday mornings that I pass the collection plate without putting something in. Most of the time it is because I forgot to write a check that morning. This doesn't bother me because I know that the check will be written either that night or the next day. It is not that big of a deal.

However, I wonder how many people pass the collection plate with no intention to give whatsoever. Many reasons exist why people don't give to God's work; I have said them myself and heard many others. They don't make much money. They can hardly pay bills, so they definitely don't have enough for giving. They don't have regular income. They want to know that the money is going to be spent well, so they only give to special collections. They just don't want to give. The reasons go on and on.

When I read this text, I notice that the focus of the text is not on how much was given. The focus is on the attitude that must have been present in the people giving in the temple.

This text follows a little pericope that makes this focus unmistakeable. Jesus warns about the teachers of the law walking around in flowing robes. They love to be greeted everywhere and have the most important seats. He says they devour widows' houses and make lengthy prayers. Everything is for show. Jesus ends by saying, "Such men will be punished most severely." Then, our text.

Now we understand why Mark put this pericope before. It helps make sense of the widow's giving. He is making a statement here. The statement is: don't give for show. Let your attitude be, "I am giving...period. Even if it means that everything I have to live on is really an insigificant amount. I am giving to the work of the Lord no matter the cost."

It is refreshing to think about for me. It means that I can release the anxiety I feel about how insignificant my giving seems to be. God is glorified in my giving when my attitude is adjusted.

Lord, encourage us (as your people) to check our attitude in giving. Encourage us to give without letting it consume our life. Teach us to trust you like this widow we read about. You can use our "two very small copper coins" for your glory just like you can use the "large amounts." Please be patient with us as we learn your ways. Amen.