It’s all about Jesus
Hebrews 3: Take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe.
I have but a vague idea of what church was like for the original readers of this letter. Even if I can’t hear what’s being said I can walk into nearly any Christian worship event today and recognize elements I identify as “Christian.” Could I do the same if I found myself back in 50 A.D.? It’s a good question but I don’t have a good answer. How much of what we do is at the core of Christianity? Is preaching or singing or receiving the offering at the core? The writer of Hebrews reminds me today that Christianity is all about Christ. That must be the same whether I’m doing “high” or “low” church. In fact, if I make Christianity about church I’ve already missed the boat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-church, in fact, I’m all for it. However, for Christianity to be Christian it has to be absolutely focused on Jesus Christ. Even beyond that, it’s a living, right-now, kind of focus. I’m not looking at some old, dusty story or some tried and true belief system. I’m looking to a person who’s alive and well and with whom I have an up-to-date relationship. Only in such a relationship can I be a real Christian.
Take Away: If we’re not careful, we make Christianity about behavior or beliefs or church…that’s all mistaken. Christianity is about Christ.
Bloom where you’re planted
1Corinthians 7: Where you are right now is God’s place for you.
The believers at Corinth have some questions about marriage and divorce. They know that when they became Christians that they left much of their old life behind, becoming new people. They have some practical concerns about how their faith impacts their new life. For instance, if a person was single when they came to Christ, are they to remain single? How about believers who are married to unbelievers? Is it better to abandon their marriage rather than be married to a person who doesn’t share their faith? Paul’s answer is “where you are right now is God’s place for you.” He leans toward singles staying single, but doesn’t command it. He leans toward people who are married to unbelievers remaining married, but doesn’t command it. An individual can be a Christian in a wide variety of circumstances. Common sense tells us that this isn’t always the case. For instance, a bigamist needs to come clean and find the best route out of an impossible situation. However, in general, we can live our lives in Christ right where we are. Beyond the marriage and divorce questions there’s a solid principle here that I can take to the bank. It’s wrong for me to think, “Right now the circumstances of my life make it unreasonable for me to be a Christian. When things change, then I’ll be ready.” If living for the Lord doesn’t work where I am right now it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Right here and right now the Lord stands ready to live in me and through me.
Take Away: God loves to work in ordinary lives in ordinary circumstances.
Love and hate
John 15: Make yourselves at home in my love.
On this night prior to the crucifixion Jesus talks to his disciples in terms of love and hate. He warns them that the same people who hate him will hate them. That hate won’t be about them as much as it will be about Jesus. His disciples will be so much like their Lord that those who hated him without cause will hate them without cause. Jesus also encourages them to be “at home” in his love. What an interesting phrase. To be at home is to feel secure and comfortable. It’s to be with family and friends, giving support and receiving the same. Jesus tells his followers to enjoy that kind of comfort in his love. He’s committed to love us even though he already knows our weaknesses and failings. While it’s true that I stand amazed in his love it’s also true that I have every reason to depend on it and to relax in it. So, there you have it. Out in the world we’re strangers, treated unfairly by people who don’t even know why it is that they don’t like us. On the other hand, we’re upheld by the undeserved, beyond-understanding love of Christ. All in all, it’s a pretty good situation.
Take Away: I want to be comfortable in the love of Christ.
Mark 11: Pray for absolutely everything.
Jesus is a man of prayer. He prays in public and he prays in private. He teaches his disciples to pray. On this final trip to Jerusalem, he drives the sellers out of the Temple grounds because they’ve turned the Temple into a place of business instead of it being a “house of prayer for the nations.” After the miracle of the fig tree Jesus points the disciples to faith and prayer, remarking that the results can move mountains. Then, he teaches his listeners to not only ask in prayer, but to also forgive that they might be forgiven. Prayer, then, for followers of Jesus is central. Our places of worship are to be focused on prayer. We’re to deal with problems and disappointments by going to prayer. As we pray, we’re to allow the Lord to help us see our own hearts and to respond as he wants us to. It’s impossible to be truly Christian yet not pray. As the disciples asked we also ask: “Lord teach us to pray.”
Take Away: Prayer is the key.