Honest To God Christianity

I have been thinking recently how living the Christian life faithfully is not so easy or simplistic as sometimes we would like to make it. Even though we are new creations in Christ there is still the ‘old’ at work in us. We are sinners and saints at the same time. We are citizens of heaven and worldly people.

Let’s take for example Jesus statement that we cannot love God and material things at the same time. I think we can and we do. It is a tension of the Christian faith that needs to be realized, admitted and even confessed.

I love God and as I recently discovered I love my material and worldly circumstances. My wife and I moved from New York to Colorado for family reasons and I found myself quite obsessed with the ‘things’ around me, most of all my muddy yard that needs to be landscaped and fenced. Day after day I look at it with some anxiety about getting it fixed up before the winter comes.

And there is much else to be concerned with as any knows who has ever moved some distance away from all the known to the mostly unknown. Things like internet and good TV. service were on the priority list. What WOULD we do if he evenings were oh so quiet?

So I began to think, ‘Hey, how can I love and trust God while at the same time loving all this stuff. And even if I don’t term it loving, well, I am certainly spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about it. So am I going against what my Lord would want of me? In some ways yes but it’s the journey I am on and Jesus knows it so well.

Think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, so in love with God and in some ways so desirous to avoid his own agony. It was the fullness of his earthly journey that brought him to the place of saying to his Father, ‘Thy will be done’.

And so it will be with us in those hard places even though one foot is stuck on earth and mired in the things of this world. We are a work of God. Sometimes I like to think of myself as a ‘real piece of work’ as the expression goes.

And if we stay with the disciplines of faith and not quit being the apprentice/disciple that Jesus calls us to be, we will love God more and more and the things of earth will grow dimmer as the old hymn suggests. I hope it will be sooner than later, for myself at least.

So as I gazed upon the mud surrounding my new home I also gave glance to a passage of scripture I read in the MESSAGE PARAPHRASE, which is a wonderful rendering of scripture by Eugene Peterson. This passage is Colossians 3:2.

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Wow, this puts life in a proper perspective. So I walked on out my deck, looked over the yet to be landscaping and thought, ‘this is nothing compared to loving God.’ I want to be thinking and praying about what Christ is up to, what he thinks about all this material stuff. And I know that he brings me back to reality. His reality. So while material things DO have some value in my life I want God to know that it’s God who I want to put FIRST.

Oops, hold the presses. My wife just informed me that we are going to have the lawn put in. Well, the dialectic of living the Christian life continues.

 

Becoming an Olympian Christian

It must be an amazing journey to become a participant in the Olympics. The process usually starts when a person is very young and someone has his or her sights set on the Olympic prize for a child or young person.  They need sponsors, lots of money and the opportunity to practice at time 24/7. They win at school events and then in the community, state and country.  They work hard for a goal, the medals and a place in history. Whether for a team or as an individual the Olympian is the best of the best.

 In some religions there are systematic ways by which with much striving, working, self-denial and self-discipline one can attain to the goal of being welcomed into the religious community, into the company of the elite.  But here I want to say that with Jesus it is different.

It is sort of like being made an Olympian first and then getting to practice until you reach perfection. Let me explain.

When Jesus began his ministry he told all people that they were welcomed into the Kingdom of God by his invitation. Say yes to the invite and they were ‘in’. Recall the Beatitudes, ‘Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of God.’ (Luke 6:20)  Jesus is not saying that the state of being poor is blessed. It’s not. But to those who were poor, and whose poverty was seen as disfavor by God, Jesus said they were welcome into this Kingdom that had been newly inaugurated on earth through his presence.

 Jesus starts with the goal and once enlisted those who follow him will be taught how to live life in the Kingdom of God. They will be challenged to become perfect even as their heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48) And that’s a good thing because that kind of life is the good life, the God life in us.

 New life has come in Jesus and all we need do is place our trust in him and begin the journey. Will the journey be arduous at times? You bet but here’s the great thing. The coach will stay with us through the whole experience. In fact the coach, mysterious as this might sound, will place his life in ours.

I suspect if you are an Olympian athlete the coach’s voice will become ingrained into your very soul. Well, take the words of Jesus and let them soak into your mind. The Bible puts it like this, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you.” (Colossians 3:16) By word and Spirit we can’t go wrong.

 So no matter your condition when Jesus meets up with you please know that you are welcome into the Kingdom of his Father. It’s a brand new exciting life. And for the rest of your life you can have the pleasure of being in the day-to-day Olympics of living here and now in the Kingdom of God. 

THE KITCHEN SINK, A PARABLE.

 

Well, the other day my brother and I decided to install a new kitchen sink and countertop in his home. We have lots of tools but little wisdom or skill about how to use them. A daunting task awaited. I however went on YouTube. So now have more information but still not much skill to do a good job.

Enter the Master.

So I stopped at my friend, Dan’s, house who just happened to have the day free. Now, Dan is a Master Carpenter, meticulous in detail, and a gentle spirit to work with. So Dan offered to come and help my brother and me. Inside my heart leapt. And thus began our day. What a joy to work with someone who knows what they are doing. We called Dan the ‘Master’ and we became the apprentices for the day, watching, listening, learning and even doing (under the watchful eye of the Master).  Out came the tools. Dan has all the tools and the knowledge and skill to use them all. A framing square, special saw for cutting laminate. Even a router to trim the laminate edges that meet. And Dan abides by the rule ‘measure three times and cut once’. I said he was meticulous. And then Dan handed some of the tools to us to use under his careful supervision. Dan didn’t say it but we knew he meant for us to watch him, listen to him and then put into practice what he said to do.

And the end of the day there was installed a beautiful new countertop and stainless steel sink. We were all much satisfied as was my sister-in-law when she came home.

That day was a parable. See, you and I are students of the Master trying to carve out, build, repair and otherwise complete our lives here on earth in the best fashion possible and what we do matters here and for eternity, which is a tad longer than that new sink will last.

Jesus is our Master in this process we call discipleship. He knows his stuff. He wrote the book. He is a loving and skilled teacher as well as Lord. If we listen to him and put his words into practice we will do very well indeed. We will become craftsmen in our own right. Happy craftsmen at that. But we must surrender to him in matters of life and eternal life, in relationships, in work and in personal quiet times of prayer. We must stop thinking that somehow we can do life by ourselves. We can’t. We were made for him, created to live and work with him. (I thought of moving in with Dan but his wife had other plans.)

And Jesus doesn’t just give us good advice and send us on our way. He promises to be with us, to go with us, to share his life, wisdom and love with us as we live his life in this world.

But it all takes practice. It takes discipline. And sometimes we fall on our faces and botch up the job but he picks us up and says, ‘Let’s try that one again.’

Think about your life, relationships, and your temperament. Think about serving God and then go to the Master, say, ‘ take my life and let it be consecrated to thee.’ (This is a wonderful hymn by Frances Havergal.)