If you missed this Sunday, you can check it out here.
How engaged are you with the world around you? We have gadget upon gadget to help us “engage” the world. We are in information overload. We know more about people and the world and each other than we ever have, but are we truly engaged? We eat lunch and dinner with friends but while we dine we log more time on our phones checking texts, tweets, and Facebook statuses of friends we barely know or barely see. We are loaded with television, movies, and sports. We are entertained and amused. The reality is that as much information as we have, we are less engaged than ever. We can’t see our friends for our Facebook.
I am not claiming that these social tools are bad, obviously since I am currently using one of these tools to engage, but I am wondering how much our information seeking, entertainment watching, and social media posting is used to keep us one step removed instead of one step closer to our surrounding life. Instead of engaging the world outside we are collecting information to catalog and control the world outside.
If this consumerist escapism is as deeply engrained in our cultural worldview as I think it is, I wonder how much it has transformed our ideas of our worship of God. Has our worship and relationship with God turned into an opiate? Has our faith withdrawn us from society, caused us to disengage from our neighbors? Has the practice of our faith simply been a trade in of one coping tool for another? Or does our faith in Christ and Christ’s work in us result in something more.
Karl Marx said the following:
Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.
Is he right? Is religion the “opium of the people?” I wonder sometimes if Christian worship on Sunday mornings in western culture has become what I like to call “worshiptainment.” I wonder if Christian small group studies have diminished into surface self-help psychology. What Marx observed was people using religion to disengage the world around them. The people were overwhelmed by the injustices and hardships of their circumstances that faith became a mental coping mechanism that helped them “hold” on, until they were dead and in “heaven” as they understood it.
I believe this approach to the Christian faith is not what God intends. Ephesians 5:1 says,
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
To be like Christ is to do the things Christ did and does. God became flesh. God engaged the world, he did not withdraw. The letter to the Ephesians was a call to community in Christ for the sake of us being united in God and united in one another. (Ephesians 1:10). Paul goes on to outline the main places this mission is played out; marriage, parenting, and work. The over all mission is to engage one another in acts of love in service in all parts of our living as grounded in Jesus Christ.
If our worship withdraws us from life, we’ve missed the point of worship. Do we need a break from the destructive forces of the world? Yes. Did Jesus withdraw to be alone with God? Yes. But these were all done with the purposes of continuing engagement with the lives around us. Worship without mission is pointless and mission without worship is powerless.
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church, the day the Holy Spirit filled the lives of the disciples and all those who came to call Jesus as their Lord. Pentecost is the day that God empowered people to go on mission into the world to reveal the hope of the Gospel of Christ. Pentecost was the act of worshipping God, being commissioned by God to engage the world with his love, and the gift of the power to do so.
Today we stand with that same mission, promise, and power. We do not become Christians to escape hardship, but to engage hardship with the power of God.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Christ we are more than those things that seek to conquer us, or degrade us, belittle us, and devalue us. In Christ we are given mission to move into the world in strength, to no longer have to disengage the world. We have nothing to fear, but can face the fears of the world with power and love. In Christ we can be change agents in the world we live. It’s not just a possibility, it’s a calling and mission given to us all.
As you prepare for worship this Sunday, look over these verses above, read through Acts 1 & 2, and Ephesians. How does your worship of God transform your life? Are you engaged in the world with the power and love of Christ?
If you missed this Sunday, you can check it out here.
12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one
another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14
Are you able to recognize opportunities for you to demonstrate God’s love to others? If so, do you act on these opportunities or do you let them slide by? If you aren’t able to recognize these opportunities, what can you do to intentional seek opportunities to practice God’s love?
“Wives submit to your husbands”… now there is a Hallmark card for you. Did you pick that one up for mother’s day? Ephesians 5:22, “Wives submit to your husbands as TO THE LORD.” Is Paul crazy? Can you just see this hung on one of our banners at church? Perhaps a new song on your Christian radio station. I can only imagine the letters that would be written.
What do we do with scripture like this? There are a couple of things that are done with it.
- We take it just like it is and use it to dominate others.
- We justify it away and say, that was a cultural writing only applicable for that time and no bearing on our society today.
- We assume Paul to be a misogynist and only embrace the stuff he writes that we like.
- We look at the broader parameters of the scripture and find out what is really being said here.
Number 4 is the right answer, but too often we live out the first three. The problem with the first three is that we lose scriptural authority and unloose a thread that could unravel without end. But that is a blog for another day and I want to talk about submission.
Cultural influence does play a role here but if we look at those cultural roles and rules we would see that Paul was quite ahead of the curve when it came to respecting the humanity of others. The culture at the time was male dominated. There was really no reason Paul would need to say, “wives submit to your husband.” It was understood. Women had no property rights, voting rights, or much authority at all. So what was Paul saying?
The letter of Ephesians was couched in the framework of serving one another, creating healthy community, through the imitation of Jesus Christ. Paul was not telling women to treat their husbands as “gods” but to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ… which the Church does out of response to Christ’s acts towards us, acts of service, acts of love, acts of commitment. It is what Paul says to the husbands that is radical. “Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the church.” Jesus died for the church… remember? This was a radical thought then and remains so now. Christ did this with no thought as to if we would respond or not, he did it because it was the right thing to do that would bring about life.
What would happen if we lived toward one another in a way that was not dependent upon other people’s response, but upon the right thing to do that would bring about life in them and ourselves?
As we prepare for worship this Sunday, let us read Ephesians dressed in what Paul says in Ephesians 5:1
“be imitators or God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
With that lens, how does this change your commitment to your spouse, your friends, your enemies? To allow God to transform you, means making the most out of the opportunities to practice his love. The best place to begin that practice is in your home.
Pray and pay attention:
- That God would continually transform your heart and mind.
- That you would learn how to imitate Christ,
- That you would see the opportunities he presents and practice his love.
If you interact with any kind of social media and have been watching the news, the verbal sling that has been slung has been brutal and biting. People have lost friends, made enemies, and been left with a bitter and narrow view of community. The name of Jesus Christ has been wielded like a bludgeon from opposite sides of opinion. If Facebook could bleed, it would look like a battle field where friend and foe find something in common: a life filled with the bloody cries of the wounded.
This Sunday’s sermon stems from Genesis 2:18-24 and Ephesians 5:21. The idea we will be exploring is that we are not meant to be alone. We are made for community and for one another, but in a world so dominated by mistrust, anger, fear, and entitlement, how can we actually find that community? The answer can almost be as controversial as the purveying dialogue in our society. The answer is Jesus Christ.
I can almost hear groans as well as cheers. But this is no mere trite answer. I understand the reason for weariness when it comes to the name of Jesus Christ. The name has been wielded to wage wars of opinion, to sway vote, influence, and manipulation. Within and without the church, this bent to use Jesus Christ as a puppet has often been the root cause to derision and division. God is not an idol we wield. God is the creator who in-dwells.
We want community, we long for unity and we have vague ideas how to get there. The Christian teaching tells us that the only way to be kind, to live as Christ, is to have a servant heart. The servant heart is one that is filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that forms the servant heart and servant that is the foundation for any good relationship.
Timothy Keller, author and preacher, says the following are 3 evidences and benefits of the Spirit of a servant heart:
- The ability to hear criticism without being crushed
- The ability to give criticism without crushing.
- The ability to forgive people without residual anger.
In short, it is the ability to take your mind off yourself and discover your value in the heart of God.
You see, in order for us to be made whole in community and become the people we are destined to be, we must have the mind of Christ. That means we must have Christ dwelling in us, wielding our Spirit as we yield to his. When we stop using the name of Christ as a weapon and allow Christ to use us as a means of grace,we will find good life happening, healthy conviction working, safe struggle emerging, and lives transforming into the image of God. We will find that we can lift up and be lifted up as we work out what Christ is working within us.
This Sunday we will explore this teaching of community and a servant heart. What difference would living this make in your life? Have you seen examples of the servant heart in action. Feel free to share your opinions and thoughts by clicking the dialogue button in the top right corner of this post.
- Be in prayer for your enemies.
- Be in prayer for a servant heart.
- Be in prayer for God’s healing in our fractured communities.
- Be in prayer for forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Be in prayer for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
If you missed this Sunday, you can check it out here.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1
Do you fix the fragmented parts of your life with duct tape and superglue or do you “hire a professional” (God)?
This week we are beginning a series called “Home Improvement.” We will be taking a look at how we can improve our relationships with God, our families, neighbors, and ourselves. When we begin a series like this, it is very easy to segment our lives and teaching into little psychological compartments. Like any building, if we do not start on a good foundation, we will sink. There is a question that should be in front of our faces whenever we start any endeavor at self-reflection and self-improvement. What is it all for? Where do I begin? Where am I going?
You may have made some goals for this year, but did you make the right goals? Every once in a while I get that deadly combination of being hungry and lazy. I am hungry and I know I need to eat something. However, I am lazy and do not want to fix anything. On the top shelf of the pantry sits a bag of chips. Even worse, a box of cookies rest next to them. They tempt with their salty and chocolatey goodness. They speak gently and say, “I require nothing but an accompanying glass of root-beer or perhaps some cold milk.” The hunger is soon satisfied, but my body isn’t. A goal was set. Feed the hunger. But the need was not met. Fuel the body. I didn’t need a snack, I needed a meal.
We compartmentalize our life so much that we make the assumption that one part of our life has nothing to do with the other. We assume that our eating habits have nothing to do with our work habits and our work habits have nothing to do with our home habits and our spiritual habits have nothing to do with anything. This is one reason we struggle to meet the goals we make or are surprised when the goal met doesn’t fully satisfy. We fill up on snacks when our life requires a meal.
While reading Philippians 3, I came across verse 8. Paul writes, ”I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul was writing here about the danger of basing our relationship with God on how religious we are. Essentially, he warns that if our life is centered around religion and not Christ, we will miss out. We snack instead of feast. But the warning, though directed toward the religiously zealous, is not limited to them. Is this warning not true with all of life? Is everything considered loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ? If so, then what does that mean?
Once again, we fall into the danger of thinking our lives are compartmentalized. We would like to take these words of Paul seriously, but either we chuck them out because we think it too radical, or embrace them with lack of understanding and become fanatical. The words of scripture are never to be removed from life. God didn’t just create humans with a soul, but with a digestive system too. What I mean by this is that our spiritual life is directly related to our living, breathing, playing, working, and eating life. If that is the case, then “considering all loss” in comparison with knowing Christ is not to dismiss everything else, but to place it in context.
Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. And all these things will be added unto you.” Seeking the kingdom, seeking Christ, is not about being devoid of life, but about entering into it fully. It is about setting the right goal. I can be determined to eat healthier this year, but it might not require me to be a nicer person. However, when I seek Christ first and when I set my life upon knowing Jesus, if taken seriously, will help me lose weight, work better, play better, etc. The reason is that I have determined to take the words “my life” seriously. My life is not limited to one portion of what I do. My life is not simply spirituality removed from the physical aspects of living. My life is not segmented into multiple parts disconnected from one another. My life is centered in and hinges on my direct relationship with Christ. Therefore, how I spend my money, how I eat my food, how I delegate my time, is directly related to how I know Christ.
What might your life look like if you asked yourself how knowing Christ affects the various goals you have set in your life. And if you have not set goals for yourself, how does knowing Christ fit into that as well. Jesus isn’t just junk food religion that desires to feed a temporary hunger fix. He is the real thing that desires to fuel your entire life. What you and I will discover in making a life that seeks to know Christ, is a God who desires to give life and fulfill our deepest and truest desires. Let us not just settle for snack food living, but let us feast on the meal only Christ can provide.
Things To think about:
- What is the state of your relationship with God and how is that affecting your relationships with others?
- How is God connected to the desires of your heart?
- If you could change 3 things in your relationships, what would they be?
- Do you believe God cares about your relationships and wants life for you?
Praying and Preparing for Sunday Worship:
- Read Ephesians 2:19-22
- Pray for God to reveal to you areas you need to allow him to meddle with.
- Pray for your pastors and worship leaders that we will be attuned to the Holy Spirit and his leading.
- Pray for courage to allow God to work in your life
- Pray for those who will be worshiping together that our lives might uplift one another.