Shall I…

Today’s post grew out of something I wrote to my kids, Rahel and Kaleb

The Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Christians in eastern Macedonia: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent (Phil 1:9-10)

Don Carson, who teaches at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago comments on this prayer: The pursuit of such excellence does not turn on transparent distinctions between right and wrong. It turns, rather, on delicate choices that reflect one’s entire value system, one’s entire set of priorities, one’s heart and mind.”

In other words, excellence in loving– that is loving as Jesus loves – doesn’t come by making easy moral decisions (Shall i kill someone today?). It comes through the small, “insignificant” decisions we all make day in and day out. Much of the time, the decision isn’t between what’s right and what’s wrong. The bible or your pastor can’t tell you whether you should go to sleep or read this blog right now.

But over time, our lives are shaped by our small decisions to such a degree that our entire value system, our priorities and even our hearts and minds are molded for good or for bad.

Shall I stop to talk to my neighbour?
Shall I attend bible study tonight?
Shall I walk in the park?
Shall I go to sleep now?
Shall I watch this movie?
Shall I read my bible?
Shall I call my friend?
Shall I go to that party?
Shall I read this book?
Shall I pray right now?
Shall I exercise?
Shall I sign up to volunteer?
On and on it goes.

Make good small decisions, day by day, week by week, month by month. None of them will be absolutely good for you all of the time. But as you make those little good decisions, the Spirit will work.

Over time, Paul’s prayer will be answered. Your love will abound more and more by God’s grace.  And that is excellent!

This Church is a Mess!

25 years ago, I knew it was going to be an interesting Sunday when “Suzie” appeared in the choir loft behind the pulpit before the service started. She held a trumpet and a hatchet in her hands. Turning to the gathering crowd, she screamed “It’s time to worship!” with the hatchet held high.

Then it was time for the trumpet – loudly sputtering away the best she could. Psalm 98:6 reads, “With trumpets and the sound of the horn; Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.” but this just seemed a little much. Thankfully one of the deacons was able to kindly lead her away because he knew “Suzie” had not taken her medicine.

This was about the same time at our church (New City Fellowship (PCA) in Chattanooga, TN, USA) that “John” was sleeping in his van out in the car park. His colorful van filled with empty McDonald’s Big Mac boxes each containing the last bite of his Big Mac to remind him of the wonderful eating experience he had. He was a large man who roamed the church halls with mannerisms which made everyone uncomfortable.

This was not the kind of church I grew up in. There were former prostitutes and gangsters sitting alongside coat-and-tie wearing businessmen and homeschool mothers. The pastor once told me he knew they were doing something right on the Sunday when he asked for the ushers to come forward for the offering and all four were ex-convicts!

I remember discussing with my friends at the time the question: “Does New City drive people crazy or does it just draw a bunch of crazy people to the service each week?”

The answer, of course, is that New City was purposely designed to be a place for all people to come as they are to worship the living God. The leadership wanted their church to be welcoming to everyone no matter what your background was or what you were currently struggling with.

This was not the case of every church I have been part of. But thankfully there are churches that are seeking to be a refugee for all.  Churches that welcome people just like you and me.

Church is family.  Membership in a local church means joining your imperfect self to many other imperfect selves to form an imperfect community that, through Jesus, embarks on a journey toward a better future . . . together. ~ Scott Sauls in Jesus Outside the Lines

Grandma’s Kitchen

I remember various times when I was “starving” as I walked into my grandma’s kitchen.  And how she loved to torture me!  She would cook up a storm but then  not let me eat. Why?  It wasn’t time yet.

Grandma Schrock and 12 of her great-grandchildren

I could snatch a bit when no one’s not looking, but the full meal had to wait…..see & smell, hunger pains, a little taste but….

The resurrection is similar. We’ve all walked into God’s kitchen and He’s up to something special. We see a little hope and we hear of joy breaking out out. We sort-of see good news – but the meal’s not fully ready yet.

For the resurrection of Jesus is not the final part of God’s work.

It’s the beginning.

The death and resurrection of Jesus is huge – it’s the turning point of world history. But there is more to come.

Now we all know the hunger pains – real pain for something more. We face sickness – physical and emotional. We see the pain in the form of racism, drunkenness, sexual exploitation – the list could go on and on.

We all know there is something wrong with life.

This is where secular thought struggles to cope. For if what we see is all we get – then you better get all you can. And forget about calling for an end to oppression to the vulnerable and the end of violence to women – for it’s survival of the fittest out here.

The strong move move on and the weak get trampled on.

But the God of the bible says, “No! I’m am cooking up to something good.”

Your hunger pains are real. This is the way God has made us as men and women in His image.

We know there must be something more than what we see around us. And there is! The resurrection of Jesus is just the foretaste. (1 Cor 15:20-28)

God has something better for the world and for each of His children as well.

Celebrate Easter this Sunday by worshiping the God who says “The tears will be wiped away for I’ve got something good coming!”  

And may you eat something good this Easter – maybe even at your Grandma’s house!

P.S. You can read the eulogy I wrote for Grandma Schrock here

Don’t Eat that Snake!

“For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” ~ Leviticus 11:44-45

Apparently snake eating is a “thing” by the Lebanese army!

Parts of the Old Testament have loads of “crazy” laws. This chapter not only commands not eating snakes but also dead animals, camels, bugs, black vultures and other animals.  As you dig deeper, usually you’ll find good healthy reasons for these laws.

Interesting here in Leviticus 11 are the two reasons God gives as to why Israel should obey:

1) Because of who I am (“For I am the Lord”)

2) Because of what I have done (“brought you out of Egypt”).

The point: Do not look to the bible for some rules for life.  Look to find who God is and what He’s done. If you find that, you’ll find the moral law of God beautiful, trustworthy and worth striving after.

P.S. Actually, Jesus says we can eat snake in Mark 7:18-19. I’ve had it but I like chicken better!

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