Monday, May 23, 2011

Greatest Story Ever Told - Part 4

This week we continued our series, "The Greatest Story Ever Told." When we look at the Word of God and our Christian walk we need to remember to look at the whole story.

Religiousness tends to look at life as a mission to control sin. We should work with all that is within us (which includes Christ) to eliminate sin. However, that is not what the Word is really about.

When God created the earth as accounted in Genesis 1 and 2 and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they lived in complete peace -- or "shalom" peace as it is called in Hebrew. Shalom peace is more than a warm fuzzy feeling inside or the hope of a possible future deliverance from this sinful world. Some think of peace as a quiet acceptance of the circumstances of life. True shalom peace is far different than that. It means "nothing missing and nothing broken."

That would describe life in the Garden. Then we look at the final two chapters in the Bible, Revelation 21 and 22, and find that, in the end, God completely restores that shalom. At the end, it is the form of a great city. So, the garden was "fruitful and multiplied" into a city -- but the peace is the same.

The problem is that from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, we see the result of sin in the world and the process of returning to that shalom. You see, the Word of God is not as much about eliminating sin, but restoring shalom. Until the final judgment comes we will not truly see that shalom. There is still sin and corruption in the world. But, when Jesus rose from the grave, that was the true beginning of the restoration. While we cannot experience perfect shalom peace yet, we should be moving closer and closer to it.

We have spent time looking at a number of stories within the story that paint this picture for us. Over the last two weeks we have been looking at the seven "signs" accounted by John.

A week ago we looked at the first three signs -- Jesus turning water into wine, Jesus healing a nobleman's son and Jesus healing the man at the pool of Bethesda. This week we looked at Jesus' feeding of 5000.

Jesus sees that there is a large crowd coming to see him because of his reputation as a miracle worker. He recognizes that they are not only spiritually hungry but they would be physically hungry. It is interesting that this is the only of the seven signs in the Gospel of John that is mentioned in all four Gospels. It is also interesting that none of the writers implied that they could not afford to feed all of the people. The only questions were should we go buy food and where can we buy food.

I am not saying that Jesus was living the "high life" but that there was no lack in relation to accomplishing his purpose. Whatever God calls us to, He provides the resources. Jesus never had to beg for money for his ministry. They could have fed the 5000, but Jesus felt it was better to just use his faith instead of his money.

One of the disciples points out that 8 months wages would have been enough to buy enough bread for everyone to have a "bite." However, Jesus' miracle provided enough for everyone to have as much as they want.

Of course, we also know that there was so much left over that they collected 12 baskets after everyone had as much as they wanted. They then collected it so that it would not be wasted. God may be about abundance, but He is not about waste!

This miracle shows us that Jesus came to demonstrate that God provides for His children. Whatever He calls you to, He will make provision. He does not starve His children. It also makes us reflect upon the idea that Jesus is the Bread of Life. He was the Word made flesh. He told us we must eat of his body -- meaning we must eat Gods word.

Not only must we eat the Word - but we must eat it daily. When the Israelites were in the wilderness on their way to God's promised land, God rained down manna from Heaven every morning. The manna was the Old Testament picture of the Bread of Life. It had to be consumed each day and it could not be kept for a future day. It had to be collected and consumed every day.

Jesus is the Bread of Life that came down from Heaven. He was the Word made flesh. We must eat of it every day if we are to live a successful Christian life.

Next week we will look at Jesus' walking on the water and what it tell us about the nature of God and how it illustrates part of the "story."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Love My Church! - Part 1

Here at Living Word we have created a campaign called, "I Love My Church." We have t-shirts and bumper stickers and all sorts of paraphernalia. Last Sunday morning someone posed an interesting question. It was related to me by one of our volunteer staff, so I do not know what the "tone" of the question was. But here is what was asked... Shouldn't we be saying. "I Love my God?"

I paused for a moment, thinking about the question. Certainly our focus for this program is to raise awareness about the church. Are we too caught up with marketing that we lost focus of the real object of our affection?

Then I realized that, if we are to live out the Christian walk, people should KNOW we love God without us advertising it. Our love for God is far more than slogans on t-shirts or stickers on the backs of our cars. We demonstrate our love for God, not by keeping religious rules and mandates, but by loving one another.

We live in a nation in which 70-80% of people call themselves Christians - yet less than 20% regularly attend church. People have lots of reasons why they don't attend church. Many are based on negative perceptions or experiences. Some are based on the simple idea that church is boring or it's a chore. If people view church as a chore they will only attend for so long.

We want people to know that there are others, as weird as it sounds, that LOVE to go to church.. and not just "holy rollers" -- but people just like them who go to church because they get something out of it and have a group of others who are like family to them.

Whatever church you attend, you should love your church. In fact, Jesus loved the church so much that he laid down his life for her. So, I think it is good thing to love your church!