Thursday, March 26, 2015

Weeping while the world rejoices

I read a verse this morning that has just stuck with me and I can't shake it.  It describes so much of what goes on in our world.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.  You will be sorrowful but your sorrow will turn into joy. (John 16.20)

You think about the world around us.  You think about how it rejoices over things that should bring tears.  The World Politic is fodder for late night comedians instead of the cause of weeping (and, as Christians, are we laughing along with them?).  Offhand and off-color jokes get forwarded not just to email accounts, but through them.  Cultural norms and ethics crumble while the world throws a party.

In the midst of this, I'm challenged two ways:

1.  To stay sad - my mentor at seminary used to tell me to be shocked by nothing and saddened by everything.  That's a tough balance.  Losing sadness means I'm writing people off.  I don't want to be guilty of that.

2.  Don't rejoice with them - there are some things that are funny.  Jimmy Fallon is one of them.  There are other things that are not.  Either way, there ought to linger in the atmosphere of our souls the tinge of sadness that things aren't supposed to be this way.  To do otherwise is to misspend our joy.

And the true, real, lasting joy is coming:  "But your sorrow will turn into joy."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cup of Cold Water and Sharing the Gospel

We just had a team on the ground in Bolivia ministering to orphans and the folks who run one of the orphanages there.  It got me to thinking about this verse:

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward (Matt 10.42)

Did you get that?  There is a kind of ministry that is "Cup of Cold Water" ministry where hands get dirty and comfort zones get blown up.  It's mercy ministry.  It's Least-of-These ministry.  And there's not much glamor in it...though there are certain rewards.

I'm 100% for those kinds of opportunities.  I think they are tangible expressions of love that Jesus enjoys seeing His people give to others.

But I don't think it's enough.  Ever.

That's because faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom 10.17).  Some argue that "hearing" is figurative in that verse, but I don't think the context allows for that.  The passage speaks of someone being sent to preach so people can hear and call on the name of the Lord to be saved (v.13-16).

Good works are exactly that:  good things we get to work at.  And often it opens the door to have a genuine conversation about why we're doing what we're doing.  But it's no substitute for the message because the kind of faith that calls out to God resulting in salvation comes from people like you and me sharing the Gospel with others around us.

So how does that apply to you today?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

We Found Love Right Where we are

I'm taking a marriage and family class for my doctoral work and something hit me the other day, triggered by a song, and I thought I'd take just a second and comment.

There's an old Johnny Lee song that talks about looking for love in all the wrong places.  When marriage gets tough, there's a temptation to go looking for love in some terribly wrong places.  See if these sound familiar to you or a *ahem* friend you know...

Pornography - the trade of a 3-D living, human being for some 2-D fantasy.  And while it's devastatingly rampant among men, women are now in its clutches as well.  Fifty Shades of Gray, anyone?  And in case you think it's outside the church, 34% of churchgoing women admit to intentionally visiting a porn site in the past month (that's 1 of 3, in case your math is bad).

People - here the trade is for a real person, somehow believing that the grass is greener on their side of the fence.  It can take many forms, including emotional attachment and the fantasy of "I wish I had that person as my spouse."  That, of course, leads to physical detachment from the spouse and opens the door for all sorts of bad.

Coexistence - the trade of relationship for shared space.  This feels like roommates rather than love.  Habits grate on nerves, inconsiderate actions or words are expected and don't cause wounds anymore, and two different agendas and itineraries determine activities.  As a pastor, I've seen some empty-nesters struggle with this.

None of these "wrong places" have to be as dire as I described them.  But they point to the same problem:  you don't fall in and out of love.  You choose to love or not to love.  The same choice has to be made in every relationship.  Do I love or not love?  We are under a western, romantic notion that love is some crazy emotion.  I'm all for the emotion when it's there - that makes the choice that much easier.  But when it's not, it's still a choice to love or not love.

Ed Sheeran has a song out right now that points to this.  It's a solid song - the kind that will want you to grab your honey and dance, then kiss her on the lips like you haven't done so in a while.  The closing lyric of the chorus is an important one:  we found love right where we are.

Where else will you find love except right where you are?  It's a choice.  It's in your marriage or in your relationship with your child or loved one that you find love.