Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Package

Imagine that you hear the doorbell and run to the door. When you open the door you don't see anyone and are frustrated because you got up from the couch wondering who in the world could be ringing the doorbell at such a time. We've all been there. Then, you look down and notice a box wrapped in duct tape. This little "present" makes your heart skip a beat. The edges are frayed; the duct tape is starting to fall off; and you hear a faint ticking noise coming from this mystery package. "Bomb!" is on the forefront of your mind.

That is until you notice a name on the top of the package betraying from whom this little package came. Written on the top is the name of your best friend. It is obviously this person's handwriting. You are put at ease. You know who sent the gift. You are amazed that you had such a crazy thought as you smile. What is your good friend up to now?

Well, what if we began to view our spouses as this little box? A little frayed, unimpressive, duct tape package. When we look at it inappropriately we might run and hide, thinking the worst. But, realizing that your spouse is a gift not from your best friend, but from God changes things. The focus is no longer on the gift itself; the focus is on the sender. There is no one else that God sent this gift to. My spouse is mine and no one else's. This person has been tailored to fit only me...both with my strengths and my weaknesses.

God has given me Tanya. When I truly see her as God's gift, my attitude changes. I trust the sender rather than the gift itself. Also, if I refuse to accept this gift, I refuse to accept my relationship with the sender. My problem is really with the sender then! Tanya can be like frayed, falling off duct tape, but my heart is put at ease because God is the one who sent this really cool package my way.

Who do you need to view as a true gift from God?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Holiness Again

While we recognize that our holiness came about as a result of what God accomplished in Christ (see yesterday's post), Paul also wants us to live up to what we've been given.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:2, "to the church of God of God in Corinth, who have been made holy in Christ Jesus and who are called to be holy together with all those who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place..."

While we have been given holiness, we must also live holy lives. It is not enough to just sit back and let God do all the work. We must live and practice the holiness that we have received. Indeed, that is what Paul calls the Corinthians back to constantly throughout this letter. We must live as Jesus lived.

This is the challenge that faces Christians today. Those who don't understand our received holiness, don't understand what it means to live holy lives. That is why we Christians get criticized so harshly at times: "They don't practice what they preach." In reality, they are telling us something we know, but don't communicate enough.

We need to tell everyone readily that we are not holy by our actions; we are made holy. But we strive to live this holiness now because we want to reflect the holy God who made us. I hope I am making sense here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chris' Sermons

This post is the place to come if you want to hear some of my sermons and classes. I will refer people to this page in the future if they would like to listen to my classes or sermons.


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Last week someone asked me if she was holy. I told her that in Christ she was, but on her own...anything but!

I think this idea of holiness is confusing for many Christians. It is as if somehow, over time, we get this idea that we are actually holy people by our own merit. We understand (maybe) that Jesus died for our sins to make us holy (Colossians 1:22). We understand that God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that we in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). These are things that we understand toward the beginning of our relationship with God.

Then, time fades our memory in terms of what God has actually done, and we forget that we were sinners. We forget that Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). We can't have any claim on holiness whatsoever. That is all God's doing. As a result of God's action in Christ, we receive a state of being called holiness.

Let me explain by using one verse: 1 Corinthians 1:2. Paul writes, "to the church of God in Corinth, who have been made holy in Christ Jesus..."

The tense of this one Greek word explains the idea I'm trying to explain. This word is in the perfect tense. In Greek, the perfect tense describes an event that, completed in the past, has results existing in the present time. The emphasis here is on the current state of being that came about as a result of some past action. To explain this word in 1 Corinthians 1:2, as a result of the actions accomplished in Christ Jesus, we are now in a state of holiness.

So, we have been made holy. Paul, later in the same letter, makes this point again. After discussing who will not inherit the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul says, "And that is what some of you were, but you were washed, you were made holy, and you were made right in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the spirit of our God."

In this text however, he draws out the past action by using a different tense. The point, though, is still the same: someone else beyond us is the actor; we are the recipients. In Jesus, we are made holy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back and Forward

I got an email from a former student about celebrating the 45th year of Kats for Christ next summer. I never knew that we celebrated the 40th year, but I thought it would be a good thing. The initial thought process has started; we need to do this. I would love to bring together previous Kats for Christ students ... or Church of Christ Student Center students ... or Bible Chair students, whatever this place has been called.

There is something about looking back and looking forward that always gets me excited. Our church is kindof experiencing this right now. As Bob, our preacher, makes plans to move on, we find ourselves looking back into our history. Where have we been? Who are we? What has God been doing? We also find ourselves looking into the future. Where are we going? Who do we want to be? What is God doing? Exciting times!

Lord, guide us through this process. Help us discern your will. Teach us patience. Teach us humility. Let us walk and not run. Let us listen and not talk. May we be your servants, ready to do your will.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Imitate Me

We had a great discussion last night in our Wednesday night Bible class. I love the amount of discussion that seems to happen week in and week out this semester as we wade through the pages of Philippians.

Last night I asked the question (in light of Philippians 3:17), "Is it prideful of me, as a minister of the gospel, to tell all of you to imitate me?" Wow! Some were pretty adamant that I shouldn't say this. Some said that I shouldn't say it (that would be proud), but that I should think of myself as an example. Several mentioned that being a minister automatically puts you in a position where people see you as an example. Still others held that they wouldn't want a minister if he couldn't say "imitate me."

After a while, the discussion went toward how everyone (not just ministers) should be able to say, "imitate me." They should be able to reflect the name they wear: Christian. It is as if we are living out our real citizenship on earth (see Phil 3:20 and 1:27).

The challenge is to be the Jesus examples for everyone. I wonder what would happen if all Christians lived the name that they profess. This world would truly be a radically different place.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Counting Movement

I saw God moving last weekend during our retreat. While I worked really hard to create a great environment for God to work, I knew I couldn't make God move. You can do all the right things, but that doesn't guarantee that lives will be impacted.

During the weekend we dove into an obscure book of the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes. The Message translates the much repeated Hebrew word, hebel, as 'smoke'. I like how this word captures the temporary nature of our lives as well as the obscure nature of God's working.

It was really refreshing for me to dive into this book, especially since I sometimes feel pressure to produce good numbers of students in our ministry. It reminded me of something I already knew: counting numbers is smoke, a spitting into the wind. Sometimes the numbers indicate God's movement, most of the time the numbers don't.

For us right now, numbers are not the indicator of God's movement. Lives changing is the indicator of God's movement. At the retreat, I saw several students being moved closer to God's heart; it was great to witness as somewhat of an outsider. I witnessed students confessing sins, offering prayers for each other, sharing struggles, wrestling with God, listening to God, moving with God's vigor, laughing in the Spirit, and experiencing the joy of God's community!

Wow, God! Thank you for such a great weekend! Your name was praised! Please give all of us strength to continue in your movements.