People by nature have a need to reach beyond themselves. We wish, we dream, we hope, we aspire for something more. Often this aspiration focuses on our living situation. We want to be better off financially, have a happier home life, or learn how to achieve a more satisfying outlook on life. Often these are goals we long have cherished. Even when we don’t have these hopes for ourselves, we have them for our children or our friends.
People also have spirituals dreams. We want a sense of deep, inner contentment for ourselves and for those we love. We try to discover the meaning of life and to live our lives by that discovery. There are two problems, however, that often frustrate us in our attempt to claim an adequate spirituality.
First, what we discover as the purpose of life often has a nasty habit of not being “big” enough to base our lives upon. The obvious example of this for those of us with a church background is the way we all outgrow the idea of God we carried around with us as children. We all give up the picture of an old man in the sky with a long white beard. Some of us replace that picture with a more mature and complete understanding of the God who really is there. Others don’t replace it, and go through life feeling empty. They become angry at a silly and inadequate god they have created in their own mind, confusing their infantile picture with the real God. Often these people feel superior to those who have faith, and don’t bother to notice that Christian believers try to let the Bible inform them of what God is really like. And the God of the Bible doesn’t have a white beard!
The other thing that often frustrates people in their spiritual journey is the discovery that we do not live up to our expectations. We walk the pathway of faith only a short while before we are shocked at the gap between ourselves and the real God. Not only are we a long distance from our Creator, we even fail to match the day by day expectations we set for ourselves. This sense of shortcoming is especially vivid when we have a more mature, adult picture of God. In comparison with the God of the Bible we just do not measure up adequately. Most of us are just not too good at parting the Red Sea, turning water into wine, loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, or loving our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.
The Christian faith helps us with these two problems. First, the real God isn’t some creation of our mind, and therefore will not fail us. God is so awesome that we never will be disappointed. We can stake our lives on the adequacy of God. Secondly, God already knows that we do not measure up to standards and loves us anyway. God is “big” enough and loves us so much that our shortcomings are overcome in Christ.
Reaching beyond ourselves is a natural part of life. The good news is that God has reached out to us, and that in Jesus Christ our spiritual hope, dreams, and aspirations can be realized.
The Bible Study groups at church have spent a great deal of time studying the Gospel of John. One of the resources that I have used is The Life Recovery Bible, New Living Translation. It is an addition with notes to encourage those who are in recovery. In the introduction to the Gospel of John, I read this: “From the vast stretches of eternity to the confines of time - so the Son of God entered into this world.
Jesus was the Creator of this world, but then he immersed himself into his creation. God became a man and willingly sacrificed himself so that all who receive him could have forgiveness and redemption.” I read it over and over. It is the gospel. It echoes John 3:16. It is the foundation of any Christian church.
In order to better understand what this means, John used a number of images to illustrate who Jesus is and how he gives us eternal life.
Here are some of the “I am” statements in John. Jesus is:
1:29 - the Lamb of God - more a “he is” statement by John the Baptist
Jesus is the unblemished Lamb of God who is sacrificed for us.
4: 10 - living water who satisfies our spiritual thirst
6: 35 - bread of life who satisfies our spiritual hunger
8: 12 & 9:5 - the light of the world who guides us
10: 7, 9 - the gate for the sheep
10: 11, 14 - the good shepherd who leads us
11: 25 - resurrection and the life
14: 6 - the way, the truth and the life
15: 1, 5 - the true vine who gives us life
He is also the counselor who comforts and teaches us.
Jesus is God, and because He is, final death is impossible for him.
This is the basis of what Christian education is all about.
This will be our focus for the new church year.
Joe McKeever has worn many hats. He’s a pastor, a cartoonist, and a keen observer of the trials and tribulations of church life. He retired as Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of New Orleans, and has collected an ongoing list of things NOT to tell a pastor. He has given his ok to pass them on and even add to the “wisdom.” These are the ones I like — and have heard!
1. “I enjoyed your little talk.”
2. “Is what you said true, or was that just preacher talk?”
3. “The restroom is out of paper.”
4. “Someone–I’m not saying who–told me to tell you….”
5. “Can I come by your office in the morning? I might need a couple of hours of your time.”
6. “I miss our church when it was just our people.”
7. “I heard High Rock Church baptized 42 people. And Grace Chapel had a $100,000 offering last week.”
8. “Just because you’re the pastor doesn’t make you always right.”
9. “Hi Pastor! Bet you don’t remember my name.”
10. “You preach too long; our former pastor preached 20 minutes and people loved him.”
11. “We don’t want those kind of people in our church.”
12 “Are you aware of what your daughter posted on Facebook?”
13. “This is our church. My granddaddy started this church.”
14. “I don’t care what the Bible says. I know what I believe….”
15. “Would you tell the music director to sing some of the hymns I like?”
16. “I’m not being fed.”
17. “Oh, pastor–don’t you just love Joel Osteen!”
It’s Back-to-School time! I know young mothers who are struggling with sending their small children off to kindergarten for the first time. I also know mothers who are sending their older kids off to college. Either way, parents have to release their children to the unknown. It is the job of parents to care for and protect their children. This is a reflection of how our Heavenly Father cares for and protects us, his own children. This was made visible to me one Sunday when Mark, our worship leader, became aware of baby noises in the back of the sanctuary. His own baby was with her mother in the same general area. I could see how Mark became instantly alert as he watched from the platform to make sure that his baby was not in distress.
We live in a world that causes us distress. Several church and family members are dealing with serious health issues. We need the assurance that God our Father is watching over us. And the Bible promises us just that. So with a lump in our throat and fear in our heart, we come before the throne of God on behalf of those we love. And we know from our experience with Him that He is a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God. We trust those closest to us to Him and rest assured that He is with them - at school or in the hospital or where ever they may be.
We pray for those we love using the scripture that I often use as a benediction:
“The Lord bless you and keep you,
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Numbers 6:24 - 26