Saturday, March 26, 2016

What Does it Matter? What the Resurrection Means Today

At our Good Friday service, Pastor Tim Waldron asked, "What difference does the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ make in your life?"

In the quiet moments between remembering His death and celebrating His resurrection, I made a list of what life would feel like if I did not live in the reality of Christ's death and resurrection (I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below--this is not a comprehensive list):
  • I would look for meaning but fail to find "it." Driven by the desire to add value, gain other's approval, possessions, have fun, be entertained, and experience "wow," my life would pass, but with no eternal, godly value.
  • I would lie awake at night in hopeless despair about tomorrow, next week, next year.
  • I would feel pressure to solve all my problems: paying bills, raising children, resolving conflict, keeping my world safe and comfortable.
  • I would chase distractions. I wouldn't want to be confronted with death or the idea of eternal judgment.
  • I would feel very alone. Even in my marriage, with my family, children and best friends there would be a sense of isolation and exposure.
  • I would be caught up in painful memories. The past would haunt me. I would wonder why they happened and how or if I could have changed the outcome. My days would be filled with avoiding similar circumstances and situations.
  • I would seek laughter. I would create opportunities to express mirth: sarcasm, rude comments, cynical remarks, mocking and scorn.
  • I would vacillate between being overly busy and slothful. I would work my mind and body until it couldn't function then check out for long periods of time, avoiding thoughts of the past and future, but caught in worry and anxiety.

That's me and my limited, sinful human tendencies played out in a life without Christ. And to be honest, even now I struggle with sin, failure and shame. But because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, I can go to Him and He will help me. He's just that big, that able, that caring, and that willing.

Because of Jesus' death for my sin and His resurrection from the grave:
  • My life has meaning, purpose and value because everything about Him has eternal meaning, purpose and value. Even as I live on earth, I'm laying up treasure in heaven. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20-21, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
  • I sleep peacefully and completely, because God's got my back.  In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8), In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:2)
  • I have a responsibility to love God and my neighbor, to trust and praise God. He, however, is sovereign over all and promises to take care of me. He knows my needs and meets them.  He's all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful. For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • I have no fear of the future, of death or judgment because Jesus has been there and taken its punishment in my place. Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)
  • I am never alone. Even in the darkest, most painful times of life, God is by my side; He is everywhere present. "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20) content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
     Hebrews 13:5)
  • I still struggle with the past and pain, but as I read God's Word and submit to His design for my life I find peace, comfort and purpose in His will and way. He is eternal, knowing the end from the beginning. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
  • My life is characterized by laughter. I take joy in the formation of the clouds, in the interactions of children, the beauty of daily life. I don't need to create laughter, it's all around me. God is a God of goodness, purity and joy. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
  • I am content with busyness and rest. I trust God with a day of rest each week, in illness, unplanned interruptions, demands, or emptiness. God knows and plans and uses and designs all things. Nothing happens without His say so. ...all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:15-16)
What difference does Jesus' death and resurrection make? All the difference in the world. As the disciple, Peter, said, "“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) And in knowing, in believing and doing, we find hope.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

When Home Management isn't About Me

I grew up bringing boxes of treasure home from Goodwill. Now I have a trash container that goes the other way. Why? Because my husband is a tosser.

He's learned, after many years of marriage therapy, not to throw out any and every thing that doesn't suit his needs. And I've learned to accommodate his "less is more" philosophy--despite my genetic "winner keeps all" mentality. (Thank you, Cynthia Heald and the Bible study, Loving Your Husband.)
Through wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches. (Prov. 24:3-4)

If I desire to serve the Lord and our family, I need wisdom, understanding and knowledge. Apart from the principles and wisdom of God's Word, I cannot lay the foundation (build the house). By understanding the personalities and bents of the people in our home, we can establish routines and fixtures that foster peaceful, productive living. And by growing in my knowledge of each individual in our home, I can fill it with things that they find beautiful, precious and pleasant.

Our home can be a place of refuge, solace, comfort, encouragement, strength and refreshment. Need wisdom? Ask God (James 1:5). Need understanding? Read His Word (Prov. 1:1-7). Need knowledge? Stop looking at yourself and look at those around you.

As a woman, regardless of your station in life, your home can be built with wisdom, established by understanding and filled with precious and pleasant riches by knowledge. And now, back to cleaning out the closet...

Monday, March 7, 2016

10 Reasons I Love the Local Church

Although I grew up going to church, learning to appreciate "being" the Church has increased with time.

Read the following with two things in mind--
1) Not every church is the Church. A group of people that rejects the authority of the Bible and the supreme lordship of Jesus Christ may call themselves a church, but they are not "the" Church.
2) Every church is made of hypocrites, i.e. authentic sinners. You're there. They're there. It won't be perfect. On the other hand, Christ is there, too, so there's room for confession, forgiveness and growth.

Here are 10 reasons why I love the local church:

1) It's where Jesus is. Jesus promised that where two or three were gathered in His name, He would be there. His Spirit is alive in His people. In the Old Testament, God's people gathered at the temple. Now, those who belong to Him through saving faith are His temple. Being with God's people is a taste of Heaven because Jesus is there. "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matt. 18:20
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Cor. 6:19-20

2) The local church is a unique vessel of worship. Crowds may worship in a stadium, individuals may worship on a mountain top, but there is no where on earth that God is exalted in and through unique people from different backgrounds who gather regularly and give significantly to honor His presence, existence and gifts.
... that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. Eph. 3:10-12

3) The local church is many as one. Jesus unifies His people. He is the head, they are the body. Many diverse individuals with a single focus directs not just one or two hours a week, but every choice and moment, 24-7. It's not something we do or choose on our own. It's a supernatural work of God by His Spirit. We are called to be the physical body of Jesus on earth--in different places, in unique ways--to one another and to those around us.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Cor. 12:4-7

4) The local church is a place of acceptance. Because the Church is Jesus' body in His absence, we find grace, mercy, and love here. If we love one another enough to embrace each other, we love one another enough to show our faults and assist one another. We need each other. [Jesus prayed,] "O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:25-26
Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal. 6:1

5) The local church is a place of forgiveness. We cannot fully forgive one another--only Jesus can. He does not cover shame; He removed it. He does not excuse guilt; He absorbed it. We can overlook offenses and bear the price of other people's sin against us, but we cannot freely forgive apart from Jesus' forgiveness of us. the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Col. 3:13

6) The local church cares. When crisis strikes and circumstances overwhelm, the local church is a place of practical, real help: meals, visits, prayers, safety. You are not alone.  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Gal. 6:2-3

7) The local church is a place of health and healing. Our time and culture are inundated with mental illness, depression, and disillusionment. The local church gives us a proper perspective of suffering, sin, growth, life, death, loss, success and service. It is through the Word of God that we are changed. It is in the environment of the local church that we practice, fail and succeed. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Heb. 6:10-12
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph. 5:1-2

8) The local church is a place of truth. Our world is confused and chaotic. The idea of relativity has worked its way into our daily lives and philosophy and we have blindly accepted it. It is only as we compare the thoughts and practices of our lives to the Word of God that we are free to live in truth. God's Word and God's people are anchors in a lost, drifting, changing world. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ... 2 Cor. 10:5
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim. 4:7-10

9) The local church is a place of hope. In Jesus Christ there is hope, purpose, and a future. With our sin forgiven, we live a new life as newly created beings. Being part of the church in the hard times encourages us that suffering is an expected, normal part of life God uses to make us more like Jesus.
...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor. 5:17.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor. 4:16-18

10) The local church is God's idea--it's where He wants His people. You and I, alone, doing our own thing, was the result of Adam and Eve's sin. They were all about independence. But God created us to be dependent on Him from the beginning of time. When we live according to His plan, we experience the joy, peace, contentment and freedom He desires. For now, that's the Church. It's where we come to worship, live life, encourage, and express our need for Him. The Church is one of God's tools (in addition to His Word and prayer) for helping us know, serve and love Him.
And [Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph. 2:17-22)

If, after reading the above you either need to find a church or think you're in the wrong one, look at disclaimer #1. Each of us is responsible for choosing to be part of a church that glorifies and magnifies God. If you're not going or the church you belong to does not line up with Scripture and Jesus Christ's claims, it's time to pray and look for one that does.

If, after reading the above you think you're in the wrong church but #1 does not apply to your situation, you need to prayerfully be the change. That does not mean setting everyone else straight. It means following Jesus' example of sacrificial prayer, humility and love.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:1-16 ESV