James’ letter found in the New Testament is likely the earliest of all the writings in the New Testament. It is filled with straightforward and practical teaching about the faith of followers of Jesus Christ. James refuses to pull any punches, but with the immense compassion he challenges those who read it to take seriously their walk of faith, recognizing that how we live reflects who we are. Then, as today, there are many who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, yet their lives do not reflect their identity as children of God. This series will challenge each of us to live lives of faith full of action that is consistently and continually authenticating our identity and Christ’s body.
Genesis 1 forms a foundation for much of what we understand about life and how to live it. God creates humanity in His own image and delegates to humanity the responsibility for the care of creation. In Genesis 1:28 we find important truths about how we are to live life, support life, and even mulitiply life on this earth as God’s image bearers. We see that life thrives and multiplies when we live sustainably.
I have a sweet tooth for ice cream. All it takes is a stroll through the ice cream aisle at the grocery store or a Dairy Queen commercial and all my defenses collapse. But several years ago I had a horrible ice cream experience that nearly changed my love for the arctic dairy treat forever.
Some friends of mine knew of my love for the cool creamy stuff and thought it would be funny to play a practical joke on me. They built the most beautiful caramel sundae the world has ever seen. OK, so that’s a little of an exaggeration, but you must picture in your mind a pretty doggone good lookin’ sundae. Just one look at the finished product made my glands jump into overdrive. So with spoon in hand, bib around my neck and my friends gathered round, I prepared myself for my journey to ice cream heaven.
I dug my spoon into the creamy caramel creation, pulled out the biggest scoop I thought my mouth could handle and thrust the spoonful into my mouth. I was instantly thrown into a state of confusion. Instead of finding myself on the Rocky Road to heaven, I was on a Mississippi Mudslide of misery. My taste-buds were expecting the cool, sweet, creamy flavors of an ice cream sundae but instead they were greeted with the warm, bland, pastiness of mashed potatoes and gravy.
I have nothing against mashed potatoes and gravy, but when one is expecting a caramel sundae I don’t know that anything could taste worse. Mashed potatoes and gravy may be able to be doctored to look like a real sundae but with the first taste there is no denying the combination is a counterfeit – just a poor reproduction of the real thing.
The joke, for my friends, was in the fact that they knew I was going to recognize the counterfeit just a little too late. Imagine the shock that would have ensued if, upon that first bite, I had really believed I was eating a caramel sundae and continued digging in, commenting on how cool and sweet and creamy the sundae was. The joke would have still been on me, but my friends may have brought my sanity, or at least my definition of a caramel ice cream sundae, into question.
Most of us would agree that humanity’s general orientation is toward ourselves. Whether it is conversations between parents and children or the advertising industry and the talk show circuit the connecting mantra is something akin to, “You’re worth it,” or “You deserve it.” Peruse the aisles of any bookstore and notice the growing self-help section. We want to feel good about ourselves and unlock our inner power, thereby contributing to the betterment of this giant blueberry. Then hopefully, we’ll be remembered for a generation or two as a good person. We even go so far as to scientifically prove that we are justified in focusing on ourselves because of the evolutionary processes that have put us atop the food chain. We are a people who are generally oriented toward ourselves.
Yet in the end all of this sounds about as pathetic as calling mashed potatoes and gravy a caramel sundae. And the truth is, it doesn’t settle all that well in our souls. We know this isn’t the real deal, but we’ve done our best to convince ourselves and everyone around us that it is as real as it’s going to get. And as long as the propaganda keeps playing in our ears, well, then it must be true. All the while we wonder why, if this is as real as it gets, all the pieces just don’t seem to fit together to make much sense. From marriages, to parenting, to worldwide peace it feels like we’re trying to fit square pegs in round holes.
Perhaps a shift in orientation is in order. Perhaps if we oriented ourselves toward God rather than ourselves we may find the pieces fitting together like they are meant to, not necessarily like we think they should, but like they are supposed to. And then suddenly when we sit down for that caramel sundae and put the first scoop in our mouth we would actually feel the rush of an arctic treat rather than some sculpted potato substitute. You can keep pretending the spuds are the real thing, me, I’m gonna get back to the real thing.
The American Film Institute
recently released their top 100 movies of all time. Topping the list was the classic movie Citizen Kane. The movie takes the viewer on a journey
through the life of fictional character Charles Foster Kane. Kane accrues an incredible amount of wealth
and power and ultimately destroys himself.
As the movie moves along and Charles Foster’s desire for wealth, power
and pleasure grows there is a recurring shot of a wall with a fireplace in the
center of it in the home of Kane. As his
wealth grows and becomes more destructive, the fireplace gets bigger and bigger
until near the end of the movie the fireplace is nearly as big as the
wall. This fireplace is always burning
and consuming and by the end of the movie the fireplace has become and inferno
in which all of Kane’s earthly possessions are being burned up leaving nothing
but a lot of smoke.
Charles Foster Kane was a fictional
character that was rumored to have been loosely based on the life of a real
individual. Whether or not that is the
case his story is one that is very familiar.
It is a story that has played itself out in some form or another
countless times throughout history.
The lure of
enjoying life is one that is great for all of us, and why not? Life was made to be enjoyed. We hear it over and over again pumped into
our brains through various forms of media and entertainment. The entire marketing industry would be
bankrupted if they were to take an approach that didn’t capitalize on this idea
of enjoying life. Parents encourage
their children to work hard in school and excel in some sport or hobby in hopes
that they will one day do well for themselves and maybe have all the things they
didn’t have. And it is basically assumed
that any politician who wants any kind of legitimate shot at getting voted into
office will have a campaign filled with plans for making life better and better
during their term.
From every angle we are inundated
with the gospel of enjoying ourselves.
And we have bought what’s being sold hook, line and sinker. The American Dream is entirely based on this
gospel and who doesn’t want to live the American Dream? So we want to enjoy life, that’s a good thing
isn’t it? Living life to the fullest is
a positive value, we don’t want people walking around with frowns on their
faces and miserable, that’s why our parents and teachers warned us that if we
frowned too much our faces would freeze that way. People who enjoy life don’t frown and we
should all be enjoying life. There is
enough pleasure and things to go around.
The truth is there is some measure
of enjoyment in the pursuit of pleasure.
We enjoy a good meal and a good movie or an exotic vacation. There is also some measure of enjoyment in
the accumulation of things. We enjoy the
smell and feel of a new car or the crystal picture of a new HDTV. These things are great and they do bring a
smell to our faces and some enjoyment to life, but that enjoyment is always
short lived. There is always something
else to experience or something better to buy.
And so our wants become needs and our short list of needs becomes a long
list of needs and eventually the fireplace is so big that it takes up the
entire wall. Eventually the fireplace
consumes our lives and the things we thought would bring enjoyment ultimately
There is only one true source of
enjoyment in life that will not leave us despairing. The world is not the only consuming
fire. Nearly two thousand years ago a
wise man wrote that God is a consuming fire.
By pursuing Him and seeking to enjoy Him we find what it is we are
looking for. Sure you can enjoy life and
experience short bursts of enjoyment here and there that end up resulting in
despair or you can pursue enjoying God and experience enjoyment that lasts far
beyond this lifetime.
The truth is we are all going to be
consumed by something. Which fire would
you rather be consumed by?
message title: Chapter Five: Sleepwalking
message text: Revelation 3:1-6
message date: 05.09.10
These days it seems that everyone has a strategy, opinion, plan, or formula for how the church should look and operate. However, only one voice really matters, the voice of the one who gave His life for the church, Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation contains 7 letters to 7 churches in which God tells us what His church should look like in order to reflect His image. He shares what to avoid and what to embrace as we reveal the image or our glorious Groom, Jesus Christ. The church at Sardis was a church that appeared alive to everyone except for God. His verdict was they were dead and therefore, in order to experience His life they must risk everything to awaken renewed life in the Spirit.
message text: John 14:1-14
message date: 02.14.10
In this 50th year of ministry for MorningStar Baptist Church we are celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ has been our all-sufficient source and solidifying this reality for the years to come. Jesus makes 7 sufficiency statements in the book of John. Jesus 6th sufficiency statement reminds us that our human quest for God ends in Him.
message text: John 11:17-37
In this 50th year of ministry for MorningStar Baptist Church we are celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ has been our all-sufficient source and solidifying this reality for the years to come. Jesus makes 7 sufficiency statements in the book of John. Jesus’ fifth statement reminds us that He is all-sufficient because of His identity not because of His activity.