sum of the sermon: it comes down to a simple choice, really

 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another … If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10.23-27)

Andy and Red were up against it; they had their backs to the wall. They’d recently learned that one of their best friends, Brooks, had killed himself. Hopeless, he had hung himself.

And though neither Andy or Red ever mentioned the word, hope is what they were talking about. Specifically, what a person does – and does not do – as a result of having hope, or not having it, in their life.

The difference between them was that though both were imprisoned, only one of them was imprisoned in mind. As Andy saw it, the only thing keeping him from freedom was made out of stone. Red? He was so shackled the only thing left for him was to find the will to use a rope. Just like Brooks.

But Andy? Andy had hope. And so, he scratched his way out through stone walls and filth. How he perceived his future powerfully impacted what he chose to do with his present. He chose to hope, and so he chose to do. And so, stone walls wouldn’t – couldn’t – contain him.

“It comes down to a simple choice, really: get busy living or get busy dying!”

You probably recall that scene from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. This month is that movie’s twentieth anniversary (hard to believe, isn’t it). And so, let me ask you …

What do you believe? About your future? About hope? And what you’re to be about in the here and now?

Do you have hope? Vibrant, living hope? A hope you simply cannot leave behind? A hope that spurs you on to do what you can with today? For your own blessing and the blessing of others?

If you know Jesus Christ – truly know him – you don’t merely have hope. You know him as your hope. He is your hope. He is your all. Every day. He is what gives your life meaning.

You could no more turn your back on him and walk away from him than Andy Dufresne could have given up his dream to live in a place with no memory of all wrong and his daily toil to get there.

Know this kind of hope; come to know Jesus Christ. Know him as your Lord – as your daily hope – and he will be your Savior. Take on his mind and ways, and he will become your way to freedom. In this life, and in the one beyond. For no walls, made of stone or perception, can restrain him. Or you in your life with him.

Choose him. Choose life. Every day of your life. For today. For the sake of your future. For him.

It will make all the difference in your life. And in the lives of many a Red Redding.

Get busy living.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, church decline, leadership, ministry, morale & vision: * How Churches Became Cruise Ships (part 2); * Six Subtle Signs Your Church is Dying [essential reading]

* “Eventually we will learn that no matter how much money, effort, or innovation the church possesses, it will never be as cool as the culture. Relevance is a race it cannot win, but in our misguided attempts to compete with the culture we risk losing sight of the only thing of value the church can offer the world–Jesus Christ.”

* “There is more talk of the past than of the future. … More effort goes into keeping people than winning people. … There is no budget for evangelism, outreach, missions, or advertising. … Everyone wants to know everyone in the ‘church family.’ … The church is mono-generational (relating to one single generation). … No new leaders are being trained.”

Corporate worship, nationalism & patriotism: Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy in a Patriotic Service [required reading]

“The church transcends the state, a truth that should be proclaimed clearly in a worship setting.”

Cynicism, happiness & joy: The Giant Hole in Cynicism

“[There is] a radical difference between cynicism and joy. Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental…They consider themselves realists who see reality for what it truly is and who are not deceived by “escapist emotions.” But in belittling God’s joy, their darkness only calls forth more darkness. [Henri Nouwen]”

Divorce & remarriage: Divorce & Remarriage

“‘A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.’ (I Cor. 7:39)

Holy Spirit & intercession: Weakness, Groaning, and the Holy Spirit

“The Spirit does not simply know our suffering in some mere cognitive sense. Rather, the Spirit is present within us and experiences our suffering as a sympathetic friend, and thus the Spirit groans as well. The Spirit groans with us and for us, and this groaning becomes part of the experience of the Triune God. God is for us not only in the intercession of the Son, but also in the intercession of the Spirit.”

Prayer: A New Way to Pray

“… rather than have one ‘quiet time’ a day … pray for at least 15 minutes four times daily.”

then they can see my glory, which you gave me

 

“Father, I want those you gave me to be with me where I am. Then they can see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17.24 CEB)

Sharing what I know of God, through words and ways, is my great privilege and joy every day of the week. Bringing light into realms of darkness and helping add fuel to the lamps of others who burn for God, well, this is my bread and butter.

Blog-tour-logo-CompadresBut what, pray tell, I ask, does it mean to “be” where Jesus is? Or to “see” Jesus’ “glory?” What on earth – or wherever Jesus is – is the glory the Father gave him “because” he loved” him? Do, please explain to me the glory our Father God gave his Son Jesus “before the creation of the world,” if you can.

I tell you, you can’t do it. And neither can I.

For to read and reflect and on these words sets our collective mind to reeling. Our brain goes on tilt. It’s as if we need someone to hit the reset button, for we don’t even begin to understand what all these words of our Lord must mean.

And that’s okay. Actually more than “okay” … glorious. Really.

For these words from our Lord were not recorded to give us greater clarity of knowledge about God, but to deliberately deepen the mystery that surrounds – indeed, is – our God, as well as our faith in him. They were not intended to answer our questions (as if we even naturally know what are the best questions to ask to begin with!), but rather to give rise to more and different questions in our heart. Truly, this is the purpose of these words from our Lord: to increase the volume of our wonder, not vaporize it.

What’s that you say? You ask, “Why is that?” Quite frankly, because we don’t need a god we can completely figure out.

Oh, we might think we want such a god, but a god who doesn’t transcend us is no brighter or greater than us and thereby, no god at all. Such a “god” would only be an extension of us or a projection of ourselves. Such a god would be a god far too small to be God. God knows this world has enough puny-pretend, lazy-and-lame gods already, thank you very much.

No, our deep need is a God we can’t get our arms completely around. Not even close. We need (and in our saner moments, we know we want) God to be a God who can – and always has, and always will – do far more than we can ever begin to even ask or imagine. We understand that what we want God to be is holy and wholly “other;” nothing but good and radically distinct from us. We need God not to be One who can be naturally understood by all, but supernatural in all his ways. A God who is far, far bigger than just what we know in this moment, but all of what is past and all of what is future, too.

Only such a God as this is truly “glorious” and can (and would) lovingly long to share his glorious presence with us.

And he has. His name is Jesus.

And he will. Through Jesus.

This he began before he created this world. As he works this still in his re-creation of things now. And he will still be doing it when he completely and gloriously brings heaven and earth together in his glory forever to come.

This is mind-blowing stuff that words alone are all too insufficient to convey! And so … like the One who interceded/intercedes for us … we should engage this mystery with the mystery that is p-r-a-y-e-r, and do so with his glory in view.

Father in heaven, hear this prayer of the One who intercedes for us. We echo his prayer and we mingle our prayers with his: bring us into his presence and Yours. Grant that we will be enabled to see your glory. The love and glory that alone is of you and has always been. So be it. Though we – gloriously – can’t begin to fully comprehend it.

Glory be to God!

links: this went thru my mind

 

Atheism, evangelism, outreach & persuasion: How Not to Debate an Atheist

“When you combine the powder keg of Christians proselytizing about Christ and atheists proselytizing about secularism on the Internet, you get an explosion of arguments … Here are some ways I’ve seen these conversations go wrong as a former atheist.”

Capital punishment, death penalty, ethics, faith & Jesus: Albert Mohler Has No Use For Jesus [required reading]

“… obviously there are some things Jesus didn’t talk about…but the death penalty isn’t one. … You see, the challenge all of us face along with Mohler is straightforward: If we talk about Jesus all the time, but when we claim we’re taking a Christian position Christ is nowhere to be found, then there’s nothing actually particularly Christian about our position.”

C.S. Lewis, perspective & progress: Why We Need ‘Dinosaurs’ Like C. S. Lewis

“When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake.”

Evil, Satan, wickedness & the world: Our Beautiful, Nightmarish World

“I honestly don’t see how it is possible to explain how an all-good God could create a cosmos that is this screwed up without accepting that he’s opposed by forces of evil that operate on a cosmic scale. Appealing to human free will alone simply doesn’t cut it.”

Future & technology: A Vision of the Future From Those Likely to Invent It

“Almost two-thirds of Americans think technological change will lead to a better future, while about one-third think people’s lives will be worse as a result, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. Regardless, expect more change. In a series of interviews, which have been condensed and edited, seven people who are driving this transformation provided a glimpse into the not-too-distant future.”

Television: Television and the Glamorization of Anything It Desires [required reading]

“Watching too much TV can triple our hunger for more possessions while reducing our personal contentment by about 5 percent for every hour a day we watch.”