Sunday, November 24, 2019

Before Church ~ Sunday November 24, 2019

Consider Your Calling I Corinthians 1:18-31

We take ourselves way too seriously.  Have you watched the news lately?  Good for you, it’s really best to avoid the national outlets.  But if you have, like me you have seen all of the politicians screaming and yelling, people attacking one another, and it is so much noise. The wise, the scribes, the debaters of this age are as foolish in God’s eyes as were those of Paul’s time.  Culture holds up as sages: politicians, athletes, authors and speakers, entertainers, the rich who have and can make money, all of whom tell people exactly what they want to hear and who offer vain foolish promises they can never fulfill.  God’s wisdom is exactly opposite to the world’s; God’s power is exactly opposite of the world’s; God’s wisdom and power is the cross.

Cross = a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Greeks.
Cross = power of God to us who are being saved

Consider your calling.  Consider your calling not in the light of your abilities, gifts, or skills, but in light of what God has done – the cross of Christ.  Our calling is first to participate in the folly and weakness of God, the illogical upside-down plan of salvation that is the cross, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles.  Every human being falls into one of those two categories: those who bark their shins on the great big Cornerstone that the builders rejected, or those who dismiss salvation as complete foolishness.  That was us before we were called; it is the default setting for human souls.  Once we have received the love and grace of Christ, the foolishness of God, the weakness of God, these become our lifeline.  After we are redeemed, we understand that the cross is the power of, the wisdom of, salvation; we are spiritually dead and powerless without Christ. With Christ we have divine wisdom and power, upside-down eternal wisdom and power. 

“For consider your calling, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world – even things that are not – to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, Who God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (vs. 26-31).

Whatever calling we do, whatever mission we accept from God, it all starts with the call to the cross, to the folly and weakness of God.  Purpose, vision, mission, vocation, all flow from salvation; the simple surrender to the love of Christ displayed on the cross, the most illogical and incomprehensible example of servant leadership, of forgiveness, of grace – God’s spiritual buy-back of our souls in the sacrifice of His Son. 

What passes for wisdom in our time is what’s popular; the story du jour with no truth, no spiritual backbone, no longevity; worldly power is using force to control others.  But God’s wisdom and power are eternal and lasting, forever truth and forever strength that from age to age reveal the love of Christ in the cross.  From this salvation we also receive the righteousness, the redemption, the sanctification of Christ.  So consider your calling in light of the cross, and don’t take yourself too seriously. 

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Timing is Everything
by Elizabeth Stone

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end."  Ecclesiastes 3:11

I've been reading Ecclesiastes and Solomon was experiencing some severe depression.  There is this sense of futility to the opening chapters, but by the end of the book he has worked through a lot of his issues.  You have to read the whole book to get the picture, but it is oh so easy - especially for those of us who have lived awhile - to look back on the years and feel the same sense of vanity and uselessness, of not having done enough or not having fulfilled dreams and aspirations.  Ecclesiastes asks the questions - good questions - that all humans face.  "Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky. . ."  John Lennon posited the same questions in his lyrics, but the problem is, with no religion, no faith, no eternity, there is also no hope.  If we have no expectation of life after death, no expectation of grace and forgiveness, no conviction that God will put all things right, and the brokenness of the world will never be healed, it makes for a sad depressing life.  Solomon of all people had it all: power, wealth, education, wisdom, accomplishments, luxury, love, glory, etc., and yet with all the best the world has to offer, he hits a mid-life crisis, or maybe a late in life crisis, and asks all the right questions.  What is the use of all our human endeavors if we just return to dust?  
The answer: right here in chapter 3 Solomon realizes that not only does everything (and everyone) have seasons of beauty that God gives, but eternity is in our minds.  We have the capability of imagining that there is a Heaven, and that there is a time when all the problems of the world, all the sin, and misery, the devil's work, and even death will all end and we will live in eternity with God.  This perfection that we can clearly grasp with our limited imperfect minds is evidence that we are created for immortality.  Solomon didn't get to see it, but he had enough wisdom to ask the right questions.  And we, living in post-resurrection times, know that the answer is: Jesus.  Because of Christ the door to Heaven stands open for anyone who wishes to go through, for anyone who will lay hold of His salvation.  Solomon asked the question, Jesus is the resounding answer.  John Lennon makes the point for us: it actually takes some effort to imagine that there is no Heaven, because we were made for eternity, we were made to believe in God.  Created in God's image, our minds and souls naturally understand eternity, and yearn for it.  And God also yearns jealously for our spirits as well, because He has made a way for us to spend it with Him.  The light of eternity shining on us now makes the blessings of life sweeter, the suffering easier to bear, and the promise of life eternal gives us all the hope we need.  
The butterfly has a season of being a wriggly caterpillar, but eventually it has a season of being a beautiful butterfly.  Sometimes it takes longer than we wish for things to turn out right, and a season of beauty to begin.  But after all the ups and downs of life, eventually, like the butterfly, we will be permanently changed into something beautiful, something glorious, an eternal soul in shining glory. And we will be reunited with our God who made us with this concept of an eternity, beckoning us to our Heavenly home.