Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Choosing to Love...

Working in a church you see all kinds of things come through the mail.  Some times things come through the mail from other churches or "religious leaders" that just have me scratching my head.  They claim to be all about Christ and living the way Christ lived, yet their entire publication does nothing but put labels on people who do not worship "exactly" as they worship and do not "do things" exactly as they do things.

This is going to be short because I do not want to be one of those people.  What I want to say is this... If those who stand back and critique or criticize and judge others, would spend one fourth of the time they spend talking about others and start reaching out to their community, reaching out to help the poor, just treating people with kindness and love, they would not have the time to write such judgemental things.

Yes, we may have differences in styles, we may have differences in many things, but if we are all following God's word, the "style" in which which follow God's word is not what's important.  What's important is that we are following God's word.  It is important to follow Jesus and His teachings, not teachings of men.  It is important to love others and not to judge them, that's God's job.  It is important to help those in need, not to judge their reasons for that need.  Jesus says to "Love One Another".  He doesn't say love them if they look and smell like you.  He doesn't say love them if they do things the way you do them.  He doesn't say love them if they have the same social status as you.  He doesn't say love them if... fill in the blank.  He simply says, "Love Them".  Our job is to be Jesus with skin on to the world. Our job is to Love as Jesus loved.  I just don't see Jesus in some of the publications I see.  If we start with Love, all the other "stuff" won't matter nearly as much.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34,35


Monday, April 01, 2013

Reflections on Easter

I have been reflecting a lot the last few days on this Easter season.  I am so grateful for my church, Highland Oaks Church of Christ for many reasons.  The people there are amazing, their love for God and His people is evident and this Easter and the week prior I became event more grateful.  The way our ministry staff continually chooses to think outside of the box and the way in which they allow God to speak through them blesses me everyday.  But this Easter season was amazing.

One thing we have done the last couple of years is offer a prayer experience the week prior to Easter.  There are 8 stations set up in our Fellowship Hall that intentionally and purposefully direct you to Jesus and the cross.  Some of the stations are listening to specific music while allowing God to take you into His space, some of them are reading God's word and then asking yourself specific questions about what you've read, some of them require you to use different senses, but all of them require you to sit and be still with Him.  It takes about an hour to go through all eight stations. I finally was able to participate in this experience this passed Thursday.  I cannot tell you the blessing it was to me.  To be able to take an hour and go through the stations and just spend time resting with God's word and allowing Him to fill my soul was amazing.

On Friday, we had a Good Friday Memorial Service called "an there was darkness".  It was more than I could have ever anticipated.  There was funeral procession of "the family" of Jesus.  One of our ministers lead the procession carrying a cross with a veil draped over it that was placed at the front.  Then we heard from "the prostitute" who Jesus saved from stoning, "Simeon Peter" who denied Jesus 3 times and "Jesus' mother Mary" as each one told their story and how they felt like it was their fault that Jesus was dead.  We were also told to go through the service imagining that we did not know that Sunday was coming.  To imagine as if we were there on that day not knowing what was to come.

That service was more overwhelming that I could have ever imagined.  To put yourself in a frame of mind of not knowing that Sunday was coming and to witness the testimonies of those who walked with Jesus, and to imagine that His death was the end was something I really cannot describe.  There is such darkness, such hopelessness, such sorrow when you have no hope of a savior.  Our family has gone through some personal struggles over the last several years.  The thought of having no hope during those times was overwhelming.  I would not have made it without my faith; without knowing that God is control; without knowing that the tomb is empty and that because of that truth that all things are possible!

On Sunday, we had an amazing message and testimony of God's grace and faithfulness working among us.  We have windows that surround the balcony of our worship center.  As the message concluded and promise of the empty tomb was proclaimed, the shades to those windows were lifted and the light burst forth and shined brightly across the worship center as though Christ himself had lit up the room.  It was amazing; it was emotional; it was evidence of the empty tomb!

The hope that comes from the resurrection is the only thing that gets me through on days when it seems like God is silent, when it seems like he's far away.  And it's because of that hope that I can look back and see that even when I thought God was silent, He right there every step of the way.  Some things can only be explained by the grace of God.  Without the hope of the resurrection, there is no hope.

I am thankful and grateful for that hope!  I cling to that hope always!  The tomb is empty my friends!  And because of that, we all have hope... always!  That's truth!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you!  
1 Peter 1:3,4a