Thursday, February 24, 2011
Most of us find it difficult to admit we are wrong. Pride is one of the most tenacious sins; it holds on with a death grip, and we feel like it'll tear us apart if we try to get rid of it. As hard as it is to admit fault in a careless comment or an impulsive action, it is exponentially harder to admit that we have been wrong in our thinking and decision-making over a sustained period of time. This is one reason why otherwise good and decent people in history have nonetheless participated in some unspeakable evils: Many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, for instance. The biblical partriarchs, as well as David and Solomon, practiced polygamy. The Church in the Middle Ages initiated holy wars, inquisitions, and persecutions against the Jews that claimed thousands of lives in the name of Christ. We look back through the lens of history and wonder how they could have been so blind. Our pride leads us to believe that we would have acted differently had we lived back then. But we have our own blind spots. History and (more importantly) eternity will judge us, too. What will they see?
This parable highlights what I believe is our generation's biggest blind spot. God has been working on me in recent days regarding this shortcoming. Where He's taking me is something I can't quite determine yet...but I hope that this Sunday, He'll speak to you as well. It won't be an easy, encouraging message; more of a challenge than a pep talk. I hope you'll be there!
Thursday, February 17, 2011
This Sunday, we'll look at two brief parables in Matthew 13:44-46, that tell us where to find the only true treasure in life. For those who say, "I believe in Jesus...now where is the joy?" We'll take a look at not only WHAT true treasure is, but HOW we can experience it.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Fortunately for us, we live in an age of advanced technology, so we have several days to prepare for such a storm. But the spiritual storms of life--which can be far more destructive than a category 5 hurricane--often come without any warning at all. This Sunday, we'll be looking at Jesus' parable of the two builders in Matthew 7:24-27, as well as the other version of the parable in Luke 6:46-49. What does it take to be ready for any storm life throws at us?
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
It was one of those moments of amazing clarity for me. I was sitting across the table from a friend, someone I respect deeply, and he was pouring his heart out to me. He was at a point of personal crisis; some things in his life that he thought were unshakable were beginning to crumble. He needed a friend to listen, to pray for him, but he also wanted to know what to do. I gave him the best advice I know, advice I have given dozens of times before to people who are hurting and fearful. I said, “You need to see this as an opportunity for spiritual rebirth. Take advantage of this time of brokenness to get closer to God.” His response was so honest, so obvious, that it took my breath away: “How do I get closer to God?” This was a man who had been in church all his life, who had heard many of my sermons, who prayed daily, yet he had no idea how to deepen his relationship with His Lord. I realized then that this was my fault. I am responsible for the spiritual condition of my flock. I wondered how many people in my church and in my broader “sphere of influence” were like my friend: Wanting to grow closer to God, but not having any idea how to do it.That led me to the idea of writing a devotional guide. Actually, I hate to use that term. This book isn’t your standard book of devotions, nor is it simply a tool to use in one’s “personal quiet time.”...
An athlete goes through training camp to prepare for a season. An actor hires a personal trainer so he can pack on muscle for his role as a gladiator or superhero. But what we’re talking about is bigger than sports or movies. Imagine a man goes to his doctor and finds out that unless he dramatically reduces his weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure, he’ll be dead within a year. He thinks of his wife and the plans they had for the “empty nest years.” He thinks of his kids, of the experiences he wants to have with them in years to come, and of the possibility of holding grandchildren someday. He has some vague concept of what it would take to get into shape. But with his life on the line, he doesn’t want to tinker around with diet and exercise plans he can find on the internet. If only there were a sort of “boot camp” for out of shape middle-aged men, like the camps that prepare athletes and actors. He could whip himself into shape and, along the way, establish habits that would keep his body at its best for years to come. That’s what this book is intended to offer: a spiritual boot camp for people who want to have a real relationship with God, but who don’t really know how.
You want someone who’s in great shape running your boot camp, so I’ve found a great source. I am basing this book on The Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster. Celebration was named by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the 20th Century. Foster’s book is simply sharing the collected spiritual wisdom of great devotional writers that the contemporary church has largely forgotten, but who showed us how to truly know and serve God; people like Brother Lawrence, Julian of Norwich, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas a Kempis, and AW Tozer. Foster’s book lists twelve spiritual practices, or disciplines, that lead us closer to God. Of course, you could read Foster’s book, or any of the great devotional masters, and I hope you do. The book you are holding in your hands is simply a guide to help you walk through these classic disciplines. Think of it as Spiritual Disciplines for Dummies.Here’s what you will need: A Bible; a place to write down your thoughts as you travel this journey (a notebook or a computer file will do fine); a designated time of the day to read this book (I prefer the early mornings, but you do it when you’re the most mentally fresh, and when you can spare a half-hour or so); and a serious commitment level. Again, this is a spiritual boot camp. We won’t just be running through a quick devotional thought and a Scripture each day. We’ll be learning to practice the classical spiritual disciplines that have enriched followers of Jesus for millennia.
No, this week's sermon is not about brushing and flossing and the wonder-working power of fluoride. It's about something even more unappreciated, and far more important. We'll be studying Proverbs 24:30-34. Here's a term for you to look up as you prepare for the message this week: entropy. Curious yet? See you Sunday.