Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wearing Masks and Halloween

Tomorrow is Halloween.  As a kid I loved making my own costume and trick-or-treating on Halloween.  I was a hobo, Superman, Bill Clinton, Batman and then a hobo again.  It was fun to dress up and pretend to be something else.  To this day if I put on a mask or a costume I like to get into that character.  Like last year when I wore a warlock mask with a tuxedo; I had to create a persona for that character.

Back in Jesus' time on earth the hypocrites wore masks and took on a persona not their own.  Hypocrites were actors that wore masks and played the part of someone else.  Non-actors who were called hypocrites in Jesus' day (and ours) were called hypocrites because they pretended to be something they weren't.  Jesus uses this idea in the book of Matthew.

"You hypocrites!  Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"
-Matthew 15:7-9

When I read this I can imagine Jesus shouting this at me.  "You hypocrite!  You honor me with your lips but your heart is far from me."  I do this too much.

I play the part of the good Christian a lot.  I put the mask on and masquerade as a devout man of God while my heart and thoughts are elsewhere.  I think we all do this, which makes us hypocrites or at least at times hypocritical.  Doesn't it?

I would say, "yes".  This means we are hypocrites or at least hypocritical some of the time.  So, what do we do?

Many encourage Christians to take off the masks and be "real".  I think this is a good thing... to a point. I love authors like Donald Miller who write about "real life" and "real life" Christians.  I find their honesty and candor refreshing.  However, I think some of us may be taking the call to be "real" to an undesirable destination.

I see many Donald Miller disciples encourage "realness" so much that some Christians feel the need to experience a period of disobedience in order to be "real".  In fact, I think some in modern Christianity may be missing the point of all this honest and candid writing and speaking from these authors and speakers.

When I read honest Christian writing I am reminded that Jesus take us just as we are.  Like the old hymn says, "Just as I am."  This is absolutely true.  But brothers and sisters don't miss this: Jesus loves you way too much to let you stay just as you are.  The Holy Spirit's impact in your life is so powerful that you can't stay just as you are nor should you want to stay that way.  Christ takes us just as we are and makes us just as He is.  He will make you Christlike... guaranteed.

"He who began a good work in you will cary it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

Friends let's accept and embrace one another just as we are.  Let's not encourage hypocrisy.  But let's: "consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another all the more as you see the Day approaching."-Hebrews 10:24-25

Don't be a hypocrite because you don't have to be in the body of Christ.  Encourage each other to be open, honest and grow in the faith today.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Escapism and Being Heavenly

My small group is in the middle of going through a study called "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church" by N. T. Wright.  This study, along with other things I've been reading, has been challenging my thoughts on escapism and being heavenly.

When my Grandma Ray died my cousins and I got to sing "I'll Fly Away" at her funeral.  I love that song.  I love thinking about leaving this world and flying away to heaven and unless Jesus comes back before I die that is exactly what I will do.  But is that my hope; flying away from here?

I've been challenged to abandon my desire for escapism.  What's been challenging me to do this is the Word of God.  The Bible is full of calls to live for God not leave to God.  Jesus prayed, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."  Jesus' desire was that Earth become like Heaven.


When I read the creation story in Genesis I see God making a first rate product.  Throughout the story He says His creation is good; and good is a big word for God because we read elsewhere that no one is good but God.  In fact, when God is finished making mankind He still says that all of creation is good.

One of God's desires now is to make all things new.  If I had a '65 Shelby Mustang that was beaten to death and I wanted to make it new I would not go and buy a new 2013 Mustang.  No, I would restore that '65 Mustang to what it looked like when it rolled off the assembly line in Michigan.  That is how God makes things new.  He is going to restore the Earth, at all costs, back to what it was like in Genesis chapter 1.  He will make it like new.

Now, knowing that God's desire is to restore the earth wouldn't it be a slap in His face to hold up a belief and a hope in leaving earth with absolutely no desire to come back?  Yes.  In fact in Revelation we see a multitude of saints who are excited to come back to earth with their victorious King Jesus.  Heaven will come down to earth in the last days.  "Now the dwelling of God is with men..." Revelation 21:3.  Note it doesn't say the dwelling place of man is with God.  God will come down to rule Earth.  Heaven and Earth will be one!

Right now Heaven and Earth aren't one but the process of melding the two has already begun and its beginning was at the cross.

In the Old Testament the Jewish understanding was that Heaven and Earth intersected at one point: the Holy of Holies in the Temple.  The Holy of Holies had the Ark in it and was separated from the rest of the Temple by a four foot thick curtain.  Once a year one priest went into the Holy of Holies.  When he went in he had a rope tied around his waist so that if he dropped over dead in God's presence the other priests could pull him out.  The Holy of Holies was the only intersection of Heaven and Earth in this theology.

Then came the cross.  While Jesus was on the cross an earthquake came and tore that four foot thick curtain in two from top to bottom.  Heaven had begun to burst into Earth.  More than that, Christians are now the Holy of Holies.  The Holy Spirit lives in us.  Paul says we are the Temple.  We are the intersection of Heaven and Earth.  Since we have the Holy of Holies in us we have a job to do.  We must be heavenly.  We must participate in Heaven bursting into Earth.  It will not be complete until King Jesus comes back to Earth, but we are heavily involved in God's plan now.

Heaven and Earth are becoming one now through the Holy Spirit living in us.  How awesome is that!  So, let's not spend the majority of our time wanting to get the hell out of here; rather let's spend our time getting the Heaven in here.

Pray "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."  Be heavenly today.

Monday, October 8, 2012

John 10- The Good Shepherd

I just got done studying John chapter 10 with a group of great, young guys.  It's energizing to see their love of God's Word.  It's also energizing to see all the amazing truth packed into John chapter 10.

Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd.  I can't go into all of the awesome details about the Good Shepherd that's packed in here but I will write about a couple of awesome things that are revealed in this chapter.

In verses 1-6 Jesus gives an analogy featuring sheep and a shepherd.  The sheep and shepherd in this analogy are in a village.  In the village are many sheep, some belonging to the shepherd and some not.  If you can picture this in your head you might see a very chaotic scene.  Let's imagine that several shepherds and their sheep are moving about this tiny village at the same time.  How on earth do the sheep know where to go and who to follow?

"He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.  When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow because they know His voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." Verses 3-6

Do you recognize the Good Shepherd's voice?  Do you run away from other voices trying to lead you astray?

In verses 7-10 Jesus shifts the sheep and shepherd from the village to the countryside.  Here He calls the shepherd the gate.  In those days the place where the sheep were kept was closed off but they didn't use gates like we do today.  Instead, the shepherd would lie down at the open space in the pin and act as the gate.  Nothing got in or out except through him.

"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved."  Verse 9.

Jesus is the way, the only way.  Do you acknowledge that?

Finally, in verses 14-18 Jesus says that He is the Good Shepherd.  He says that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him.  Beyond that He lays down His life for the sheep.  In fact, Jesus will lay down His life for sheep that aren't yet in His sheep pin.  Meaning, He intended to add Gentiles to the flock... and He did.  Meaning, He still intends to add sheep to the flock... and He will.  That is why He says He gave up His life.  So that through Him there might be "one flock and one shepherd."

His death was for you.  Are you being called into His pin?

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He calls you and I to Him by name.  Amen.  He is The Way, The Truth and The Life.  Amen.  He laid down His life for us.  Amen.

If you want to read more about how Jesus is our shepherd read passages like Psalm 23 or Ezekiel 34.  Thank God for giving us the Good Shepherd today.