Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Self- Medicate

Well, I have spent the last four days on my couch with the flu. I feel like I've been wasting away over here in never-never land. Each day I have waited as long as possible before I take my cold and flu medicine. I don't like living in that "altered state" all day long. Although I do like relief from the symptoms, the trade off just isn't worth it to be medicated all day so I wait till evening before I dose up. I am glad to finally be feeling a little better.

While most don't have a virus attacking them, they do have other forms of attack on their lives causing them stress, anxiety and pain. And many will turn to some form of medication (whether self or prescribed) to help them cope with the pain. The problem is that medication usually deals with symptoms not causes. While I may feel better, I am not. At some point, I must face the real cause of my pain. A good doctor will discover and deal with the source of the problem and not just medicate the pain. I must learn the lessons and make the necessary changes to become healthy.

"Jesus' role as "physician" and healer is so pervasive in his biographies and so essential to His mission that he cannot be understood apart from it. The crowds seemed instinctively to see Jesus as a "physician." It's a title he clearly deserves. One has only to skim through the biographies of Jesus to note the remarkable attention he gave to healing. He was a physician, a healer whose time was consumed with encounters with people who were sick, blind, lame, deaf, leprous, paralyzed or mentally ill." Dr. Donald Senior-President of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Jesus continues to practice medicine today. For those who would turn to Him in faith, He responds with healing power. But for many of us, feeling better quick is more important than seeking Him and knowing Him better so we self-medicate with our various quick fixes and anesthetics. TV, alcohol, food, sexual experiences, entertainment, and the like only mask or numb our symptoms. Let us remember that He will not only deal with our pain, but He will deal with its source. Sometimes Jesus walks us through painful discoveries as part of the process. I think this is why we may find it difficult to turn to Him. It is easier to go to our own meds. We can instantly feel better, but we are not. Jesus can give me strength to face life the way it is. I do not need the "altered state" to cope.

May you invite Jesus into your place of anxiety or pain today.
May you put faith in Him to make it better.
May He not only heal you, but also make you whole.

Series Finale: "Meds"Week 2-No Pain, No Gain
Saturday 6:00 PM
Sunday 10:00 AM
Sunday 11:30 AM
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Examine yourself

Today wraps up my writings on the Jesus Creed. Let’s quickly review:
Jesus is asked what to do to inherit eternal life. Love God-love your neighbor was the response. A story is told to specify real love for neighbors (Good Samaritan). We learned that faith without works is dead. We learned that true love for God is expressed in practical love for others. We settled that the scriptures clearly taught that eternal life was given as a gift to those who have faith in Jesus. (Eph. 2:8-10) We also found out that true faith in God results in good works (love for neighbor). We discovered that this is how we know we are on the “narrow path” of eternal life.

I want to share a passage I meditated in this morning.

“For there is going to come a day of judgment when God, the just judge of all the world, 6 will judge all people according to what they have done. 7 He will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. 8 But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and practice evil deeds. 9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on sinning—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good” Rom. 2:5-10

What does this passage teach us? Does it say that on the final accounting, we will be judged according to our works because our works are the clearest indicator of where our faith truly lies? Could it be true that our behavior is what will be used to show the authenticity of our faith? We are either “Doing good” or “live for themselves”-these are the two categories that this passage reveals.

So what am I saying? When I started this series, I simply wanted to point out the great commandment and how important it was to God that we truly love. I did not intend to discover the undeniable link between the Jesus Creed and eternal life. I guess I am saying that my belief system of salvation by faith alone is greatly enriched by a clearer understanding of real faith in Jesus. I am saying that belief is transformational in this life or it is not belief. I have discovered that scripture teaches again and again that the evidence from our lives will be examined in the end. This enhanced understanding has caused me to do some personal examination of my own faith (after all the person in Jesus’ story who blew it was a priest!).

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT) 5 Examine yourselves to see if your faith is really genuine. Test yourselves. If you cannot tell that Jesus Christ is among you, it means you have failed the test.
Take a healthy look today. Are you living by faith in Jesus Christ? Can you see Him in your life leading you to love those around you? Ask Him to fill you with all that He is and live by faith in Him today and every day.

May we by faith live the Jesus Creed!

Love the hell out of them

Love the hell out of them

When I was a little fella, I went to summer camp with some friends. At night there would be large evangelistic services held where the “best of the best” preachers would speak. Each year there would be the “hell” sermon. Analogies ranging from frying sausage to worms that don’t die literally scared the “hell” out of us. We would run to the front in fear of hell (not God) and beg to be spared such a dismal fate.

Though my motivation for avoiding it has changed, I do believe in hell. I believe that there is a terrible place or condition of separation from God. Whatever the reality of hell is (and there is plenty of debate) it won’t be good. In fact it will be an eternal nightmare.

Last weekend I spoke of eternal life and how it begins in the now by having Heaven invade this life. It begins when God’s love expressed in Jesus finds rest in my heart. God’s desire for all is that His Kingdom would come and that His will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven”. I believe this means we who are pre-tasting heaven are to love the “hell” out of this world. Hell is a place of no love. That is what makes it hell. We can and do have hell on earth. For some, hell is a present reality in this life that will only be intensified in eternity. For others heaven’s love is a present reality that will also be gloriously intensified in the hereafter. Those who have been saved from the flame (overwhelmed by heaven’s love) should live missionally toward those who are either living in their own personal hell or are on its pathway. But we are to use love as opposed to fear.

People recognize real love and respond to it. Love “never fails” while fear always does. Love makes us secure and secures our eternity. Fear does neither. We are to love our neighbor to heaven. We practically can love the hell out of someone.

1 John 4:16-19 (NIV) 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.
May the world believe in God because of Jesus’ love expressed through all who follow Him.
May our light so shine before men that they see our good works and fall in love with Him too.
May we love the hell out of as many people as we can while we can.

Because I said so!

My little boy Sam is now two and a half years old. He has developed a new ability-the art of interogation. He asks pointed questions now. Some of these questions are designed to challenge my authority. Lately, in moments of discipline, when I give him instruction he will ask why. Of course, my response at this age and level of comprehension is “Because I said so! I am your Father!”

This morning I spent time in the book of Leviticus chapter 19. This is the source of the second part of the Jesus Creed. Verse 18 culminates the chapter with, “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD”.

Have you ever noticed these statements in the Old Testament that end with “I am the Lord!”? I find them interesting. God does not say it often but when He does, He desparatley means it.

When I say to Sam, “Don’t stand on the dishwasher door” I have two things in clear view (neither of which Sam seems to appreciate at all): His health and the family check book. The door will break and his head could hit the tile and hurt himself badly. I also would have to replace the broken dishwasher, and it would be costly. In the moment I only need to say, “Because I am your Father”. Eventually he will come into a more full understanding about why it is in his as well as others best interests to obey me but for now its, “Because I am your father and I said so”.

Leviticus 19:18 (NIV) 18 "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
Whenever God says, “I AM THE LORD!” It is for our benefit, and His strong approach at this point is designed to let us know that the avoidance of pain is to be found in obedience. After all, the reason why there is so much pain in the world today is because instead of simply saying, “Okay, Daddy”, we say “why” and find a million creative reasons to live lives of nonlove. The world is a cruel place of disobedience to this great command. Our Father greatly desires a different world and commands us to join Him in bringing it about.

All of us like my little Sam, are selfish children who must be taught to obey God’s command to love one another. To the degree we listen and obey, we experience God’s blessing and our lives take on higher levels of maturity and we reflect the image of God..

As children, let us listen to the voice of our loving Father today. He commands us to love. As we do, we cooperate with Him to restore the world to His original intention. In loving our neighbor will know the joy He has for each of us when we live by the Jesus Creed! Why? Because Jesus said so!

Thursday, January 11, 2007


This morning as I was reading and preparing for this weekend’s talk, I was interupted by my wife who emerged from her private time of reading and prayer with her Bible in hand. Knowing my topic of study she said, “I want to show you something I just read”. It was this passage:

Amos 5:21-24 (MSG)
21 "I can't stand your religious meetings. I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions. 22 I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. 23 I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? 24 Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That's what I want. That's all I want.


It caused me to pray this prayer for our church: (maybe you could pray it with me)

May your love and compassion flow so freely from your heart through ours to others that our “religious meetings” become pure celebrations of what you are doing in the world through us. May we live generously and sacrificially in our daily lives so the church does not have to dream up “religion projects” in order to get people involved in ministry. I too am sick of “pretentious slogans, goals, and fund raising schemes”. May we as your people simply love you enough to reach out to our fellow man in need. May we love your church as Jesus did and give sacrificially to it and for it. May we love You with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And may we love our neighbor as ourselves. Give us grace to grow in your love more and more. Amen

Micah 6:8 (MSG)
8 But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.

Let us live the Jesus Creed today!

What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life?

Recently, I pulled into my driveway and saw my neighbor (a devout Mormon) in his front yard struggling with a broom handle trying to get Christmas lights up into his tree. It was a mess off lights, and he was in quite a pickle. I saw him and I just went inside. I had been “working at the church” and was ready to be home relaxing. I am afraid I might resemble a story in the Bible.

“What must I do to inherit eternal life”? “Love your neighbor” answered Jesus. “Who is my neighbor”? Those are the questions asked by an expert in religion to Jesus.

Many of you know His response. Jesus tells a story (Luke 10) of a pastor, a church volunteer, and a despised minority group member. The two who “love God” correctly by attending church regularly fail to care for a hurting person on the street. While the despised one sees, has compassion, and uses his personal resources to alleviate the hurting one’s suffering.

Difficult though it may be for us to admit it, this is pretty close to the situation we have today when we drive to or from church (or synagogue or mosque) to be "holy" for the morning - to get “closer to ‘God’”, and yet we look away from the beggar positioned at the traffic light.

Without getting too distracted by the “will work for food” people on most corners in Vegas and whether it is an injustice not to give them five bucks each time we see them, I would like to ask a different question. What do you feel when you see people in need? I mean needs in general, whether big or small, what do you feel?

I believe the answer to that question speaks directly to the question of eternal life. Yes, the answer to this question holds the keys to heaven. If you feel “compassion” like the Samaritan, you hurt for others and can’t stop hurting until you “do something”. To live a life of “doing nothing” could mean that the life of God (eternal life) may not be in us and that can be a scary thought for a pastor or regular churchgoer.

Jesus said whoever believes in me shall have “eternal life” so I guess I am now asking afresh what does it mean in practical terms to be a true believer in Jesus? Could it be that to “love God” means “love your neighbor”? And could it be that loving my neighbor is the evidence of eternal life in me? I am not saying that because I missed the Christmas lights with my neighbor I am going to hell, but these questions are giving me great pause. I am asking my Father for His forgiveness and His compassion for others. I want to live the Jesus Creed. According to Jesus, “do this and you shall live”.

Series Continues: “The Jesus Creed”