Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2 kinds of suffering

As I continue to converse with others regarding Sunday's message ["The Satisfaction of Suffering"], I find the most common comment has been a clarification between suffering for being a Christian and suffering for simply being human. Peter writes, "If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" [1 Peter 4:16]. This means there is a suffering that is distinctly "Christian" and is different from other sorts of suffering experienced by people everywhere.

So, in Colossians 1:24, when Paul writes, "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church," he isn't rejoicing in his cancer diagnosis, his job loss or the untimely extra expense of replacing his air conditioner. He is talking about the unique suffering he experienced because a) he was a Christian and, b) was making Christ known with his life.

In a conversation with one of our elders, I described it this way: We should suffer to communicate the Gospel and we can communicate the Gospel in our suffering. In the first case, we accept difficulty, inconvenience and loss along the way as we choose to make Christ known. In the second case, we have opportunity to make Christ known through the unexpected and usual suffering we face in our life. In both cases, Christ may be exalted. But there is a distinctive difference in the suffering.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

when dying is gain

This week, I preached Colossians 1:24-2:5...one of the most challenging passages of Scripture to me. Several years ago, I was riveted by a sermon by John Piper first preached to students at Wheaton College in 1996. The title of the message--"Doing Missions When Dying is Gain"--is convicting enough to make most folks not listen to the message at all. However, I promise that you will never think the same about suffering and the Kingdom when you're done. You may download an audio copy or manuscript HERE.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

turncoats and tradition

On Thursday and Friday, we took Grant to Texas A&M in College Station to explore the campus. he is two years away from high school graduation, but is getting a head start to begin making decisions about his future. While the tour was wonderful, I felt like I was selling my soul--betraying my Longhorn history.

One of the things I appreciated about the A&M environment was its strong commitment to tradition--from the 12th Man story, to the game time yells to the beautiful "century tree." There is a statue on the main mall of A&M founder with a stack of pennies at his feet. Lore has it that if a student "pays" homage to the man, they will do better on their exams. As our tour guide explained the pastime, I could see Grant doing the math, wondering how much money he would be leaving if he got his degree there.

There is a difference between tradition and traditionalism. The former is a perpetuated pattern of behavior or belief that maintains a respect for the past. Tradition roots us in memories and meaning. Tradition is what families and communities carry forward in a new generation. In contrast, traditionalism doesn't encourage the present with the past; It traps it. Traditionalism forces itself on the present and refuses to budge.

In Matthew 15:2, the Pharisees wondered why Jesus' disciples broke with "the tradition of the elders." In Colossians 2:8, Paul warned about the "traditions of men." In these cases, the problem wasn't tradition per se, but traditionalism. The religious elite couldn't break with the basic principles of the past in order to embrace what God was doing in the present. They were driving forward looking in their rear view mirror.

As a pastor and father, I want my church and immediate family to cherish tradition. I long for a continuity between what God is doing today and what we will remember tomorrow. But, I am on guard against traditionalism. In this case, I'd rather be an Aggie than a Pharisee.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

take me out to the ballgame

I took Pearson to the ballpark to catch the final game between the Rangers and Blue Jays. A storm blew in from the west--the likes of what I've never seen before. The stands emptied and everyone escaped to the concourse, packed like sardines. As the lightning flashed, the winds picked up and the torrent increased, I silently studied the exits and safe places. My senses were on alert.

Several biblical thoughts ran through my mind to pass the time:

1. What must Noah have thought?

2. 1 Corinthians 10:13 -When tempted, God always provides a way of escape.

3. 1 Peter 5:8 - Be on guard, against the Devil's attack.

4. Matthew 5:45 - God causes his rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.

5. Luke 17:24 - The Son of man will come with flashes of lightning and thunder.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

my new hobby

Thanks to Craig Porter for the lessons in lake surfing. Not too graceful, but a whole lot of fun!