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Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Adventurous Life

Some call this life the “Title and cover page” of the real story that is yet to be lived.

Some call this life the “dress rehearsal” for heaven.

These are indications that this life is not all there is. There is more than just the 60-100 years that a person lives on earth.

If this all there was, I would think that we could – and should – do just about anything we wanted since there would be no consequences to our actions.

But this life is not all there is.

The Bible says that God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). I take that to mean that we were created to live forever. Yet, since sin entered the picture through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, our bodies break down as we age and we will eventually die.

But there is still such a thing as “eternity.” Pastor Rick Warren (as well as others) says that there are many choices as to where we can live in this life but only two choices where we will live in eternity. Those choices are heaven or hell. In this life we choose where we will live in eternity by our actions, our beliefs, and our love. If we love God and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we’ll live in that love. It will shape our actions and very life. If we choose to disregard God and reject Jesus Christ, we will live accordingly in this life and will also be choosing to spend eternity separated from God.

Narnia author C.S. Lewis puts this thought more succinctly when he says, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”

I would call this life on earth, then, the “staging area” for eternity. “Staging area” reminds me of great adventures, and I want to live this life as an adventure that prepares me for the Great Adventure of living intimately with God in heaven. This life is the training for the Great Adventure. But the training is also an adventure! The people I train with become my band of brothers and sisters. I’m learning skills that will serve me well in my adventures. There are emotional extremes and adrenalin rushes. There are blessed down-times of rest and skin-tingling anticipations of action. There are the moments when I don’t think I can make it and will have to “drop out.” But that is usually when a brother or sister stoops down to help me up and trains along side of me for a time.

I wouldn’t want to live in this staging area forever. Thankfully, I won’t. The time will come when we’ll get the word “go” and load up then get the green light and jump into eternity.

And the Great Adventure will then begin!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Getting Older

This past week I took my sons to the eye doctor. I also had an appointment. Each of the boys (age 9, 10, and 13) have 20-15 vision. I also got a good report, sort of. While I can see just fine things that are far away, I have a problem with stuff that is two to three feet in front of me. And the closer I get to something, the more blurry it gets.

This isn’t anything sudden or dire, said the doctor. It is just a part of getting older. I let out a sigh when he said that (and again as I typed it). So, I was fitted with bifocals and will be getting them in about a week.

As I was shaving this morning, I noticed the gray hair in my beard and at my temples. Again, I let out a sigh (and again just now as I typed that).

There’s no denying it. I’m getting older. I turned 44 this last March. I didn’t feel especially older, but I’m certainly looking it (or not being able to, as the case is with my eyes).

Getting older, the body getting slower and achy, this happens to most people. And it is a clear indication that something’s night right. Why do we get old and sick and eventually die? Why did my grandmother get dementia? Why did my grandfather get cancer? Why do I ache when I’m done jogging in the morning? Why are my eyes going bad on me?

All of these things are symptoms that something’s wrong with the world the way it is right now. And that something is called “sin.” Ever since Adam and Eve broke the one commandment God gave them (Genesis 2:17), the world has been suffering with sin (Romans 3:23 and Romans 8:22).

But there is good news. God loves us so much that He came to us in our pain and broken-down state. He came to us in His Son Jesus Christ – who may not have dealt with gray hair and failing eyesight but certainly felt pain and death! And in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God saves us from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

Max Lucado, in his book “Just Like Jesus,” says that God loves us right where we are but He refuses to leave us there. God loves us no matter how broken and run-down we are. He saves us from all sin, no matter how grave and terrible we think it is. But God also refuses to leave us in that sin and broken-down state of being. He moves us from our sin to His Son’s righteousness. While we make progress (for lack of a better term) in this life, it doesn’t fully happen until we enter that place where there is no more tears, death, mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

In the mean time, I’ll be immersing myself in God’s Word and God’s love, and I invite you to do the same!

 

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Review: My Life in France by Julia Child

My Life in France Julia Child intrigues me. She's led a very adventurous life and followed her heart to do what she was passionate about - once she figured out what that was.

She found the love of her life in Paul and followed him to Paris after World War II. She didn't speak French and she had never been to France (although she had been China and Ceylon - she had seen some of the world).

She admits that she didn't really know what to do with her life but knew she would follow her love - Paul - wherever that would lead her.

Then she had her first meal in France. That led the way to Le Cordon Bleu and a life-long passion for cooking. The rest was history.

Her life-story is a great example of identifying your dreams and following your passion with all your heart.

This book reads relatively easy and kept my attention once I finally decided I didn't have to translate all the French.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

One-ness

“One” is an on-going concept throughout the Bible. God creates one day at a time. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” God is called the “One of Sinai (Psalm 68:8). He is called “The Holy One of Israel (Psalm 71:22 and throughout Isaiah).

And the concept of “one” is at the heart of Ephesians 4.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:4-5 (ESV).

As people of God, then, it would make sense that we are “one people.” But are we? That’s a question many have been asking in these days. Are we one people? Or are we many people? Is E pluribus unum, Latin for "Out of Many, One," true?

If not actually true in 21st Century America, then certainly it is true in the Church, yes? After all, we weekly confess we are “One Holy Christian (catholic) and Apostolic Church.”

So why are there so many churches? Look at the phone book, under churches. Each city has more than a few. Why is that? Why are there Lutheran churches and Baptist churches and Catholic churches, and Presbyterian churches, and Reformed churches, and Methodist churches, and Episcopalian churches, and hundreds of other denominations and non-demoninations?

All confess to be Christian churches, so why are there so many different Christian churches?

Denominations are not a new development in the church. I believe denominationalism has its roots in the first century Christian church. There was one Church, but many different churches – the Church at Jerusalem, the Church at Antioch, the Church at Corinth, the Church at Rome, etc.

As time when on different pastors of these churches would occasionally come up with different teachings that were considered by other churches to be heretical. These paved the way for the Ecumenical Creeds such as the Nicene Creed in the 4th Century – being a common confession of faith to show that even though Christians gathered in many different towns and cities, there was still only One Christian Church.

Today, the different denominations exist because of the same type of things. One believes one thing about Baptism or the Lord’s Supper and another has a different teaching. Some are merely rooted in different traditions or nationalities. All are still Christian.

But what about us here at the local congregation?

Are we all “one”? Do we all agree on the mission and ministry direction that we believe God is leading us? There are several different ideas and opinions on which direction God is leading us. And that’s ok. No one believes they have the only right answer here. I don’t think anyone believes there is only “one” way of doing things, either.

But that doesn’t have to fracture us. It doesn’t mean we aren’t “one.”

For too long, I believe people have looked at the church in America as an institution or an organization. They’ve seen the church as an institution like a university or place of learning. They’ve seen the church as an organization, like a corporation or political party.

We’ve seen how institution and organizations have fared in recent history in this country. The church is right there with them as they are seen as one of them.

But that isn’t how Jesus started His Church. He started His church not as an institution or an organization but as a family. Families don’t always agree on the direction to go – anyone who’s been on a family vacation knows that. But that doesn’t make them any less of a family, does it?

Once, my family and I were driving from Mayville, WI to Lake Villa, IL to visit my mom. We normally take the interstate but I wanted to try taking US 45 – basically a “back road.” Both routes would get us there but the interstate is much quicker. We talked about it and disagreed about which way to go. But that didn’t make us less of a family. We finally decided to go my way and it took us three and a half hours instead of two, but we were still a family!

In the local congregations – and indeed in the whole Christian Church on earth – we are a family. A family of God made that way by God. We are many, that is true. We look different, sound different, eat different, live different (for the most part), but we are still one because we have one God and Father of all. The God who created the universe made us all one. That’s powerful stuff! The power of the universe is the power of our “one-ness.” Nothing can fracture us unless we stray from that power, the power of God in Jesus Christ!

That’s why we cannot “do” church like it is some institution or organization. We can’t “do” church at all. We can only be the Church! When Jesus started the Church 2000 years ago, He didn’t start it as an organization. He didn’t organize His followers. He called them. And He called them from all over! You have Jews from Judea, Jews from Galilee, Romans, Cyprians, Africans, Greeks, and on and on. E pluribus unumsanctam ecclesiam– “Out of many one … holy church.”

Jesus Christ died and rose again for the world – as it says in John 3:16 and Hebrews 7, 9, and 10. He died for all and made us all one in that death. We were all one as sinners and now we are all one as redeemed.

Not everyone accepts that. That is why Jesus called us together – so we can go out into the world and make disciples, baptize and teach. We are called as one to share the Good News of Jesus. We learn about it together, we strengthen each other together, and now we can tell others together.

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