Monday, February 16, 2009

Church Built on Grace

I have been pondering why so many are discouraged regarding church life. A friend of mine once said “the answer to bad leadership is good leadership, not no leadership”. I believe the same can be said of church life. I believe church can be a place where we celebrate the grace of God in our daily lives and in our corporate life together. Individuals recognizing that we have nothing to offer God except our hearts. Our serving God springs from the well- spring of thankfulness for what he has done for us. We love Him because He first loved us. We were God’s enemy, yet He searched for us and made a way for us. Everything we do should be springing from this root of right relationship with God. Grace sits central in our relationship with God. In the Greek the word translated as grace carries the idea of God’s influence on the human heart and its reflection in the life; including gratitude (Strongs) A grace based people hear God and at its root is a charismatic people, we hear His voice, He speaks to us, and we follow Him not from the root of trying to earn God’s favor, we have that, but over flowing with gratitude that we have been drawn into right relationship with Christ. When we have been captured by His love and grace, church can be a people united by mission, committed to loving God, to be known by our love for others, and to be a voice of hope. These are values that endure the test of time and lead to a productive life and productive church. These values are overarching themes of the New Testament. These values are inferred as well as plainly taught. I believe that becoming a Christian is not the end of the story but the beginning of a whole new life with a new set of challenges and victories to be had. At the church I am a part of we have a saying, “Christianity is a journey not a destination.” I believe that Christianity is about loving Christ and learning to be like him and to love his church. Grace leads me to the conclusion that I am to glorify God, to bring him joy and pleasure. As I look in the New Testament God reveals three great themes of what it means to journey with God. I am to be like Christ, to take on His character and to reflect His nature. I am called to community and to give myself to building up of the church. All the exhortations to godly character are worked out in the context of a local church. Unity is held up as the sure mark of Christian maturity. As believers we are called to live a missional life, Jesus has called us to co-labor with him in reaching every tribe and tongue. These are the things the Apostles believed and gave their lives for. This is foundation that the Church is to be built on. After 32 years of serving God these values still stir my soul, they still capture my imagination. I am thrilled to be in the game.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Death, Faith and Hope

It has been a very busy time and I have been under the weather so to speak. This last week I officiated two funerals and was struck how life is so short. One was for a 27 year old lady who lost her battle with diabetes and a 39 year old man whose heart just quit. I understand why the scripture describes death as an adversary. I sat with the extended family of the 39 year old for 12 hours in the ICU waiting room as events marched to the finial decision to end life support. It was clear that some had a quite confidence of faith and others could only see loss. The parents who have now seen the early death of two of their children sat in shock and quiet strength. There is a real and tangible pain in these moments. It is where the reality of faith is demonstrated. As I preformed the first service it was clear that some of the family had faith in Christ and that tempered their sorrow with very real hope. Their conversations were not filled with platitudes but with a strong conviction that the grace of God would prevail in the deceased life. Others struggled with the reality of death and the finality of it all. The same was true of the second funeral, the family took great comfort in the diaries of their daughter where she wrote of facing death with a brutal honesty and some times dark humor, but in it all there was a deep conviction that she would see Christ her savior. Through all of this the apostle Paul’s writing took on greater significance. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
(Rom 5:1-5 from New International Version)