Thursday, April 28, 2011

Christianity and The Simpsons

This past weekend the pastor at our church told a bit of his own story and shared some of his own confusion about who Jesus really is and about what it means to be a Christian. If the Good Friday post resonated with you at all, give this a listen! A lot of times I'll listen to a sermon while cooking, cleaning, driving, running...(well, ok, jogging)

Matt Chandler on Gospel Clarity

And you'll find out why this post is titled "Christianity and the Simpsons" :)

The podcast is also available for free at itunes under "The Village Church"

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Good" Friday?

It's hard not to become calloused to words we hear over and over again. Whether you're a Christian or not, you've probably heard the name Jesus used in more contexts than you can count. It's almost like He's become a concept that gets thrown around between political parties, pet causes, hobby horses and angry radicals. I think it can be hard for those inside and outside the church to know who Jesus really is and what "being a Christian" is all about.

Good Friday reminded me. It reminded me that Christianity is actually the opposite of what so many think it is. I'll explain. Most religions believe that man is morally flawed. Watch the news and we find that pretty easy to accept, right? But the solution, according to "religion" is that we should therefore try to do good things to make up for the bad we've done. So when someone sees a billboard (I actually saw this today in Dallas) that says in large letters "turn from sin and follow Jesus" they probably think, "I need to stop doing bad things, clean myself up and start doing things to please God in order to get right with Him."

Good Friday reminded me that the only problem with that idea is the Gospel itself. The message of Easter is that we can't get right with God. We can't clean ourselves up and do enough "good things" to please God. And God, knowing that, does the most unimaginable thing possible. He does it for us.

He comes to where we are and takes on our flesh. He subjects Himself to our weakness, pain, and disease. He not only lowers Himself to be in our physical presence and take on our limited, creaturely form, but He washes our feet. He loves us perfectly and lives before God perfectly. And then He willingly takes death in our place. As a result, we are given His life.

Just let that sink in. Who would think up a God that humbles Himself by going down to His creation and letting their dirty, broken filth get on Him? Who would think up a God who would take His own justice onto Himself for the sake of His creatures? It's about as unnatural as thinking that I can't be the solution to my own problem. But that's the Gospel! I can't save me, and I can't please God. But Christ can, and He has. And He did it for me.

That's what it's called "Good Friday."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Beautiful Letdown

Remember a few posts back when I said going to Africa has nothing to do with holiness? (here) Well, I'd say thus far my supposition has proved even more true than I'd hoped. So far, this whole ordeal has only made me realize how unholy I am. How easily discouraged I am. How distracted, doubtful, and self-dependent I am.

One or two people make a negative comment and I'm questioning whether we're doing the right thing. Money isn't pouring through the rafters and I question whether God will really provide. Beautiful rhetoric isn't flowing perfectly from my mouth in communication about our trip, and I doubt whether I'm cut out for ministry.

I've reminded myself a lot of Moses. When God chose him to go tell Pharaoh to let His people go, he disagreed. "Who am I to lead these people?" I've reminded myself a lot of the Israelites leaving Egypt, who assumed God would leave them to die only days after He parted the Red Sea for them to escape. I've even reminded myself of Peter, who was so afraid of others that he denied even knowing Christ three times.

Basically, I've realized how weak my own faith is. I've realized how easily I crumble and how quickly I doubt. I've realized- the hard way- that confidence in me will always lead to disillusionment. I can't stand on my own promises to love God, no matter how sincere they are in the moment.

And the strangest and most beautiful part is that I think God wants me to realize that. He wants my confidence in me- my faith, my talents, my resume, even my theology- to be shattered so that my confidence in Him can increase. He wants me to realize that throughout history, He's been in relationship with people who falter, who forget, who fail. That's what our relationship with Him has always been. We've always been faithless and He's always been faithful.

This has been a painful fall and a glorious victory.

I will glory in my Redeemer
His faithfulness, my standing place!
Though foes are mighty and rush upon me,
My feet are firm held by His grace.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Man of Sorrows

Do you ever stop and notice people?

Yesterday morning at the YMCA for some reason I just, noticed the people around me. I saw them. And it actually made me really sad. There was a blind man setting up his little massage chair, hoping to make a living. An older gentleman was working on a weight machine, trying to keep his heart pumping. A beautiful woman was wearing less clothes than necessary, wanting to be valued.

And I surprisingly shed tears that morning; not because of any catastrophic event or tragedy, but just because I was moved by the brokenness of humanity. I realized that it doesn't take a tsunami to show us that we are in need. We are handicapped, we are tired, we are insecure. We are hurting and dying. We are in desperate need of rescue and redemption.

Maybe this is one of the reasons Jesus was referred to as "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." If I was moved to tears with sadness for our race- I, who am largely unaware and unconcerned, skilled at numbing myself to the reality of my own and others' pain- how much more was Christ, Love Incarnate, aware? One who sees us more deeply than we even see ourselves, yet who also loves more deeply than we can fathom- His heart must have been heavy long before He carried a cross up a hill called Golgotha.

His heart is heavy for you.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Reason to Sing

Wow. Today in the car I was singing to myself and God (poor guy, has to listen to me make up songs as I go) and anyway, I just had this amazing moment of realization about some stuff.

A friend of mine recently wrote about being thankful and praising God for His grace in our lives and therefore being joyful in any season- because in every season there is always God's grace and He is always good, right?

So then I started thinking- God, what can I praise You and thank You for that will never ever change, no matter what my circumstances are? There are plenty of blessings in my life that I can be thankful for (remember all those gifts He gives that we hold loosely? Here's where I wrote about that)
But all of those things can change regardless of my best efforts to keep them-
Loving husband (he can go crazy, turn mean and hateful, or die), good health (despite my best healthy efforts I could get cancer or get hit by a car and lose it all), financial provision,
(I don't even need to explain how this could go up in smoke) etc. etc. Seriously...anything in my life could be changed in an instant.

Except one thing: that He loves me and has given me life. I don't just mean physical life (we all know that WILL change one day!), I mean spiritual life.

"And you who were dead in sin, God made you alive in Christ..."
"The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; but I have come that you may have life!"
"And this is eternal life, that you know Christ"

So, what am I saying? In all of my life, in every season, God is still good, and His goodness fundamentally and overwhelmingly displays itself in what He has done for me on the Cross and in Christ. And for that, I will never run out of reason to praise.

All the extra stuff? It's extra stuff. It's nice, but I don't need it in order to be thankful. I don't need it in order to have joy. Because He's already given me far more than I deserve, and far more than what was "required" of Him. He doesn't owe me a thing- He never did! But in Christ, He gives me exceedingly more than all I ask or imagine.