Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Not Just Jots From a Bunch of Jewish Dead Guys . . .

Mike Hosey, An Elder

I think too often we make the mistake of viewing the Bible as a collection of stories written by a bunch of Jewish dead guys who God ordered to jot stuff down in Hebrew and Greek.  We sort of gradually sink into thinking of it either as a book of rules, or as a boring and incomprehensible history.  When we’re not thinking of it in that way, we tend to think of it as a manual for fixing our lives – especially for the little parts of our lives that simply require good, common sense decision making and a little bit of discipline.  But in reality, the Bible is far too great to be either of those things.  To be sure, it is full of wisdom that can help us fix our lives, but the way it does that isn’t by giving us step-by-step directions, a protocol, or a quick and easy DYI process to follow. It does it by equipping us to do the work God wants us to do. In other words, it helps move us into the will of God. Consider, for instance, one of your memory verses from this past week. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that ALL scripture is breathed out by God, and that it can teach us, correct us, rebuke us, train us, and equip us.  It’s almost as if it’s a living and active thing (Hebrews 4:12). Read that Timothy verse again.  Your Bible was breathed out by God. It didn’t come from a bunch of dead guys.  It came from a living God. It’s supernatural.  And when you read it, it gives you the equipment you need to do every good work. 

In part, it’s purpose is to equip each member of the church to move toward unity in the faith, to attain the full measure of Christ, to keep us steadfast in the midst of false teachings, and to grow us as a body that is full of love and good works (Ephesians 4:11-15). 

Because the word of God can see right into our most hidden corners, it can discern our own intentions (Hebrews 4:12). When it does that, it is helping us get our motivations right.  And when our motivations are right, our feet will lead us to the will of God, and our hands will do the work of God.  Because it is full of light to help us see in the darkness (John 1:1-5, Psalm 119:105), and because it can revive us and fill us with both life and wisdom (Psalm 19:7), it is necessary for each Christian to internalize it as much as possible.  Having it in you will help you to love your neighbor, to volunteer for children’s ministry, and to hand out whistles on a river when you volunteer for an outreach.  It will make your tasks bearable, and perhaps even enjoyable. The Bible fixes our lives not by giving us step by step directions, but by giving us meaning, wisdom, life and light.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Teddy Bears, Puppies, Friends, and the Word of God

Mike Hosey, An Elder

When you were a child you might have been comforted by a teddy bear or some other stuffed animal.  But as you grew older, you realized that your stuffed animal was not a living thing.  It no longer comforted you effectively because it wasn’t alive. It didn’t interact with you, it couldn’t feel your pain, the only warmth it had was the warmth you gave it from your own body, and any guidance you received from it came from your own immature mind. Because it had never been alive, it wasn’t really dead either. It was just a thing to which you, or your parents, assigned meaning. Perhaps you replaced it with a puppy when you reached a later age.  Unlike the teddy bear, the puppy generated his own warmth, and shared it with you. He recognized you, responded to you, shared and reflected your sorrow or joy, licked your face, and became a loyal and even loving friend.  He was alive. He was greater than any stuffed animal.  But as you grew older still, you realized that your puppy wasn’t alive in the same way that you were. He couldn’t really talk to you.  Your thoughts were far higher than his. He couldn’t guide you. He couldn’t keep you from trouble in any significant way. He couldn’t praise your accomplishments, and he couldn’t point out your flaws -- and he couldn’t help you fix them either. 

Then there came a time when you realized the fullness of human friends. To be sure, those friendships were more problematic than your puppy’s, but they also shared a higher kind of life than your puppy could.  Your closest friends could walk almost anywhere you walked. They could understand your life in ways that your puppy simply would never be able to do. Their experiences were similar to your own, and because of this, they became superior sources of guidance. They were able to praise your accomplishments, and share in the joy of them.  They were able to see your flaws.  The wise ones could point them out and help you fix them. The wisest ones could even anticipate your thoughts and intentions to some degree.  But not even the wisest of the wise could fully know your thoughts, and could therefore never be fundamentally and fully transformative in regards to your flaws, or your life. This is because their own “aliveness” is not that much higher than yours.  Because they are people they cannot always go wherever you go. Your life will have paths they can never share. But God is not this way.  He is the highest friend you can have. Just consider how the writer of Hebrews describes his words (Hebrews 4:11-12).  In that passage he explains to his readers how they can avoid disobedience – by acknowledging the word of God, which is alive and powerful, and sharp enough to discern between your intentions and thoughts.  The prophet Isaiah tells us this word is so alive and powerful that it will always accomplish its intended purpose (Isaiah 55:9-13).  And one of those purposes is to make you new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The War on Easter, and Why it is So Important

Mike Hosey, An Elder

In our culture, Christmas seems to trump Easter.  Just think about it for a second.  Christmas, essentially, is a month long holiday for Americans and other westerners.  Stores begin decorating in November, and sometimes in October. We have parties beginning on December 1st and they continue all the way through December 25th. There are parties at your office, and parties at your church groups, and parties at your school. Christmas music plays on the radio, having begun sometime shortly before Thanksgiving. People run themselves ragged trying to fulfill a perceived religious obligation, while also trying to meet the dictates of their larger culture, pushed along by a hyped commercialism that is interested in cash more than it is in the birth of God to humanity. The baby Jesus is almost front and center for the month, even in secular and worldly circles. He is only partly eclipsed by Santa Clause. 

But not Easter.  Easter gets no parties. Have you ever been invited to the office Easter party? There’s no Easter music on the radio.  No one runs themselves ragged. For the most part, the celebration of Easter is limited to a single day. Interestingly, at Easter there are no images of Jesus in the larger culture – only in Christian circles. There is no Easter equivalent of the nativity scene in your local mall. You won’t find any depictions of the stone rolled away, or an empty tomb, or an empty Cross.  Jesus is not just eclipsed by the Easter Bunny, he’s simply not there at all. 

Of course this is not a dig on Christmas.  You can’t, after all, have Easter without it.  But Easter is, by far, the more significant holiday. And its greater significance likely is the reason you find Christmas being celebrated with so much more fervor. Satan does not wish for Easter to be celebrated with the same intensity. To paraphrase how one writer put it not too long ago: You don’t have to believe that Jesus is God to enjoy Christmas. You can celebrate Christmas as the birth of a great or wonderful man who taught us to love one another. But he’s still just a man.  This is not the case with Easter.  Easter shouts how Jesus died for humanity, and reconciled it to God -- and not just humanity as a collective, but every human individually. It also shouts, triumphantly, that his death (and yours) doesn't have to be permanent. If you are reading this, the significance of Resurrection Sunday is that you can have eternal life, and that your past can be erased, and that a future of goodness is guaranteed. 

You can look at Christmas and reject its divinity. You cannot do so with Easter.  The empty tomb is proof of divine involvement.  Easter is the fulfillment of God’s mission to earth.