Community Day

This Saturday we have one of our biggest events of the year at MBC.  Community Day is a massive yard sale (perhaps the biggest so far), combined with games, bouncy things, food and sweat…lots and lots of sweat.

This year, we’re raising money that will go to our upcoming mission trips to Honduras.  We have established a strategic partnership with an orphanage in Honduras as well as with Compassion International.  We arranged for all of the children our church sponsors to be from a single community in the same area that the ophanage is in.  That way, we can actually go to the area and allow our members to work at the orphanage as well as visit with their sponsored children at the same time.

Community Day also affords us the opportunity to connect with people in our area, hopefully, with the opportunity to welcome them into our church and share the Gospel with them, as well.  It is one way that we work out the Great Commission locally and internationally at the same time.

If you are in or near the Chattanooga area, stop by on Saturday and say hi.  If you are a member of MBC, please make plans to be here to help out and to take advantage of a great opportunity to meet and minister to our neighbors.

I am Mephibosheth.

My name could easily be Mephibosheth, could yours?  Strange name, but an amazing story.

This morning, Spurgeon pointed me to the account of King David seeking to find any living descendants of Saul’s house that he may show them the kindness of the Lord for Jonathan’s sake (2 Samuel 9).  It is amazing because Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s son…you remember Jonathan, right?  David’s best friend and Saul’s son.  Anyway, Mephibosheth  was crippled in both legs (it actually reminds us in the last sentence of the chapter: “Now he was lame in both his feet”).

When David learned of his existence, he called for him to be brought to him.  When he arrived, David said the following:

Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.

I love Mephibosheth’s response.  He said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”  Isn’t that crazy?  Because of his condition, he referred to himself as a dead dog.  It didn’t matter to him that he was the grandson of a king…one who should have been in line for royalty himself.  Yet he understood that because of his condition, he was considered by most an outcast.

Man, I am Mephibosheth.  One who is crippled because of sin, yet has been picked up from the dunghill in order to eat at the table of the King.  In Christ, there is such a restoration that, just as David looked at Mephibosheth and saw his beloved friend, Jonathan, so the Father looks at me (and hopefully you, too!) and sees His beloved son, Jesus.  What did Meph. do to deserve such grace from David?  Nothing.  He was simply in the likeness of his father and was accepted in, crippled legs and all, and given a seat at the table of the king.  What have I done to deserve such grace?  Nothing…I’m just created in the image and likeness of God.  I am crippled and broken, but God is making me complete.  What grace!

I am Mephibosheth.  Who are you?

What Will I Do With My Inheritance?

I’ve been meditating on Psalm 119:57-64 this morning as the Psalmist reflects on the course of his life. He starts the section by declaring “the Lord is my portion.” I tried to really get my mind around that phrase and found it rather difficult. I’m sure a more learned scholar than I could get it more quickly, but I found it to be one of those little phrases that pops up in Scripture every now and again and we sort of miss it’s impact.

The Lord is my portion. That is to say, the Lord is my inheritance…the Lord is MINE! That’s pretty strong when you think about it. What right do I have to say that the Lord is mine? I suppose in a simple “god-servant” relationship, I don’t have much right. I could only say that I am God’s, which is true as He is maker of heaven and earth and all within it. Yet, it goes much deeper than that. Unless there is something more personal, the phrase is empty. It seems to me that the only way I can say that God is mine, is if there is an intimate relationship in which the greater (God) desires to give Himself to the lesser (me). Man, think about that…the Greater desires to give Himself to the lesser. Wow! Don’t miss that.

If we can really grasp that, it makes sense that the Psalmist then says, “I promise to keep your words.” The depth of love that leads an omnipotent and totally transcendent God to lower Himself to me should lead me to nothing more than a declaration that I will keep your words…I will do whatever You say. What an amazing God You are! What other response can there be?

Then comes a great little sentence: “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies.” Another translation reads, “I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws.” I like that because it demonstrates not a blind faith, but a reasonable one. I have not followed after God because I need a hollow crutch (though the more I understand the depth of my depravity, the more I understand that I really do need a strong one!) or some fairy tale to blindly believe in. I have followed Him because I know my own inability to make good choices and navigate the choppy waters of daily decisions without wrecking the vessel that is my life and know that He, as Creator, is also the Navigator that brings me safely into port. I know that He is the one who designed this life and that by following Him, I will have the abundant life promised. Hmm…make my own choices and, while being autonomous, live in the misery my autonomy gets me or turn to follow His guidance through His Word and experience amazing life beyond measure. No brainer.

This leads me, as it does the Psalmist, to “rise at midnight to thank you for your just regulations.” How could I make it without the grace given me by God in Christ? “At midnight” is just another way of saying, “at all times I am aware of your mercy to reveal Yourself to me and to provide me with direction and I worship You in response to it.” Every moment of every day should be an experience of worship because we are ever mindful of the shear grace of a loving God to hold onto us, though He receives nothing (as He needs nothing – see Acts 17:24-25) in return. As Steven Curtis Chapman said in a recent song: “This is a moment made for worshiping, cause this is a moment I’m alive.” What a great statement. All of life, for a Christ-follower, is a worship experience because “he gives to all life and breath and everything.”

Inhale…exhale – That was a gift…now worship Him for it.

The Great Misconception of Christianity

One of the most painful things as a minister and, more simply, a follower of Christ, is to see people who have fallen in behind Christ, pledged their lives to Him, and yet turn aside when the relational bliss fades and life gets tough. How is it that someone who has been delivered from a death of hopelessness to a life of abundance ever “gives up” on their faith? I think the answer lies in the popular misconception that now that I am a follower of Christ, all is well in the world…bring on the green pastures for me to lie down in.

Unfortunately, too many miss that other part in Psalm 23: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow death…” Difficulties do come and for many, it is a blind-sided attack they never see coming. I am convinced that many so-called “discipled” Christians who have been Christians for many years can come under the same attack and end up in disillusionment and, eventually, abandonment of the beliefs they once held dear.

In Spurgeon’s reading this morning, he addresses the core problem of this idea in explaining that sometimes the light of God is eclipsed, leaving us walking in darkness. Some determine, as Spurgeon explains, that “Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen.” I know I have personally gone through such doubts and confess that even now those thoughts sometimes cross my mind. Surely, THIS would not come my way as a child of God. What is the “THIS”? It doesn’t really matter because the reality is, anything can come our way, Christ-follower or not. I should never be surprised when attacked from any number of directions. Christians are never immune from anything the rest of the world is attacked with. What I must ask is, “what am I going to do with it?” How am I going to process this?

Religious people will either turn away or adopt some strange method of denial, simply holding tighter to their religious “blanky” without ever questioning the irrationality of their position. The former expect a one, two, three step answer to their problems (which must, of course, be minor at best) and if they do not get them…if they’ve been following a religion made up of a system that is behaviorally focused, they will walk away, realizing that this religion-thing doesn’t work. Man, how right they are. The latter will struggle through the challenges of their lives and attend church on Sundays to get some shallow sentimental fix.

True Christ-followers, though, face up to and embrace the challenges, realizing that in the struggle comes the growth. There is no denial and there is no abandonment. They realize that walking through the challenges shape us into looking more like Christ. It’s called sanctification. Spurgeon said it this way:

The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

So, what is the great misconception of Christianity? Well, it may be as I stated above: the belief that Christianity erases the problems in life. I think, though, there is more to it than that. It may be that it is something that even those (or even especially those) who have been Christians for many years are prone to. The great misconception of Christianity may just be the view of Christianity as a great world religion to be followed and devoted to. The sad thing is that even many of us who have repeated the cliche over and over that “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship” still don’t get it. We say the words, yet remain cloistered in our system of behavioral modifications, falling apart when the system doesn’t seem to be working.

If Christianity truly is about relationship…real relationship with Christ based on faith, then there must be troubles that push us into Him; there must be times of trial so that we know that we can trust Him and know that our faith is real. Unless we break the cycle of religion based on litmus tests and rules of conduct and get back to Scripture that reveals the Truth about real life with real problems, we’ll simply end up with more guilt-laden religious people, carrying the burden of their sins and reflecting none of the glory of Christ’s righteousness which leaves them complete in God’s eyes and finding that Christ is enough for their lives. Then, and only then, will we find that we’re able to deal with the ambiguities and trials that come our way. Then will we know that, in spite of the dark times, we are held and upheld in the arms of a loving God who works all things for good because, we who are His, love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Faith in America: The Great Life Preserver (use only in case of emergency)

Reading out of Acts 5 today, I am always amazed to read of the transformation that happened in Peter and the other disciple’s lives after the resurrection of Christ and coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter, in particular, underwent such a dramatic change that I am humbled at the radical transformation that happens when God gets hold of a life.

Think about if for a minute: Peter was the one that ran like a girl (no offense, ladies. Some of you could beat me up) when Jesus was arrested, scared when questioned by a young slave girl. After that though? Man, was he different. Speaking boldy on the day of Pentecost, preaching in the temple with authority. He has such a reputation now that verse 15 says people “even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.” What a transformation!

When I think about that verse, I’m taken back to Jesus own ministry while on earth and remember the woman with the bleeding disorder who simply touched the hem of Jesus garment and was healed. Now bumbling Peter is representing that same ministry on earth.

Where did it go? The power, authority and boldness, I mean. Do we still have it? I ask that for my own sake as I read on in Acts about how Peter and the others were thrown in jail because of their preaching, later let out of jail by an angel and commanded to get back out there and do it all over again. That second round of preaching didn’t get them put back in jail, it almost got them killed and did get them beaten. Again, Peter, who was before scared of being caught and punished for following Jesus, now goes out rejoicing because he was beaten for proclaiming Jesus.

I am struck by the flippancy with which most of us follow Christ. To most of us, “Christianity” is just something that we are; a part of our lives. To these men, Jesus was their life…all of it, totally sold out and recklessly abandoned. How many of us today still call on Him in the tough times and then move on with our lives, barely giving Him a second thought when things are good? Then we don’t understand why the blessings don’t last.

How do we get to the point where our faith moves from a peripheral part of our lives to the main focus; the driving force within our lives? It seems to me that faith that is not central is not really faith at all. Actually, I am hesitant to say what I believe is the answer to the former question, yet historically, those whose faith was strongest has always been those who underwent the greatest amount of persecution. Those are people who must depend on their faith or be crushed under the weight of suffering.

Must it come to that? Is persecution the only way through which those of us who profess Christ will be completely devoted to Him? I would hope that wouldn’t be the case. Yet, clearly, our 21st Century, Western culture sets us up for all sorts of idolatry, placing everything of lesser importance in the rightful spot that only Christ can and should fill.

I’m left with a haunting question: If I were to be beaten and threatened for preaching Christ, would I, too, walk about rejoicing having been counted worthy of suffering for the name? This is a question that needs to be answered today and I think that unless we are living a life that is Christ-centered everyday right now, in the good times, we may already have our answer.

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