Saturday, April 14, 2007

Addictive Sin

For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:19-25)

If you’ve ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, you’ve seen that before anyone speaks he (or she) will say, “My name is ___, and I am an alcoholic.” When I was leading 12-step Bible studies, I would sometimes open up with, “My name is Tony and I am a sinner.”

Poet W.H. Auden once wrote –-

“All sins tend to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is damnation.”

At its root, addiction is sin. And, sin is addictive. Addicts don’t have a choice to be a non-addict any more than we can choose to not be sinners. You can either be practicing or recovering. We can be practicing sinners – running away from God toward destruction. Or, we can be recovering sinners with help from the Spirit of Christ, who leads us to eternal life.

Friday, April 13, 2007

God of Technology

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28)

Many people today worship at the altar of technology, coming to believe that we can save ourselves if we just devote enough time, energy, and money into fixing problems. Curing cancer. Reversing the aging process. Eventually, even overcoming death.

As Christians, we believe God is in charge of all life – even technological “advances”. God has a purpose for us to discover what we discover, at the time and in the way we discover it. This is good news, because God knows much better than we do what is best.

At the same time, this is a hard truth to hold onto. It’s counter-cultural. As theologian Miroslav Volf puts it –

“It is increasingly difficult for Christians to [assert that] God governs history and that the salvation of the world can, let alone must, come from God. And the more God is pushed out of our world, the more difficult it will be to address this loving God in prayer and thanksgiving, and to stand before this holy God in awe and reverence.”

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don't Worry

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

We live in an “age of anxiety”. People worry about everything. Children worry about pleasing their parents. Teenagers worry about fitting in, about making good grades or performing well in sports to get into a good college. College students worry about preparing for the future. Young adults worry about advancing in their career. Parents worry about giving their children all they need. Older adults worry about growing older and having enough to live on. It never ends.

In the face of this, as people of faith, we are called to replace fear about the future with faith in the present – God with us right now.

Martin Luther puts it very simply -- ”Pray, and let God worry.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Musical Praise

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
(Psalm 150:3-5)

There was a man in my first church who told me once – “The sermon is your part of the service. The music is mine.”

Music has a way of uniting us in worship like nothing else. When we join together in song, we can make a beautiful melody unto the Lord. Even if it sounds just like noise, through the Holy Spriit, it becomes a "joyful noise" that God takes pleasure in.

Igor Stravinski said, “Music praises God. Music is well or better able to praise him than the building of the church and all its decoration; it is the Church's greatest ornament.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

True Humility

[Jesus said], “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

If you think highly of yourself, you’re will one day be put in your place. If, however, you are humble, you will be lifted up.

In this story (Luke 14:1-14), it seems Jesus is simply sharing a lesson in social etiquette. Jesus seems to accept the social ranking and games people play with honor and praise. It seems he merely advises us to play it more shrewdly. It seems Jesus is showing us how to win friends and influence people.

But as we read this, we are mindful of other teachings of Jesus. In Luke 13:30, Jesus tells us that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Honor is not something to be sought. It is something given freely by others.

Humility is not an act, but as someone has written –

“[Humility is] a quality of life open to persons who know that their worth is not measured by recognition from their peers but by the certainty that God has accepted them.”

True humility is not a game to be played to get attention, but a way of life faithful to the Spirit of Christ.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Believing is Seeing

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

"To have faith is to believe what you can't see and the reward of faith is to see what you believe.” (St. Augustine)

It took not just seeing, but touching the body of the Resurrected Christ to convince Thomas to believe Jesus had been risen from the grave. What does it take us? What motivates us to believe?

In one way or another, our faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit, moving through Scripture, the fellowship of other Christians and worship within the faith community. We can’t often see it coming, but once it does – when the Spirit of Christ enters our heart, everything in life begins to take on more focus.

Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing. And the ultimate benefit to believing is to see the One who sees us most clearly and has given us the means to believe.

See what I mean? Can you believe it?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Look for the New Life

In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? (Luke 24:5)

"We look for the resurrection of the dead." (The Nicene Creed)

The resurrection of Christ was not seen by anyone. Someday, however, in God's own time, we will witness believers who have
gone before us rise from their lifeless graves to enjoy life with the Lord forever. What an awesome sight that will be!

As we wait and watch for this to happen, it is essential that we also look for the Lord “in the land of the living." Physical resurrection is yet to come; spiritual resurrection happens each day as the Holy Spirit enters the hearts of those who have died to the world and come alive in Christ.

Look for the resurrection - wherever it can be found.