Sunday, August 17, 2014

Proclaiming His Death

In 1st Corinthians 11:26 the apostle Paul wrote concerning the Lord’s Supper/Communion, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Let us consider that death for a moment. What really happened on the cross? What is it exactly that we are to proclaim? His death was our death; at least, the one we had coming. Let’s imagine it in more everyday terms rather than using words like atonement, salvation, or propitiation. Jesus pushed us out of the way of that bus barreling straight for us. He jumped in front of the bullet meant for us. He drowned to save us. He ran into the burning house and dragged us out before the house collapsed on Him. He climbed down onto the ledge and pulled us to safety before His own rope broke. He jumped on the grenade Satan had rolled at our feet. He stood up in court as we were sentenced to death and said, “I’ll go instead.” Spiritually, that is what Jesus did for us on the cross. 

If another person had done these things, would we proclaim it? Would we feel too ashamed that another had to die so we might live? Would we feel unworthy of that sacrifice? Or, would our gratitude be strong enough to overshadow our shame and embarrassment? Would our appreciation be so great that it would demand us to honor that sacrifice by telling anyone who would listen? Would we make it crystal clear to everyone that the only reason we are alive is because of the selfless, supreme act of love by another on our behalf?
Heroes on the news always say the same thing: “I’m not a hero. Anyone else would have done the same thing.” We know that’s baloney. They ARE heroes! Jesus is no less a hero and one infinitely greater than any earthly hero. Consider what Jesus did for you and make it personal. He saved your precious daughter’s soul from Satan. He rescued your grandfather from eternal fire. He guarded the soul of your favorite cousin. He died on the cross for your own sweet mother. He died for strangers we will never know. He died for you and for me. He gave all that He could. He gave His best; He gave His blood; He gave His life. 

The price of my sin was paid by another who was innocent. Jesus had to die so I could live. That grim truth is heartbreaking. But at the same time, doesn’t it fill your heart right back up to know how much you are loved? How precious to God you are? Before you were even born, Jesus loved you more than His own life. In Romans 5:6-11, Paul describes how such humiliating sorrow is transformed into joy. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son… we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” 

We proclaim His death when we remember His sacrifice every Sunday through the emblems of the communion: the bread for His body and the fruit of the vine for His blood. Let us devote seriousness to the memorial, but let us also rejoice with the knowledge of what that death produced: eternal life. That is what we proclaim to the world. May the Lord shine upon you.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rest Stop

The congregation I worked with previously was situated a few blocks off of Interstate 35, an extremely busy highway. As such, we often got travelers stopping by the church building asking for help. There was a convenience store right behind it as well which added to the foot traffic. Coming into the office one morning, I became very annoyed. There was an iron bench bolted into the ground at the front of our building which had been donated in honor of a family who played a big part in the congregation. Thrown under that bench I saw a Dr. Pepper can and honeybun wrapper. I grumbled as I stooped to pick them up and head for the trash can. There is a large, brass plaque dedicating the bench to Vern and Mildred Waller. I was upset at the lack of respect for these two people by whomever made use of their bench. Maybe it was just carelessness; a symbol for a world that doesn’t really care about anyone or anything these days. Suddenly, my grumbling internal rant changed in tone. 

Maybe it was a local teenager who was stopping here for a snack before heading back home to a violent and ungodly household. Maybe it gave him a few moments of peace before the yelling started again. Maybe he didn’t pick up his trash because he wasn’t taught basic courtesy in his home. Maybe he will wonder about the people who gather inside that building and of the momentary peace he felt sitting outside for a few moments. Maybe he will wonder if there is a greater and more lasting peace to be found inside. 

Or, maybe it was that homeless man walking down I-35. You know, the one I drove right by yesterday afternoon? Maybe he stopped here and rested before going back out in the hot summer sun to continue his lonely journey. It had rained briefly the night before. Maybe the bench (which is tucked under the overhang) kept the rain off his head. Through the bench, we provided a bit of kindness that may indeed have been appreciated; but if not, at least we gave him a chance to rest and gather his strength. Maybe that’s all we can provide to some people by showing the love of Jesus. A kind word, a friendly hand, a brief respite from their troubles. Then, they may go on their way and never see us again (or thank us). It doesn’t matter. Our obligation is not affected by their gratitude or acknowledgement. We must follow our Lord’s example. They didn’t respect Jesus and everything He did for people either. Jesus warned His disciples that “A servant is not greater than his master” (Jn. 15:20). We should expect no better treatment. Just do it anyway. So, I had to pick up some trash, but only because someone had used what we provided. I let my scowl melt into a smile as I cleaned up the bench for the next weary visitor. I let the joy of that service wash away my cynicism and annoyance. I think the Lord much prefers me that way. May the Lord shine upon you.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sunday Preview -- August 10, 2014

At one point, the disciples of Jesus got frustrated and just asked Him, "Why do you speak in parables?" (Matthew 13:10). Jesus had many reasons for doing so, but the most basic reason was to illustrate a difficult and complex idea--the kingdom of God. You can almost hear Jesus struggling to describe this broad and challenging new concept. "Oh dear, how can I explain it to you? Well, it's sort of like..." In typical Jesus fashion, He goes on to answer their question by...telling more parables! Seven, as a matter of fact, are found in Matthew's thirteenth chapter. Sunday morning we will briefly examine the important lessons from these parables as we seek to reveal "The Mysteries of the Kingdom (Matt. 13:11)." Sunday evening we look into Paul's letter to the Ephesians to see how we must first understand the hope we have in God, the glorious inheritance we have, and His great power to work in our lives before we can effectively share this "good news" with others. Join us as we strive to fulfill Paul's plea for "Open Eyes, Open Hearts (Eph. 1:18-19)." Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sunday Preview for August 3, 2014

The biggest challenge to faith is suffering. It threatens to may us question God and pull away from Him. But trials are designed to bring us closer to Him when something has come between us. We may not always understand, but we can be confident that whatever struggles we face are not punishment. The prophet Amos points out four comforting truths about trials as described by the threshing of grain. Join Us Sunday morning as we find encouragement together that "Not a Grain Shall Fall (Amos 9:9)." Come back Sunday evening as we look at the best church growth program ever written. See what happened "Opening Day (Acts 2:41-47)." Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><