Friday, December 23, 2016

Grey Days

I look out the window and see a few colors. A blue building. Tan grass. Green bushes. But mostly grey. Grey tree trunks and limbs. Grey sky. Grey asphalt. Grey decking.

What do you notice when you look around you? I think we tend to notice what is different. Grey has become a neutral color for decor. About 16 years ago I began a new job. The walls of the business were painted grey. That was a first for me, at least as much as I can remember. I don't recall having a grey office before that but everything was grey. The walls. The carpet. The cubicle walls. The desktops. Different shades of grey but all grey.

I got used to it.

I like grey or gray. I like when the leaves fall from the trees and all that is left are the grey trunks and limbs. I like a grey sky. I like a grey road stretched out before me.

The grey sort of disappears; it becomes nondescript. So others things, other colors, pop out. Like the blue building and the tan grass and the green bushes. I glance across the yard and see a brown trash can, the kind you roll to the curb on Fridays. What I see most about the trash can are the bright white letters painted on its side. It's too far away for me to read what it says but my eyes are drawn to the lettering. Because it's different. It stands out. Against a backdrop of grey asphalt.

It's not just grey. If everything was orange and one thing was another color, you would notice it and probably not be able to look away. Someone once told me that the way to see deer in the woods is to look for horizontal lines because most everything else would be vertical.

Different stands out. Ask those who began wearing what is now common in the hip hop culture why they started dressing like that. To be different. Ask a musician how he developed his style. To be different. Ask a hip pastor why he preaches or teaches like he does. To be different. To get noticed.

If different gets noticed - good or bad - why are Christian's content to blend in? When Jesus saves a person and his Spirit moves in, the person is changed. He's not what he was. He's not like the world. He's different. Over time he becomes more and more like Jesus.

Christians ought to be the people who are noticed. Not because of a boycott or a rally, even though those are sometimes needed. But noticed because our lives and our reactions to life are different.

I attended two funerals this week. One was for a person whose entire life had been a reflection of Jesus. The other was for a person whose life had been changed midstream for Jesus. They were different and people noticed.

The first flowers of spring, the first star in the night sky, the first car you pass on a lonely stretch of road, the splash of color against a grey background, the object that doesn't belong with the others (remember Sesame Street?)… These stick out because they are different.

We live in the same world as everyone else, but Christians ought to stand out. We ought to stand out because we are different. We are different because of Jesus.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The America You'll Die In

The America you'll die in is not the America you were born in.

Is that a true statement? Has there been a 70-year span at any time in America's history that did not show dramatic change? One this is sure: change is a given.

Those who lament the current state of the union simply aren't happy with the way things are today. They prefer something they've experienced that they like better. For some Americans that is a time years ago. For other Americans that is a time weeks ago. But things change. That is a given.

Consider a person's level of patriotism or commitment to the country. And also consider a person's level of Christian commitment. The intersection of the two spheres is not the same for each person. I know people who think the two are virtually the same. They say that to be Christian is to be American and vice versa.

I also know a few people that have no intersection of the two realities. They see themselves as Americans but not Christian at all. Still others see themselves as faithful to Christ but are not committed to the country.

Most people I know are somewhere in the middle. Their patriotism and their Christian faith intersect, at least a little.

But everyone will die in an America they were not born in. Change is a given.

I think - from a Christian perspective - we ought to be focused on the Gospel mission no matter our position of patriotism. The country you love may change - it will change. But Jesus Christ will never change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Though the country will change, Jesus will not.

Are political, social, and economic positions unimportant? Not necessarily but our position on salvation and Christlikeness is of ultimate importance.

Christians, we are to be more concerned with a person's abode after his death that the political climate of his earthly home. Read that sentence again… Not concerned only with heaven but concerned more with heaven and still concerned with this life.

Rather than an intersection of the spheres of our lives, perhaps the right way to see it is for a Christian's faith to stretch over and into all other areas of our lives.

I read an article a few years ago that pointed out the grammatical difference of saying, "I am an American Christian" and "I am a Christian American." The significance of using the word Christian as an adjective (the second example) is that it influences our position as an American. Otherwise, being an American influences our Christianity and only Christ and his word should do that.

So you are an American. Be a Christian American.

You are a parent. Be a Christian parent.

You are a business owner. Be a Christian business owner.

You are a friend. Be a Christian friend.

You are a ___________. Be a Christian ___________.

Let your faith in Christ influence and impact everything else that you are.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Substitute

I have been subbing at Riley's school for about a month. I like it. I think they like me. Riley gets embarrassed most days. And it helps with the family budget!

For the most part a substitute teacher checks attendance, reminds students of assignments, hands out and takes up tests, tries to keep the students quiet, and various other sundry tasks. I've actually taught a little English and Bible.

I hope the opportunities to teach come more often. I like subbing but teaching would be cooler.

The Bible teaches that Jesus is our substitute when it comes to judgment for sin. The penalty for sin is death but God loves us so much that he put the penalty upon his son Jesus. Jesus died on the cross 2000 years ago as the substitute for each of us so that we would not have to bear that punishment.

The ultimate death is actually eternal existence in hell without God. Jesus absorbed that punishment, too. He bore all the effect of sin in our places.

That's an awesome substitute. I'm not that good. I can do some of what the real teacher can do, but not all. As our substitute, Jesus did everything that could possibly be done. He actually did what we could not do.

Wouldn't it be surprising if the substitute teacher was better than the teacher? Yeah, not likely! But our substitute - Jesus - is way better at dealing with our sin than we are. In fact, we can do nothing about our sin. Only Jesus can address our sin problem sufficiently.

My hope as a substitute teacher is to not cause the students to spiral toward failure. Jesus makes it possible for you and me to avoid eternal death and gain eternal life.

He's a better sub than I am.