Sunday, September 27, 2009

Work Out

“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.” Philippians 2:12-13

I want to grow up. It took me a long time to figure out that I actually needed to grow up. When I was teenager, I couldn’t wait to get older. I tried to act older than I was – mostly to impress other people and get them to take me seriously.

But it is hard to take seriously a person who tries to act older. Because it is a sure sign that they are actually quite immature.

I didn’t realize that until I was about 40 years old – about 20 years too late. With some shame and embarrassment I remember those early days. Trying to convince others I was older than I actually was. Trying to act like I was more mature and had “life experience” when it was obvious to everyone (but me) that I really was not and had little.

Being a Christian is about growing up. I know, Jesus said we must have child-like faith. That’s true (Jesus said it and He’s the Truth so it has to be true). But there is a distinction between being saved and living saved.

When I was a theology student at college and seminary this was called “justification” and “sanctification.” Justification is having a child-like faith. That is, our salvation must be done for us, we cannot do anything to get it ourselves.

When I was a young boy I loved going to major league baseball games. But I couldn’t get there by myself – my dad had to take me. And since he loved me, he would take me at least once a year.

Salvation is much the same way. God must do all the saving. We can’t do it ourselves – any part of it. And God loves us so He does what is needed – sending Jesus to live the perfect life, die on the cross taking the punishment for our sins, and rising to life again three days later.

But sanctification is what we do – with the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament – to grow in our salvation.

Paul words it as “work out your own salvation.” Not to be saved, but to grow in being saved.

Here in Southern California there’s a place called “Muscle Beach Venice.” You can go down to the ocean and lift weights in the beautiful California sunshine. You can “work out.” Not in order to get muscles, but to make the muscles you already have bigger and stronger.

Here in Southern California, we also have some of the greatest places of learning in the world – UCLA, USC, Cal Poly Tech, Biola, Pepperdine, etc. But you don’t go to school to get a brain, but to improve the brain you already have.

In the same way, St. Paul is telling us to “work out our salvation” not in order to get saved, but to strengthen our lives as we live in that salvation.

©2009 True Men Ministries

Monday, September 21, 2009

Live a True Adventure

I love “adventure.”

I love adventure stories – Treasure Island, Robin Hood, Clive Cussler stories, Tom Clancy stories.

I love adventure movies – Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Braveheart, Master and Command.

I love adventure songs – “Battle of New Orleans,” “Sink the Bismarck,” “North to Alaska” (all famously recorded by Johnny Horton).

I also love living adventures – going on hikes in the mountains, attempting to rock climb, camping in the wilderness, walking alone in a big city at night.

Ah, “walking alone.” In a book I’m reading right now, the author makes the case that most men search for adventure that they alone can partake in. Solo mountain climbing – without a partner, ropes or other safety devices. Or motorcycling across the country by themselves. Sailing solo. Hiking into the wilderness alone to find a solitary fishing spot.

What is it about adventure that guys want to do it alone?

After all, it was God the Father Almighty Himself who said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18 ESV).

The problem is that too many men have bought into the lie that being married or parenting is domestic, and therefore not manly and certainly not an adventure.

As the father of three sons, I can honestly tell you that is certainly a lie! Being the father of three boys is a daily adventure – one that exhausts me at the end of the day. It is an adventure that I have to prepare myself mentally and physically – just as a guy would prepare for a cross-country cycle event or to play in an athletic contest. And it is an adventure I would never want to give up!

Being the father of three sons is an adventure that satisfies and fulfills me like nothing else can – and I’ve done the rock climbing, wilderness camping, mountain hiking, and other things that are normally considered adventures!

I enjoy solitary times, but God has brought into my life a beautiful woman who has been my wife for 18 years, and three young men who have been part of my life for 13 years. They need me in their lives as much as I need them – and we live the adventure God has given us together.

The adventure that Christ lived is our model for adventure today. He is the sole-begotten Son of God, but He did not live the adventure alone! He has perfect communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But He also chose 12 men – the original small group! – to be part of His Adventure. And the world was changed forever!

If you think that the only way you can live an adventurous life is by going solo – think again. God said that it wasn’t good for you to be alone – and He knows best. He will bring people into your life – a wife, husband, children, friends, and a church family – so that you can live a true adventure!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Just a Game

I watched an NFL football game last night. I probably shouldn’t have, considering how I felt at the end of the game. I forgot that the key word there is “game.” It is only a game. Yet because of the way the team I was rooting for played and because of the outcome of the game, I was not reacting to a “game.”

I was angry. I was frustrated. I was in a bad mood. “My” team lost. They played poorly. There were several key injuries that will significantly impact the rest of the season.

But again, it is a game. In the greater scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to my future here on earth if “my” team wins or loses. It certainly doesn’t matter to my eternal life.

And that is something I need to remember right now. I guess in a way I’m playing “Monday morning quarterback” about my faith and the greater scheme of things.

Games are supposed to be fun. Of course, it is a lot more fun to win than to lose, but still, it’s a game! Enjoy it as a form of recreation and entertainment. It should bring joy. I want to feel joy. And God wants us to be joyful as well. God talks about it over 200 times in His Word (the English Standard Version anyway). If something I’m doing or watching doesn’t bring joy, than I better find something else to do or watch.

What brings joy all the time? God. His salvation for us brings joy even after mourning. Our joy is made complete in God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The one who wanted to destroy our joy is Satan. He was defeated by Jesus. Jesus took the power of death away from Satan when He paid the cost of our sin on the cross. Joy is restored to us by God through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Our mourning is now turned into dancing! Our Joy is now being made complete. When we depart this life through death or the Second Coming of Jesus we will enter paradise. Paradise is eternal joy. No tears, no death, no mourning, no crying, and no pain will be there. What will it be like? It will be a new heaven and new earth. I don’t know what that means but the descriptions of what won’t be there tell me that it will be a place of joy.

There was a little girl who was asked by her Sunday School teacher what she thought heaven might be like. She said heaven is a place where it is Christmas morning every day! Because Christmas morning is probably my favorite morning of the entire year, I love this description. Christmas morning is a time when my wife and young sons enjoy worship, then sit in a comfortable home and enjoy opening gifts while Christmas dinner is filling the house with an incredible aroma. My heart swells as I see the joy on my sons’ faces. Joy fills me as I am also filled with love in my heart for them and my wife. I like to think that this is a glimpse of the joy of heaven that Jesus is preparing for us.

This is what I’m going to remember then next time I find myself frustrated by my team, or a bad day at the office, or when I’m stuck in traffic.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5 ESV)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

This weekend is, in the United States, the unofficial “end of summer.” A holiday called “Labor Day” where, ironically, no labor is usually done. It is a day off from work for most people. A three day weekend that many will use to relax, get some projects done around the house, or spend time with family and friends.

I’m going to take the opportunity to remember that God calls us to work in His kingdom but also gives us Sabbath rest periods.

God created the world in six days and “on the seventh day He rested.” And God built this need to rest into us. God made us so that we live best if we take one day of rest for every six days of work.

But more than just a “day off” it was meant to be a day that there are NO distractions as we draw close to God. He is always close to us, but sometimes the world drowns Him out. Because of the Fall, we need to close off the world in order to hear God’s voice in our lives.

Labor Day to remember to draw close to God in order to hear our calling.

You don’t have to be a pastor or missionary or teacher in order to be called by God to work in His kingdom.

You may have noticed that most people who are pastors or missionaries or teachers are passionate about what they do. Most of them are not in it for the money or the fame, but because they have a passion to do what these callings carry out. It isn’t the calling that creates that passion, however.

The passion comes from God. It doesn’t matter what you do (as long as it isn’t contrary to God’s Word). Whatever you do, do it because you are passionate about doing that. It is what He created you for. Acting, selling, making, serving, or whatever you are passionate about doing that is God’s calling for you.

God created you with that passion in order to bring others into His Kingdom. All callings have that has their goal. Not just pastors and teachers, but all people of God. Just as Jesus died to save all people, so all people of God are called to share that message with the world. God saved us by the passion of Jesus. God put passion in our lives. And so we can passionately reach the world through whatever we are passionate about.

In fact, I think I have come to a point in my career that I’m not so much passionate about being a pastor as I am passionate about what being a pastor means to the Kingdom of God. It is the results that I am passionate about, not what I’m actually doing.

The last hours of Jesus’ earthly ministry are called “The Passion.” But it wasn’t what He was doing that He was passionate about. In fact, Jesus began the Passion by praying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Jesus was NOT passionate about feeling the sting of the thorns, the slash of the whip, the pierce of the nails, or the absence of God on the cross. He WAS passionate about the result of what all that pain and suffering would be. Jesus was passionate about suffering and dying to save you from your sins.

The Passion of Jesus was the culmination of His passion for you. It wasn’t the end of His earthly ministry; it was part of everything He was doing for you and for me.

So don’t look at your job or career as “something you do” when you are not at worship. In God’s Kingdom there is no distinction between our work life and our worship life. In other words, we are not just weekend Christians. We are called by God to be and work and live in His Kingdom every day, not just on the weekends.

I hear sometimes from people that they don’t “get anything” out of worship. Could that be because we are approaching worship as something that it was never intended to be?

Church is not something we go to. Church is something that we are.

Rick Warren writes, in the Purpose Driven Life, that “we don’t worship God in order to feel good but rather to do good.

Praising God and receiving His gifts of grace, mercy and forgiveness in worship is not something we do once a week and then go back to our real life on Monday morning.

Worshipping God gives new meaning to Monday morning. Weekend worship is just one part – a small but important part – of the overall worship of God that we are called to take part of.

So, as we take time this weekend away from labor, let us think about our calling. What is your passion?

If you are not passionate about your job or career consider this:

1. Being called to work in God’s Kingdom isn’t so much about what you do; it’s more about how you do it.

2. If you don’t have a job right now, this is an excellent opportunity to explore what you are passionate about and consider how you can do that for God’s Kingdom.