Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grace versus Un-grace

I was re-reading Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth this week in preparation for Advent and the celebration of Christmas. A verse I had read dozens of times spoke to me in a new way. Matthew 1:19 describes Joseph’s planned response when he learns that Mary is expecting a child. He clearly knows that he isn’t the father, and the law of Moses would have allowed him to have her publicly shamed and stoned to death as an adulterer. He would have assumed of course that the child had been fathered by another man as there was no other logical, human explanation for her pregnancy. The Bible says that because Joseph was a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, he decided to send her away secretly.

That statement prompted me to think about how true righteousness impacts the way we live. Far too often, the pharisaical kind of self-righteousness that so many practice leads to condemnation and harsh judgment of others who fall into sin. Joseph’s righteousness prompted him to exhibit grace toward Mary—not “ungrace,” to borrow a term from Phillip Yancey. Even as heartbroken as he must have been at the thought of her infidelity, his love for Mary prompted Joseph to show grace and protect her from both shame and death. His actions strongly suggest those that his earthly son Jesus would later take when confronted with the woman caught in the act of adultery.

The passage suggests that true righteousness isn’t displayed most clearly by the visible sins that it is willing to denounce, but by the love and grace it shows toward those who stumble and fall. The Christmas message is that God’s love and grace led Him to give His Son for a stumbling and fallen humanity—each and every one of us.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Busy Weekend

This was one of those extremely busy weekends for me and the family.  It started on Saturday morning with officiating at the funeral for a long-time member who passed away this past Tuesday.  I had been with her at the care center and had prayer with the family just a half an hour before she passed away.  The couple had lived here in Lee's Summit for more than 60 years and the crowd at the visitation and the funeral home was huge.

That evening I attended Lee's Summit North's production of "The Producers" in which our son plays the leading role of Max Bialystock.  He did an outstanding job with his performance.

Sunday morning it was my privilege to baptize a young man whom I recently led to the Lord after he just showed up one evening on a Wednesday night.  Several of our staff had spoken with him on different occasions, and I had the opportunity to lead him to Christ a couple of weeks ago.  I also had the chance to preach yesterday as our senior pastor was leading a marriage enrichment retreat in Branson for about 20 of our couples.  I preached from John 4 and the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  If you're interested in hearing the sermon, it's available here.

I attended a matinee of The Producers yesterday afternoon again before heading back to evening services at church where we had a preview of our new contemporary service set to begin on January 2, 2011.  We'll be offering a traditional service at 8:00, the blended service we currently have at 9:30, and the contemporary service at 11:00.  Finally, I wrapped up the weekend with deacons' meeting after the evening service.  It was a busy weekend, but wonderfully enjoyable.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Need for Humor

My recent post with the Christian cartoons has drawn more traffic to my blog than I've ever had I think, with the possible exception of one or two posts that focused more on denominational strife and turmoil and thus served to attract folks with those interests.  I think that probably says something about our need to laugh and engage in some humor more often than some of us do.  There's far too much bad news and serious stuff out there that we're exposed to on a daily basis, so a little levity and light-hearted humor can be a sweet elixir for our souls. 

I've had the privilege of leading the Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study at our church almost from the time I joined the staff over seven years ago.  I really look forward to that time each week of sharing prayer concerns as a family of faith and then delving deeper into a passage of scripture together.  We've done some pretty lengthy studies over these years--spending some 15 months in Mark, a year or so in Acts, and some other protracted book studies as well.  One of the highlights each week though is when the lady who leads us in singing a couple of hymns before we pray and study takes a few minutes to share some funny jokes.  Frequently these are church-related jokes, so we have a great time laughing at ourselves in a sense. 

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that among many other things that there is time for in life, there's a time to laugh.  I'm grateful for at least one time a week on Wednesday evenings when someone purposefully prompts me to laugh by telling some good jokes.  There's plenty of news out there that saddens us, angers us, moves us to cry, or leaves us shaking our head in amazement at man's capacity to do evil.  Some much-needed laughter can be a good antidote for some of the news that poisons our soul.  Here's hoping that you find something to laugh about today.