Just an ordinary day

18 04 2013

For the United States Monday was a terrible day. It was a reminder of people’s capacity to do evil. It was also a reminder of people’s capacity to do good. Many ran towards the scene to help demonstrating compassion and courage.

As Christians we see these acts of good and evil and it reminds us what the Bible teaches. In Genesis 2 God offered Adam and Eve a beautiful creation with an understanding they would trust and obey. True trust and true obedience requires the ability to choose to not trust and to not obey. God placed a tree in their midst that would allow them to make that choice. They were told to not eat from a tree known as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Notice it was not called the evil tree. It was a tree with a fruit on it that if eaten would cause us to trust in ourselves more than God and would lead us to set up our own rules rather than obey God’s. Chapter 3 tells us Adam and Eve choose to eat from the tree. Fast forward and we have Monday.

Thankfully God did not give up on us. In fact, God loved us so much he went the full distance and died for us. Thankfully that was not the end of the story. Just weeks ago we celebrated Easter and God’s victory over sin and death. There is this hope Christians have that the evil of this world is limited. We are hopeful because God offers to transform us. As we choose to trust and obey God, we see our lives changed. Hope becomes our calling card. God established the church to be a gathering place for those who have been transformed with the understanding we would go out and make this world a better place.

By now you should be trying to figure out what my title (Just an ordinary day) has to do with what I have shared so far. I am glad you asked.

What if those who were responsible for the evil on Monday had encountered Jesus? What if there was a healthy church with people who reached out in their neighborhood? What if they made a commitment to trust and obey God?

They would have been transformed and Monday would have been just an ordinary day.

If you will offer me a little grace I would like to push us. Sadly in this world there are places where Monday would have been just an ordinary day. Places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other places that don’t make the news in the U.S. face events like Monday far too frequently. When Americans hear those stories, we are saddened but quickly move on and worry about dinner. What if there were healthy churches there? What if lives were transformed? What if they had hope?

As Christians we have a powerful message. Let us commit to making our churches healthy. Let us reach out and make our communities better places. Let us also commit the next time we hear a story of a bombing in another part of the world that we will pause and pray just as hard as we prayed Monday remembering that God loves the world and the church is global.





Friend or Flow

15 03 2012

Do you obey the speed limit? We see speed limits more like guidelines. We prefer to just follow the flow of traffic. If someone goes faster than us they are dangerous and if someone actually obeys the speed limit they are crazy (of course this is after we look to see if a police officer is nearby). We all agree speed limits are important. They set boundaries. While we are frustrated when we get a speeding ticket, we assumed the risk when we decided to violate the law.

Think about obeying the speed limit and apply it to other areas of your life. At work if there is a rule or regulation but it is not strongly enforced what happens? People will go with the flow and get frustrated at the person who goes overboard or the person who actually obeys the rule. If binge drinking is glamorized in your circle of friends the laws on drinking age or drinking and driving become fuzzy. When there are black and white laws and rules but I don’t follow them I am making a statement. I am demonstrating how much I actually respect the law and ultimately the one who made the law.

We see this when we look at times we are willing to submit. If we have a personal connection or passion about a certain area it is easy for us to follow the rules. For example, if I have been personally affected by drunk driving, I will submit to the law and look for the people around me to submit. If we have a passion for equal rights we willingly submit to the laws and regulations ensuring them.

We also follow the rules when there is a personal relationship. If we know the person responsible for the rule or regulation we follow it out of respect for the person. This makes sense. Not too many of us know who drafted the speed limit law. Therefore, we are casual about it.

This gives us insight into what we really think about God. If God is distant and abstract then we will go with the flow. If God is personal then I am more willing to submit. There is an interesting dynamic. God has established boundaries. People tend to live within those boundaries because of one of two reasons. First, they have a personal connection or passion because they have been hurt by someone going outside of God’s boundaries. Second, they have a personal relationship with God that is growing. (I am ignoring the legalist because they are not following God. They have created their own rules and boundaries apart from God.)

Please take a look at this statement by Jesus: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15)

There is an expectation of mutual respect. Jesus sets a standard for his followers. It is the same standard he sets for himself. He also offers transparency. There are no secrets in the relationship. What you see is what you get. He invites us to be friends with an understanding that we would honor that friendship by respecting him and following his commands.

Imagine if the President of the United States was your friend. He (or, one day, she) would hang out with you. He would share the struggles of the office and talk about his family. If you were truly his friend you would honor that friendship. You would also have a deeper appreciation for your country and the role your friend played in the world.

I encourage you to really look at your relationship with God as a friendship. The natural consequence will be a desire to obey his commands. Why? As you get to know him your respect will grow. As you begin to grasp the depth of his love you will want to honor him by living within the boundaries he set. You won’t just go with the flow of traffic. You will be a good friend.