Saturday, July 17, 2010

connect to Christ #2: through scripture

Connect to Christ: scripture

Four brothers left home for college, and they became successful doctors and lawyers and prospered. Some years later, they chatted after having dinner together. They discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother who lived far away in another city.
The first said, "I had a big house built for Mama."
The second said, "I had a hundred thousand dollar theater built in the house."
The third said, "I had my Mercedes dealer deliver an SL600 to her."
The fourth said, "You know how Mama loved reading the Bible and you know she can't read anymore because she can't see very well. I met a preacher who told me about a parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took twenty preachers 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $100,000 a year for twenty years to the church, but it was worth it. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it."
The other brothers were impressed. After the holidays, Mom sent out her thank you notes.

"She wrote: "Milton, the house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Thanks anyway."
"Marvin, I am too old to travel. I stay home; I have my groceries delivered, so I never use the Mercedes. The thought was good. Thanks."
"Michael, you gave me an expensive theater with Dolby sound, it could hold 50 people, but all my friends are dead, I've lost my hearing and I'm nearly blind. I'll never use it. Thank you for the gesture just the same."
"Dearest Melvin, you were the only son to have the good sense to give little thought to your gift. The chicken was delicious. Thank you."
Perhaps she took Jeremiah 15:16 a little too literally “When your words came, I ate them; ((they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name,))) O Lord God Almighty."
Unfortunately, there are many people today who would rather eat the bird than hear the word.  However, there is no better way to connect to God- no better way to connect to Christ than (figuratively speaking) filling ourselves with scripture.

In Colossians, Paul writes, “I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the WORD OF GOD fully known.  Warning everyone, teaching everyone,” so that he “may present everyone mature in Christ.”

First, Paul says, “warning everyone”- many translations say, “telling everyone” but the Greek word is really stronger than that.  It is warning, admonishing, cautioning.  Paul is saying that scripture puts a big flashing yellow light in our minds.  It is a guardrail warning us that if we continue to live in the direction we are going, we will be lost, stuck, or we’ll crash and burn. 
You can see that.  You know the Bible says things like do not murder, do not steal, and do not let the sun go down on your anger and more.  For Christians and non-Christians alike the Bible is a moral compass, an ethical GPS.  We are talking about behavior and repentance here.  We can’t do it by ourselves, however.  Paul says, “I do the things I know I should not.  I do not do the things I know I should.”  Every single one of us can relate to what Paul is saying.  Our only chance to keep from veering over the cliff of sin into destruction is by connecting to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Bible is the best picture of that Gospel that we have.

Second Paul says scripture is for “teaching everyone.”  Teaching happens in many different ways.  You might say the simplest teaching is rote memorization.  Though memorizing scripture certainly won’t hurt us, that is not what I think Paul is talking about.  The true teachings in scripture are life-changing lessons. 
When I officiated at my brother’s wedding the bride’s grandma spoke virtually no English.  They had emigrated from Romania when my sister in law was five.  Grandma spoke only Romanian and Cris had an unusual request.  She asked if I could announce that they are husband and wife in Romanian for Grandma.  She spelled it out phonetically for me, I practiced, and Grandma just beamed when I got to that place in the service. To tell you the truth, though, I understand Romanian even less than most people understand the Bible.  I learned it by  rote - reading the cues off the script.  Too often that is the same way we read scripture.  In one eye and out the other. A direct route without even passing through the heart.  Too often even if it does pass through the heart— it just passes through --  without taking up residence.
Scripture when properly read and digested-- though not in the same way the lady digested the scripture reading parrot-- is life changing.  It reshapes and reforms who we are, how we think, and how we behave.  Scripture is critical to our growth in faith because it is by living with scripture- the stories of God’s mighty acts in history and especially in Jesus Christ -- by living a life marinated in scripture-- by infusing our life with scripture-- that we come closer to being the people God wants us to be.

We come to  Paul’s third point, so that we may be presented mature in Christ.  It is by  Warning and teaching.  Guiding and marinating.  Repentance and sanctification  that we are made mature in faith and mature in  Jesus Christ.

  So I invite you on a journey. A journey into the heart of God, the heart of Christ and a journey your own hearts as you mature in Christ.

Look, here are Adam and Eve as they struggle with shame and guilt.  You remember the time you were caught in a lie, caught with your hand in the cookie jar, caught saying, or doing something when you thought no one was paying any attention?  Notice how well they hid just like you wanted to crawl under a rock and die.   God calls “Adam Where are you”  God knew perfectly  where they were?  God did not destroy them.  He could have wadded them up like old play dough,  put them back in the can and started over with  a new color.    But he didn’t.  What a story.  What a God.

Look here is Abraham with a knife.  What is that under the bush.  It looks like--- it is- It is Isaac.  Abraham has tears running down his cheeks, his lips move continuously in prayer as he seeks to be faithful to God’s call.  What is the hardest thing God has ever asked you to do .  I’ll be it wasn’t as hard as sacrificing your son.  I am ashamed to say my line in the sand falls quite a bit short of killing my child.
Just then, God steps in and offers his own sacrifice.  Later it would be his son, but this time it is a goat.  Abraham gives God a glimpse of how far he will go in faith.  God gives Abraham a view of the full panorama of God’s grace and love.   What a story, what a God.

Look, here is little David with Goliath.  You know the story.  What a story.  What a God.

Look here is Hosea and Gomer.  The respected preacher and  the town whore turned pastor’s wife.  Is God’s love and acceptance really that complete?  God used Gomer to teach the people and shape their hearts!  What a story What a God.

Look here is Jesus in Cana.  The bridegroom has run out of wine.  He is about to be humiliated as a failure and a fraud.  In one moment of genius mixed with compassion Jesus turns water into the best wine they ever tasted and makes the bridegroom look like a hero.  What a story- what a Christ.

Look, here is a woman who is a five time looser at marriage-- and even worse- a Samaritan.  Jesus shatters all social convention to be seen with her- then he goes the extra mile to talk to her-- and the extra 10 miles drinking from her cup.  But in the process, he shares with her the greatest truth ever revealed. . .  the life giving grace of God  bubbling up even for her.  What a story- what a Christ.

Look, here are the disciples  terrified and ready to meet their maker.  They are tossed and battered somewhere on the Sea of Galilee.  A storm rages and threatens to swamp the boat and kill them all.  Jesus sleeps like a baby in the bow of the boat.  Like us asking him for help is almost an afterthought.  But when they finally do,  he tells the sea to be quiet and it is.  What a story, what a Christ.

Look back here is the young man from the little village in Galilee who “went about doing good and healing every kind of disease.”  The artisan who called himself of all things the son of man.  Watch as he is arrested, drug through the streets, mocked, beaten, whipped to within an inch of his life, spat upon,  wrongly convicted- tormented, spiked to the most  gruesome form of torture that was ever invented
Watch as he hangs on the stake- bloody, naked, mocked and cursed.  Watch as he cries out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  What a story. What a Christ.

Look here, sin is broken.  Death lays empty as the grave cloths that could not contain him.  Love triumphs once and for all.  It was not just a resurrected rabbi that walked out of that tomb but hope incarnate.   It was a hope that had never been known.  A joy that had never been experienced.  It was long forgotten promise fulfilled that day.   And for all people all the days to come.  What a Story.  What a Christ.

Look way back here.  He is coming again with the clouds.  Sin defeated under one foot.  Death broken under the other.  And he shall reign forever and ever.  And he shall reign forever and ever.  Alleluia.  AMEN  What a story.  What a Christ.

Look, if you will.  Look in this treasure chest. . .
You feel broken and forgotten by those who are supposed to love you and care for you?  Your story is in here.  What a story.  What a Christ.
You can’t seem to do the things you know are right.  Your story is already in here.  What a Story.  What a Christ.
You keep getting distracted by shiny things in the best buy ad or pretty things in the store window.  You have trouble keeping your priorities straight?    There is a story in here for you.  What a story.  What a God. 
Is there  a guilt that is eating you from the inside out?  You can’t seem to let go and forgive yourself, let alone ask God for forgiveness.  Your story is already in here.  Read it and find peace.  What a story!  What a God.

Friends.  This is not just history.  This is God’s story.  It is Christ’s story.    Make it your story.  Use it often, and the more you make the Bible story, your story; the more connected you will be to Christ. The more connected you are to Christ, the more your story will reflect his glory.AMEN

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