Sunday, March 29, 2015

What Christians Ought to Be Known

I just love this picture, that's all... 
Question: What Christians should be known for in thirty years from now?

Simply put, I thinks Christians ought to be known for loving people outside of their social comfort zones. Today we’ve become pretty good at loving people like ourselves, but the kind of love I hope Christians are known for in thirty years breaks our social love boundaries.

Of course, love is too difficult a word to define. But let me try listing what I think the future of Christian love ought to involve:

§  Loving without putting our acts of kindness on a pedestal. What happened to giving in secret? Glamourous charity is not charity at all.
§  Loving without strings, unconditionally, no bait and switches.
§  Being unconcerned about being unnamed, rewarded, or repaid.
§  Prioritizing the other, even in the midst of personal discomfort.
§  Advocating for the undefended.
§  Being a voice for the voiceless.
§  Being better listeners to those who need to be heard.
§  Being a church without walls – simple church, organic church, megachurch – it’s all good. We’re one church.
§  Seeing the church as a home of the fringe, the misfits, and the marginalized, where these same people lead with real authority.
§  Being willing to die for others, laying our lives down like the first-century Christians did when pandemics struck their cities. They would stay to serve the afflicted while others left.
§  Responding immediately to any global crisis.
§  Thinking of long-term commitment to radical and sacrificial compassion for the poor.
§  Being a gentle conversationalist with the world.
§  Showing love for Christ more than love for Christianity as a culture.
§  Creating a place where all are truly empowered, led and seen. A place where the next generation finally reflects the majority, multicultural world. Jesus really didn’t have blue eyes! (or did he?)

Dave Gibbons
Pastor of New Song Church
Quote from Unchristian by David Kinnaman and Fermi Project (Baker Books, 2007) pg. 228-229
Original title as ‘Love’

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Lord, I Serve in the Church More than Others"

I have a love-hate respond to this wonderful story in the Book of Luke in the New Testament. Partly because Jesus told the story to the deserved self-righteous Pharisees and partly because it is about me, another self-righteous guy. The story was about two men. One man was a Pharisee, one of the respectful religious leaders of the day. The other one was a tax collector, a profession that was typically despised by the Jews and was considered to be sell-out to the Roman occupiers. Again, Jesus was telling this story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves (mostly the religious leaders of the day) over their moral performance and who looked down at the common people:

Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’

Jesus commended: ‘This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself’” (Luke 18:9-14, The Message).

Yeah, I love-hate this story. Here we have two different men. One, the Pharisee, is careful to keep up appearances and do everything right. He takes pride in his moral performance and his extravagant religious activities. If he have Facebook account today I think he would posts many religious pictures, Christian blogs links and spiritual quotes (hmmm… just like me). He might wear sparkling Christian t-shirt, read KJV Bible only and gossiping or pointing fingers at everyone’s, anyone’s faults. In his attitudes, thoughts, actions and words, he looks down on others.

The tax collector, on the other hand, cries out and pleads for God’s mercy and is unashamed to be transparent to admit that he has failed God. Rightly, he confesses his faults, acknowledging that he is not worthy to lift up his face to God and calling himself “a sinner.” His heart attitude is real humility. Wow! How far am I from this kind of humility prayer! Therefore, Jesus said, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (NIV).

I learned (over and over again) that God is not impress by my appearances or even my many ministries. God is looking at the heart. Our humility, true humility in the presence of God is what Jesus commend to us. Humility, not a habit of self-righteous and pointing out the faults of others, is what God is looking for in us. Ah, this is a wonderful story! I hate-love this story.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Who is the God I Reveal?

Do we think of God as one who likes to “haul sinners over the coals”? Do we think of the Lord as one who likes to list our sins for us and force us to “eat humble pie”? How we see God’s character will determine how we reveal God to others, so what kind of a picture of God are we communicating to people? Is “our God” always angry, never truly satisfied, constantly carping and criticising, or is he the gracious and amazingly merciful God? To bring this question down to the daily reality of our lives: how do our children see God in us, and hear about God from us? How do unbelievers in our workplace, school, or neighbourhood see and hear about God through us? In our lives, are we communicating a portrait of our heavenly Father as slave master?

This past year one of my students shared in class a most painful story about his son putting a gun in his own mouth and threatening to blow off his head. He said with tears that he had failed as a father to communicate graciousness to his son in the demands he made and in the way he treated him. Many fathers are like this. I will never forget one of my sons saying this to me, “Dad, what you have got against me?” His words shocked me deeply, and I said to him with tears, ‘Son, I have nothing against you. I love you!” I couldn’t believe I had made him feel that I was unhappy with him, or dissatisfied with who he was. We need to remember that no one has ever seen God; what they know of God’s love is what they see in us. So, again, what are people learning about the character of God from our lives?

Jerram Barrs
Author of Learning Evangelism from Jesus
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009), 123-124.

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