Thursday, May 27, 2010

God's Plan for Your Life

I come from a family of artists. My childhood home was covered with paintings and drawings created by my dad. My brother originally went to college as an art major before switching to architecture. He uses his creative skills at work everyday, but still finds time occasionally to draw or paint just for fun. And now my daughter Kayleigh has followed in their footsteps. She's in the art magnet program at Johnston Middle School, and I'm consistently amazed at the beautiful works she creates.

Scripture teaches us that God is an artist. This Sunday, I will be preaching on Ephesians 2:1-10, which contains one of my favorite sentences. Verse 10 says, "For you are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand, that you would do them. That word "workmanship" is a translation of the Greek word poema, which means "work of art" or "masterpiece." Since before you were born, God has been working to equip you for the purpose He had in mind when He made you. Ephesians 2:1-10 talks about that process of transformation, what we can do to experience it to the full, and what it's all ultimately leading to. It will be a very affirming message.

Friday, May 21, 2010

God's Plan for the World

Just after the 9/11 attacks, thousands of young men and women enlisted in our country's Armed Forces. Indignant at the savagery of terrorism, these young Americans were determined to do their part to assure this would never happen again. Meanwhile, another story at the time got quite a bit less media attention. There were also people in the military in 2001 who went AWOL when our nation's leaders invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. I remember one young man telling the press that he didn't sign up to fight. He joined the military so that he could gain valuable skills, build a solid resume, and get money for college. But now that he would be required to put his life on the line, he was quitting...even though it meant facing military justice.

In a spiritual sense, American Christianity has a lot in common with that reluctant soldier. We have many of the outward signs of historic Christian faith, but underneath our "uniform," our commitment to God's Kingdom is weak. We follow Christ because we have determined that it's the smart play. Jesus forgives our sins and assures us of eternal bliss. He protects and provides for us, and if we play our cards just right, He might even give us the stuff we've been dreaming of. In reality, we are using God (or attempting to do so).

But the biblical description of following Christ is focused on God's Kingdom; all other things take care of themselves. True Christianity doesn't seek to use God; it is determined to BE used BY God.

This Sunday, we'll begin a six-week study of Ephesians that I'm calling "God's Plan for the World." What is God up to in the world, and how can we be involved in His work? We'll take a look at the plan He had in mind before He created the first atom (or the first Adam!). That plan is what life is all about; it's exciting to think of, to anticipate, and to be involved in. It is my strong belief that when we commit ourselves wholeheartedly to His plan, then we start to truly live.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When You Can't Hear God's Voice

Imagine you're stranded on the Southwest Freeway in the heat of the day. You pull out your cell phone to call the person you trust the most: Your parent, spouse, or best friend. But there's no answer. What do you do?

Do you curse their name, call them unreliable, assume they're screening their calls and are not answering simply because they no longer like you?

Do you throw your cell phone off the overpass into the oncoming traffic and swear never to call anyone, ever again?

More likely, you assume that there's a very good reason why they didn't answer. You know that they will check their voice mail and come pick you up as soon as possible.

It's not a perfect analogy to prayer, I know (for after all, we can always call someone else in my stuck-on-the-freeway scenario). But my question is: Why don't we extend God the same benefit of the doubt when we call on Him? This Sunday, we will conclude our series on Hearing God's Voice and Knowing His Will, but I would be irresponsible if I didn't acknowledge that sometimes we can't hear His voice, no matter how hard we pray. God is not limited by human fallibility; we know He isn't too busy, away from His phone, asleep or on the other line. But we also know that He loves us. When we can't hear Him, there is always a good and valid reason. So what might some of those reasons be? And what should we do in the meantime? We'll take an honest look at those and other questions this Sunday, as we study Psalm 13.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Finding God's Plan for Your Life

I got the call Sunday afternoon, before I had left church. My Grandpa had died, after a long struggle with Alzheimer's. Cecil Williams never went to college. Aside from a stint in the Navy, he never lived anywhere but the rural community where I grew up. He spent his entire adult life in a church of less than 100 people. Yet as I spoke at his funeral Wednesday morning, I was amazed at how many lives he had touched...including mine. Grandpa was a man of amazing faith, and he left that legacy for me, my brother, my cousins and our children. I shudder to think where I might be if he had not been the man he was.

Grandpa was proof that a great life may not include all the trappings of success that we value. If God is the ultimate judge of our lives--as Scripture clearly teaches--then a truly great life is one in which we accomplish the purpose for which He created us. Paul, near the end of his own life, said, "I have finished my course." The idea was that he knew he had done what God put him on Earth to do. Because of that, he could face death without fear or regret.

So how can we live in that way? So far, God hasn't come to me in a blinding flash of light or a burning bush, so how can I know God's plan for me? This Sunday, we'll tackle that very important question. Our text will be Proverbs 3:5-6. I hope I see you there.