Monday, March 26, 2018

Compelled By The Love Of Christ And Easter

For the love of Christ compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15

     You may not like this, but I still think it's worth talking about. The love of Christ does more than save you. It changes you. It transforms you. It rearranges your priorities, which means it reorganizes your life. When you really get the enormity of his love, you come to love what he loves.   
     You love and prioritize the mission he's given you. "We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ's behalf: 'Be reconciled to God' (2 Cor. 5:20)." His great love compels you to make his good news known to all people. He loved you. That overwhelms you. Your response is to love God and make his love and gospel known.
     Easter is next Sunday. It is probably the holiday when unchurched, lost people are willing to attend a religious service. Christmas is still in the race, but Easter is the big day for getting someone into a house of worship to hear the Gospel. What will you do with it?
     Will you gather with family only? For some of us that is the mission field. We travel great distances to go to church with mom, dad, brother or sister, because the only time they go to church and consider God is when we show up in town and take them. However, some of us see holidays only as family days. Our priority for Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving is to get together with our family. Is that wrong? Of course not, but it may not be altogether right either.
     What if the gospel was your priority this Easter? You might spend the week in prayer, inviting friends, family, and everyone else you met to come to church and hear about Jesus. You might decide that being at church to meet those people when they came was more important than eating another ham with family. After all, your family is saved. You communicate that to family. Some get it. Some don't. But, you have eternity to spend with them, and will see them next week. You don't have eternity with your neighbor, because he is lost. That's why you prioritized Easter for the gospel.
     Hey, I said at first that you may not like this, but, if the gospel is your priority because the love of Christ compels you, you might at least consider it. Easter is the singular outreach Sunday of the year. If you invite people to come and then you're not here, well, the person they were most likely to connect with at church won't be there. But, if you're there, and they come, it's a very different story.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Hoping In The Resurrection While We Grieve

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13

     I have lost more in the last few years than at any other time in my life. My wife and I have become empty nesters. Our church has changed significantly, and while some change is good all change is a loss of what was - good or bad. I've lost friends. Some to conflict, some who have left our community, and some who have left this earth. And, when I think about those who have died in the last couple of years (Beck, Jim, Harold, Shirley to name a few), I miss not only them but many more in my life who have died. 
     Jim and Harold weren't just friends. They were mentors, broad shoulders and listening ears. Men I knew might disagree with me, but would never betray me. Shirley was there, present, faithful. That may not seem like much of a compliment, but she consistently loved my children and every other child in our church for generations. And then there's Becky. What can I say about her except, "You ain't right."
    Loss isn't just about here and now. Every time we lose someone we're not only left with the emptiness and grief of that loss, but also with the loss of our imagined future that contained them. We lived each day with the blessing of their presence, and we imagined a future in which we would continue to share life with them.
     We can heal. We can work on our grief, begin to develop new ways of living each day, but to really overcome our grief we also have to deal with the future. It's not just today without them, it's every day without them. 
     Just as God heals our current grief, He also has a remedy for our future-without-them grief. It's called the resurrection. If we believe in Christ, we will grieve because we loved like Christ. But, we do not have to grieve without hope. We do not have to fear the future without them, because "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep" (1 Thess. 4:14). 
     We don't have to imagine a future without them if they believed in Jesus and we believe in Jesus. God has guaranteed that our future contains, not only Jesus, but all those in Him who we so love. We just have to wait a little while to see them. And, while we wait, we are not alone. The One who rose from the grave, who promises to unite us completely and finally with Him, and to reunite us with those we have lost is with us even now. 
     "For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel's voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so WE will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:16-18 - emphasis mine). 

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Death Of Stephen Hawking, Gloating, and the Gospel

The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 (CSB)

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking died this week. He lived a remarkably long life with a form of ALS, questioning, perhaps denying the existence of God for virtually all of his 76 years investing his life in the attempt to discern the nature of the universe via human logic and reason. Whether he was an atheist, or an agnostic, he was certainly not a believer in a spiritual afterlife. He is reported to have said, "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." As a result of his theology (yes, even atheists are theologians), he was not afraid of death, saying, "I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first."

Those who do believe in God, by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, will respond to the death of an unbeliever in one of three ways:

They may rejoice. "God is just. He made his choice. He mocked God. He has met his maker now."  Hawking certainly preached the god of logic and reason, dismissed the God of Creation, and contributed to a theology that contributes to lostness and unbelief. Should a follower of Jesus Christ rejoice that this preacher of a false god is dead?

They may not care. "Yes, he was an unbeliever, but thousands die every day. I don't have time to spend on worrying about that." Is apathy the attitude of God?

They may mourn. Franklin Graham wrote about Hawking, "I wish Stephen Hawking could have seen the simple truth that God is the Creator of the universe he loved to study and everything in it." Is it more or less like God to grieve when a lost person dies?

Photo used by permission from Wikipedia Commons, author Doug Wheller