Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Go and Do Likewise

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

                                                - Luke 10:36-37

Luke describes this anonymous young man as an expert in the law.  We might first think of him as a lawyer, but because this is primarily religious law we’re talking about, we might equally call him a seminarian.  Now, my brother is a lawyer and I am obviously a preacher. And I can tell you, there are some similarities in our training.  We were both taught to examine things, to analyze them, to ponder the possibilities in front of us.  Most of all we’re both taught to ask good questions in the search for truth and justice.  Theoretically, the questions asked by lawyers and preachers are supposed to eventually lead not simply to the discovery of truth and justice but to the enacting of those virtues as well.  Of course, we all know it’s easier to ask the questions and discuss answers than it is to put those answers into practice.
The young man in our text, in keeping with his professional training, had questions for Jesus.  Good questions, even if his motives were a little mixed.  Luke writes that he stood up to test Jesus with perhaps the question of all questions, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus proves, that while he might not have the training of the lawyer, he’s not afraid of asking questions himself.  “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?”

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Buyer's Remorse

Have you ever heard the term buyer’s remorse? Ever experienced it? I’ve felt it with every piece of exercise equipment I've ever bought. Buyer’s remorse is that feeling of regret that often crops up after some major or not so major purchase. These feelings can show up for all sorts of reasons, but usually appear when the credit card bill hits sometime in January. At that point, you realize that your purchase of a 70-inch TV doesn’t make that much sense for your apartment where the biggest room is only ten feet wide. Regret strikes the moment you realize that your new car already has a scratch on it, your new dress showed up in the styles-to-avoid column, and your new cell phone is already on sale for half of what you paid for it.

Buyer’s remorse leaves you wondering why you liked this purchase so much in the first place. Why did you pay so much? Why couldn’t you wait for the after Christmas sales? You’d think past experiences of buyer’s remorse would slow our spending down, but you’d be wrong. We seem to not only have buyer’s regret but buyer’s amnesia. We somehow convince ourselves that we’ll be wiser this year. We think that this next purchase will do what all the other purchases did not, satisfy our souls.

Several years ago, my father-in-law pointed out that while he’d experienced plenty of buyer’s remorse in his life, he’d never experienced giver’s remorse. That is, he’d never given a gift to a ministry or a mission or a person in need and then later wished he had that money back. His words struck me then as truthful and have proven truthful ever since. I’m a slow learner, so I’ve continued to make purchases that I’ve later regretted. But without fail, every time I’ve stretched myself to give generously to my church, a good cause, or a neighbor in need, I’ve found joy, not regret.

My guess is we’re going to continue to buy things for our families. That’s ok. Giving my kids or my wife a gift is a form of generosity. But how might we find more joy and less regret in 2017? Perhaps by figuring out how to buy ourselves less and to give others more.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Three Reasons to Attend Church this Sunday

‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. I wonder if you’ve included in your to-dos for 2017 the commitment to regularly participate the corporate worship of God? Many of us have the idea that going to church is something we should do, and that it is something that is good for us, but we struggle to put this desire into practice. What would happen if we committed to attending weekly worship services and stuck to that commitment?

  1. Our deeds will match our confession of faith. The truth is, all of us are works in progress. We declare with our mouths that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” and then struggle to implement that truth in our lives. If Jesus is our Lord, then we will want to do what he commands. One of the things God desires from us is regular attendance with a worshiping community. The author of Hebrews challenges us, “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten in the habit of doing.” (Hebrews 10:25). Regularly attending worship helps our words match our deeds. If Jesus is our Lord, we will join others in worshiping him as such.
  2. We’ll discover God’s presence. I know that we can discover God’s presence in all sorts of different places. I often stumble upon God during time with family or when I’m hiking through brush looking for butterflies. I also know that the one place Jesus promised to show up is among the gathered people of God (see Matthew 18:20). I recognize that we don’t always feel God’s presence in worship each week. We cannot manipulate God into showing up. God shows up when and where he desires. Regular worship helps us to be ready when he does.
  3. We might be the presence of God in another person’s life. The temptation to skip worship is great. We think about how good it will feel to sleep in or get some quiet time just to ourselves. We know we might miss out on something at church but figure the only person we are hurting is ourselves. What if we are the instrument God intends to use to bless someone else? What if it’s your smile, your singing, your handshake that God uses to speak to another person. What if your presence encourages someone else’s attendance? What if that person, encouraged by your presence, hears the life-changing good news of Jesus Christ?

The full quotation from Hebrews is this, “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:35). Regular participation in worship encourages the body of Christ to be faithful until Christ’s return. I know that I am regularly encouraged by the presence of God’s people each week. I encourage you to put church on your calendar this week. If you don’t have a regular church home, I invite you to worship with us at Southland this Sunday.