Tuesday, June 23, 2015

VBS Week

One of the great weeks on the church calendar is the week of Vacation Bible School. It's different than when I was a kid. No macaroni glued to cigar boxes. The music is a modern style. Decorations are more elaborate. We can post albums of photos online instantly.

But somethings remain the same. Jesus Christ is the center of attention. Kids that never go to church come to VBS. We say the pledges (not all churches do and I understand that). And it takes volunteers to make it happen.

I am thankful for the 20-something volunteers who are here early and stay late every day. They prepare for their responsibilities and love on the 50-60 kids. I wonder if a church with 10 times the kids also has 10 times the volunteers. Or are we just blessed with great volunteers? I think I know the answer to that.

Let me be honest, sometimes I wonder if the church understands what the church is all about and is supposed to do. Then VBS Week rolls around.

For many years I've harped about what we call churches with small membership. It's easy to just say there are big churches, medium-sized churches, and small churches. But membership has nothing to do with whether your church is big or small. All churches are big or small not based on numbers but on vision.

I'm proud to pastor a small membership church with a big vision.

I must go now. I can hear kids in the hallway. It's time to rotate!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Loving Sinners

You'll hear a lot of talk these days about how Christians are supposed to love everybody like Jesus did. Usually the declarations come from people who do not embrace Christianity and are not disciples of Jesus Christ. They may attend church or claim to be Christian but their lives don't bear the fruit to back up their claims. That's not to say that authentic Christians won't say the same thing, but I see much more coming from people outside authentic Christian faith.

I get their point. Jesus loves everyone. He demonstrated his love by giving his life for the sins of the world. Just a few hours before he died on the cross Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Jesus demonstrated the greatest love, the perfect love. And Christians are to love each other with that kind of love. We are to love our neighbors with that kind of love. (See the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 for an explanation of who your neighbor is.)

Yes, Christians are supposed to love everybody like Jesus did. Jesus' love for everybody compelled him to do something about sin. Sin creates a barrier between God and the sinner. Hear these words from the Bible that describe how God's love for us resulted in action.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Peter 3:18)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Clearly, Jesus loved everybody and his love for everybody resulted in actions directed at the problem of sin. And we are to love everybody like Jesus did. We can't die for the sins of the world. We can't even die to pay the penalty for our own sins. Only Jesus can do that and he already did. Our love for everybody results in actions that help people in sin's bondage see the way to forgiveness and redemption and freedom found only in a commitment to Jesus Christ.

Was Jesus ever content to leave sinners in their sin? No! He stated that his purpose was to "seek and save" the lost (Luke 19:10). Save them from what? Save them from their sin. When Jesus began his public ministry he said, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 4:17). To repent means to turn from the carnal way you are living and toward the way of life in Jesus Christ. Jesus called for people to change from ways that seem right to them or from ways that are considered right by the culture.

And Jesus did this because he loves everybody. So Christians who are content to let sinners continue in their sin unabated and unchanged are not loving everybody like Jesus did. And non-Christians who cry for us to love everybody like Jesus did do not yet understand the love of Christ and the word of God.

Followers of Jesus, we are to love everybody like Jesus did so we cannot just leave sinners in their (our) sin and we cannot ignore the ethical and moral decay prevalent in our culture. Remember when Jesus told a woman to "go now and leave your life of sin" (John 8:11)?

So what can we do? First, we should pray. Pray that the Holy Spirit will convict us of our own sin; and then confess that sin. Unconfessed sin hinders your fellowship with God and the flow of blessings from God into your life. Pray that other believers will confess their sins, too. Professing Christians who live without regard to their own sins do more harm than good in helping those without Christ see their way to him. Pray for those in your relationship circles and for opportunities to speak truth (in love, always in love) to them regarding biblical principles and cultural issues. Pray that revival occurs within the church and awakening occurs within the culture.

Second, don't dodge opportunities to speak the truth in love. But do be careful in choosing the words you'll say and the tone with which you'll say them. Jesus was most often gentle in his conversations; we should follow his example. It seems to me that those who are outspoken about homosexuality, abortion, poverty, immigration, and other hot-button issues have strongly held opinions. All caps, bold text, screaming, and name-calling probably won't accomplish what you think it will. Those are wedges not bridges. Those hurt not heal. We can be bold (confident) without being mean-spirited.

Third, live out the "good deeds" and the "Good News" for their good and God's glory. Christians are to be salt not to agitate and aggravate wounds caused by sin, but to heal the wounds and restore and preserve the image of God within us. Christians are to be light not to burn and blast the eyes of the sinner but to illuminate the need for and way to the Savior.

I think we all agree that Christians are supposed to love everybody like Jesus did. Let's make sure we are really doing it like he did.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Back to Work

Vacation is over. Those are sad words, aren't they? Worse than the drive home from the vacation spot is the drive to work the next day.

That's my mentality this morning. I'm trying to get over it. It's early and I have plenty of day left to make the change.

A healthy view of vocation should lead us to anticipate the days off AND the days on. That's a good plan for preachers, bankers, line workers, farmers, teachers, secretaries, jockeys, clerks, and everyone.

Why do we so look forward to days off and so dread going back to work? Probably because we have a negative view of work. Some have such a negative view of work that they'll do just about anything to avoid it. It's hard work avoiding work!

God has always tasked humanity with work. Even before The Fall there was work. It wasn't a burden. Even with the affect of sin on work it still doesn't have to be something we dread.

Work can and should be one of the ways Christians honor God and give him glory. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Colossians 3:23). If you view work as something you must do for someone else then you may get discouraged, overwhelmed, or just plain sick of it.

But when work is an opportunity to honor God and when work is a platform from which to proclaim his glory, then the labor becomes less laborious.

OK, I'm feeling better about getting back to work.