Thursday, July 13, 2017

An upside down lifestyle

"Finally, all of you, be like-minded, 
be sympathetic, 
love one another, 
be compassionate and humble.  
Do not repay evil with evil 
or insult with insult. 
On the contrary, 
repay evil with blessing, 
 to this you were called
 so that you may inherit a blessing."
1Peter 3 

In the midst of a culture much like Peters he invites us to live a lifestyle that flies in the face of the way everyone around us lives.  It's upside down, others focused and God driven.  It's a lifestyle that isn't looking for the things we can gain, but a lifestyle focused on people as objects of love.

This upside down lifestyle isn't after titles, rewards, money or power.  It's not after personal satisfaction but is focused on loving others well, for their good.

That is so completely contrary to all that happens around us that if a few people ever lived this way it would quickly change the culture they live in, the lives they touch and their own hearts.  

Peter invites us to live as Jesus did and trust the outcomes to an amazingly big God.  He challenges us to avoid personal gain and pursue the gain of others first.  It's a lifestyle that would make those around us ask one simple question, "Why?"

And with that question we can smile and reply, "Jesus."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Two things

There are really only two things 
we must do to live well-

1. Love God
2. Love others

If we focus on these two things
everything else will work out.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The nearness of God

"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works."
Psalm 73:28

The nearness of God is a scary thing if you don't know him. In fact most of the world runs from the real God for fear of the encounter, but there are a few who know him and know that his closeness is the best thing that can happen in their lives.

For Peter walking on water the nearness of God kept him from drowning.

For the leper near death the nearness of God meant the touch of the Savior and a new life.

For many in the stories of the bible the nearness of God meant they were seen, loved, cared for and heard.

For millions since the first century the nearness of God has meant hope, home, love and relationship.

For me the nearness of God has been my good.  Without him my life has no meaning, my days are empty and a reason to live is hard to find, but because there is a God who is near, who sees me, I have purpose, hope, love and a future.

The nearness of God is my good.  How wonderful to have a God who is near to those who seek him.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Back to the basics

I'm reading a lot lately about why the church is dying. One article declares 'we are not meeting the needs of the Millennials' and another proclaims our irrelevance to the culture around us.  It seems there are more reasons for this problem than we could fix.  If we tried to do them all we would become even more irrelevant that we are proclaimed to be already.

So, what do we do?  For me it always goes back to the basics, the fundamentals.  What were we commanded to do?  That's where we must begin.  If we focus our attention on this generational change or that failure we will lose our way and get lost in pleasing a culture that is more fickle than it has ever been in the history of man.

Ok, the basics.  What are they and what does that mean to my life IF I claim I'm a follower of Christ?  That 'if' is crucial.  IF I claim I'm a Christian, a Christ follower, then I have instructions from Christ himself that frame who I am and how I live.  They are not suggestive, they are mandatory.  If I simply declare them irrelevant to our time and culture I'm declaring Christ irrelevant and his instructions as optional.  If we do that then let's find another religion.  This one is done.

So, as simply as I can, let me cover the basics.  Rather, let me ask Jesus to do that for us.  Ready?

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Love God, love people.  It comes back to the very essence of what God has made us to be and do- We were made for love, to give it and receive it. 
When I sense I’m loved I draw in closer to the lover.  We all long for love, real love that loves us even when the lover really knows us, knows what we are like and loves us anyway.
God loved us first and invites us into this lifestyle of being loved, loving him and others in response.  It’s the essence of all Christianity is about.  IF I know God loves me I’m drawn to him, changed by him and become like him in how I respond to others. I, too, begin to love.  When we get that right a world hungry for real love will be drawn to us, not the church first, but to the real Christ followers.  When they know they are loved then we can begin to talk about the real lover of our souls, God himself.
The gathering of a bunch of Christ followers loving well is called a church.  The reason we are losing our impact in our culture is we have lost our instruction manual.  It’s just one paragraph and when we do that well the perceived problems we are trying to fix will simply vanish.
Here’s our instruction manual-
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ And, Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Let’s get back to the basics.