Do this…

Do this…

Today is Maundy Thursday – the day we annually remember Jesus’ last meal with his disciples.  The word “maundy” simply means command.  We “do this in remembrance” of Jesus – sharing bread and juice/wine with each other, representing his body and blood – because he commanded us to.

Today is the annual observance of that command.

Of course, many churches obey this command more frequently than once a year.  Depending on your denomination and tradition, some do it quarterly; some monthly; some weekly; and some, even, daily.  My tradition, United Methodism, typically celebrates Holy Communion monthly, though in recent years we have been encouraged to move to weekly communion.   For this season of Lent, my own church has celebrated communion weekly, instead of our regular practice of the first Sunday of the month.

We call this ritual by several names – Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”), The Lord’s Supper, and Holy Communion.  Recently, I’ve been pondering the word communion.

There are a number of words that are related to the word communion…

  • Common – as in, ordinary, and the things we share with “in common” each other.
  • Community – as in, the people we share our lives with.
  • Commune – as in, where some people live together as a family or community.
  • Communicate – as in, the sharing of thoughts, ideas, concepts, or concerns.
  • Union – as in, the gathering or joining together of things or people.
  • Unity – as in, the one-ness shared between people.
  • Unite – as in, the coming together of people for a common purpose or cause.

Isn’t that what Holy Communion is all about?  We gather as a community, sharing common pieces of bread and juice/wine with each other, which unites each person with God, and results in a unity among the people gathered?  This is more than a ritual observance, practiced obediently, because we were told to.  This ritual is communion – connecting me more deeply with God and with the community of Christ, through common symbols representing his sacrificial flesh and blood.

It strikes me that all of us need a lot more communion in our lives – ritual, and otherwise.  So much seems to drive us apart, distract us from God, and even divide our individual attention and intentions.  This world – and all who live in it – is so disjointed, disconnected, and discombobulated (sorry, I needed another “d” word, for alliteration sake).  It seems to me that obeying Jesus’ command to commune with him and with each other is much needed medicine – for all of us.

So, today is Maundy Thursday.  You are commanded – by Jesus, himself –  to find a church, to receive Holy Communion, and to enjoy the communing benefits.

Do it.  Today.  That’s a command.

Pre-Easter Pondering

Pre-Easter Pondering

I know it’s not Easter yet.  Easter is still a few days away.  Before Easter, we still have Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  We can’t just skip to Easter, bypassing all that led to Easter.

But, Easter is on my mind – probably because it’s the biggest day of the Christian year and I have a sermon to prepare.

Here’s what I’m pondering…

I don’t have any problem believing in Jesus’ resurrection.  As unexpected as it was, and as impossible as it may seem, I do actually believe that Jesus died a human death, that his corpse lay in a tomb from Friday evening through early Sunday morning, and then his dead body came back to life – resurrected life!

Undeniably, that is a pretty remarkable thing to believe.  But, I do.  With all of my heart, I do.

I also don’t have a problem believing that because Jesus was resurrected, that he has made that possible for me.  I mean, because Jesus died and came back to life – in a new, resurrected way – I will be raised after I die, too.  I believe that.  When I die – whenever that may be – and breathe my last breath, I believe I that I will awake to a new, resurrected life on the other side of death.

Undeniably, that, too, is a pretty remarkable thing to believe.  But, I do.  With all of my heart, I do.

But, here’s what’s on my mind this Holy Week about the Resurrection.  The Bible doesn’t only say that Jesus rose from the dead (past tense), or that we will be resurrected after we die (future tense).  The Bible says that we ARE resurrected (present tense).  Now.  Today.

“Therefore, if anyone IS in Christ,the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new IS here!”  (2 Corinthians 2:17)

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but CHRIST LIVES IN ME. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)

“Since, then, YOU HAVE BEEN RAISED with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life IS NOW hidden with Christ in God.”  (Colossians 3:1-3)

I HAVE been raised with Christ.  I AM a new creation.  My life IS NOW hidden Christ.  CHRIST LIVES IN ME!

Present tense.  Not just past tense.  Not just future tense.  Present tense.  Resurrection is a present reality.  I AM resurrected!

Is that really true (I know that it is)?  I don’t always feel resurrected.  I don’t look resurrected.  The Lord knows, and everyone I know will confirm, I certainly don’t act resurrected.  What does it mean for Vance Clifton Rains to be a resurrected human being, alive in Christ, today, in Coral Springs, Florida, at work, in my house, etc., etc.?

I certainly couldn’t ask such a question without Christ’s resurrection.  And, this life is short, so my future resurrection from the dead is pretty exciting.  But, increasingly, it seems to me that my current state of resurrection may be what’s most important.

If my future resurrection means that, on the other side of death, I will be completely free from this life of sin and selfishness, and that I will have perfect communion with God and God’s family, and that I will be a perfectly whole and unique reflection of God’s image in me, does my current state of resurrected-ness mean that I am to be those things now…

  • free from sin and selfishness?
  • in perfect communion with God and God’s family?
  • a perfectly whole and unique reflection of God’s image in me?

Today?  Is that what being resurrected, in the present tense, means?  If not, what else?

This week, as I ponder Easter, I just keep coming back to wondering if we are missing the point.  We (Church-going Christians) do our programs and rituals.  We read our Bibles.  We believe what we we’ve been taught to believe.  We have our stances regarding what is right or wrong.

But, are we resurrected people?  Do we worship as resurrected people?  Do we serve as resurrected people?  Do we work as resurrected people?  Do give as resurrected people?  Do we love as resurrected people?

If I AM resurrected, why am I still so enamored with this world?  If I AM resurrected, why isn’t my life, my attitude, my worship, my heart a better reflection of the world and the life to come?  If I AM resurrected, why aren’t I more like Jesus?  Now?  Today?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not questioning the present reality of my resurrection.  I AM raised with Christ!  I know that it is Truth.

I’m wondering what it would look like for me, for you, for the Church, for the Body of Christ to look a bit more resurrected – TODAY.  And, every other day, until Christ comes again.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

Happy Pre-Easter.  Now, go be resurrected.

Refreshing

Refreshing

I had the privilege of teaching my church’s confirmation class about the Sacraments this morning.

When I teach about Baptism, which is one of our two Sacraments in the United Methodist Church, I often ask, “What is water used for?”  I’m looking for three answers, each that help us understand the meaning of Baptism, knowing I will usually only get two.

Everyone knows that we use water to wash.  Similarly, Baptism washes away our sins.

Everyone knows that we need water to live.  Similarly, in Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit, who is the source of never-ending life.

The third, that know one ever thinks of, is that water can kill a person – you can drown in it.  Similarly, the waters of Baptism drown us, killing the old sinful person, and then we rise from the water, born again.

But, today, one of the confirmands thought of one that I had never considered.  Water refreshes.

I like that image of Baptism.  Baptism refreshes.  In Baptism, I enter into life in the Spirit, which is refreshing.

I was reminded of Acts 3:19, where Peter says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

I love that image – times of refreshing from the Lord – that begins with Baptism.

Though there are certainly times for seriousness, and even lament, it seems to me that spiritual refreshment ought to be the defining characteristic of life as Jesus followers.

Yes, there are times for reflection and discernment.  Yes, we are called to obedience.  Yes, there are times for broken-hearted repentance and confession.  Yes, there are times for rolling up our sleeves and doing what needs to be done.  Yes, there are times for prophets to speak out, and to fight for justice.  Yes, there are times for weeping and wailing.  But, refreshment is a gift that is perpetually available, and too often ignored.

Jesus said that all we have to do is ask…

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead?12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  (Luke 11:9-13)

Refreshment.  I like that.  I want that.  I need that.

The Wheel of Time Turns…

The Wheel of Time Turns…

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”  Robert Jordan

Last September, I started reading a 15-novel fantasy/fiction series called The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.  Last night, I finished.  That’s fifteen novels in about 7 months – about two per month.  All but one were over 600 pages, meaning I read at least 9000 pages – probably more like 10,000.  Who knows how many hours have been given to this one very long story.

If you are interested, I’ll let you look into The Wheel of Time for yourself.  I’m certainly not going to attempt to recap a 15-novel series and seven months of reading in a single blog post!  I will share that The Wheel of Time is like all of the great epic stories – good vs. evil, heroes and villains, danger and unpredictable outcomes, plot twists and turns, and ultimately a climactic event that points to a future beyond the story’s dramatic conclusion.  Most important, of course, are the characters themselves.  And, with all great stories, those characters become part of you.  To one degree or another, they became your friends.

For the last seven months, I’ve journeyed with Rand, Mattrim, Perrin, Egwene, Morraine, Lan, Lloial, Thom, Nanieve, Elayne, Avienda, and many others.  I’ve fought beside them.  I’ve worried for their safety.  I’ve been frustrated by choices they’ve made.  And, especially in the last few chapters, I’ve mourned some of their deaths.

Actually, last night, as I finished the final page, closed the book, and set it on the shelf, signifying the close of the this literary chapter of my life, I mourned the story ending, and that I won’t be spending time with these characters – my friends – any more.  They are part of me now, and I’m not ready to let them go.

Of course I can read the novels again, someday, and I likely will.  But, I’ve felt the same about many fictional characters.  Over the years, and through the pages, characters have become part of me – King Arthur and Robin Hood; Frodo Baggins, Gandalf, and Aragorn; Harry Potter, Dumbledore, and Hagrid; Beatrice and Tobias; Katniss, Peta and Gail; Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent; Jon Snow and Eddard Stark; Jon and Nick Darrow and Charles Ashworth; and so many, many others.

One of my favorite novels is Steinbeck’s, East of Eden and one my favorite fictional character’s is Samuel Hamilton.  Samuel is an endearing, wise good-hearted, imperfect patriarch.  I remember weeping (maybe sobbing) when he died – a fictional death, of course.  But, nevertheless, my friend and mentor was gone.

That’s how great stories are – they engage you, draw you into the drama, and the characters become real.  The story becomes part of you, and I suppose, in some way you become part of the story.

There’s another story like that.  It too is full of intrigue, conflict, heroes and villains, good versus evil, plot development, and great characters.  Some of those characters have also become part of me through the years – Adam, Joseph, Samuel, Ruth, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Esther, Amos, a pair of Johns, Peter, James, Paul, and, one man in particular, named Jesus.  There are others who have become part of their story too – St. Augustine, St. Patrick, St. Francis, St. Aelred, John Wesley, Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa, and so many others.  They’ve inspired me, challenged me, confused me, frustrated me, disappointed me, and invited me to join the story, walking with me on my own epic journey, shaping my story page by page, chapter by chapter, sentence by sentence, word by word.

But, there is one big difference – THIS story, and THESE characters aren’t works of fiction.  They are real and they are alive, and one day I will know them face to face.  If fictional characters can affect me so deeply, I suspect these men and women can do so even more.

So, last night I said goodbye to some dear friends from The Wheel of Time, who I may or may not visit again in the future.  I will always remember them, to one degree or another.  But, this other story and these other friends, well, they will continue to be with me, in a very permanent way, today, tomorrow, and forever more!

The Sin of Being Passive

The Sin of Being Passive

I can easily be accused of being passive.  I don’t move quickly.  I take my time making decisions.  I tend to be quiet – taking in more than I express.  I don’t get very excited very often.  I prefer peace and calm.  I don’t show much variation of facial expression.  I can watch grass grow or paint dry, and be perfectly content.

But, I wouldn’t say that I am mentally passive.  In fact, my mind is so active that I have trouble shutting my thoughts down.  But, externally, I realize that’s a different story.

During Lent, I’ve been reflecting on that line from a familiar prayer of confession, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done…”  We not only need to confess our sins of commission, but also our sins of omission – in other words, our sins of passivity.  While I may not be guilty of this or that particular action (though I likely am), I am very likely guilty of inaction.

It recently occurred to me that Adam was standing next to Eve – passively – while the snake tempted the two of them to eat the forbidden fruit.  Then Adam blamed God for making Eve.

When the angels told Lot’s family to leave Sodom, they dragged their feet.

When Dinah was raped (Genesis 34), her father, Jacob, did nothing.

Passive.

Isaiah 1:17 says, Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

That’s action.  That’s what it means to God’s people.

But, by verse 23, Isaiah says that, our rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”  Their actions were evil – bribery, corruption, theft.  But, equally evil was their inaction – including the distinctive call to God’s people to love justice and do kindness – “they do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Oppression is not only the result of sinful action.  Oppression is also the result of passive inaction – MY passive inaction.  YOUR passive inaction?

Though I read and speak and write about justice, acting on behalf of the oppressed and the marginalized is another matter.  I cannot – we cannot – passively watch the injustice in our communities and broader world, and do nothing.  We are called to be people of action – to be a hand of mercy and a voice of prophecy.  We are called to act.  To do less, is nothing less than sin.

I confess that sometimes my passivity is selfish – I just don’t want to do anything.

I confess that sometimes my passivity is selective blindness – if I don’t see it, it must not be happening (ostrich syndrome).

I confess that sometimes my passivity is rooted in busyness – I am so busy doing church work that I don’t have time to do Kingdom work (there is a difference).

I confess that sometimes my passivity is a result of cowardice – will I be criticized for this, and am I willing to pay the price?

I confess that sometimes I am passive because I don’t know what to do – ignorance becoming a convenient crutch.

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther king wrote the following words from a Birmingham jail cell, largely to white passive pastors, who were discouraging his actions, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

“The time is always ripe to do what is right.”

This week, chemical weapons were deployed in Syria, Isis killed over 50 people in Syria and Iraq, and – as is true every other week – multitudes of people are suffering and dying in countless ways, while I passively do nothing.

Forgive me, Lord, for what I have left undone, and those things which I ought to have done. 

What will we do?  What will I do?

 

Thin Places

Thin Places

As I was reading this morning, I came across this statement in James K. A. Smith’s, You Are What You Love

“We might say the sacramental power of Christian worship “enchants” our everyday lives, reminding us that the world we inhabit is not flattened “nature” but rather a creation charged with the presence and power of the living Spirit… Creation is always more than we see.  What might appear “natural” is suffused with God’s grandeur.  It is in worship that we learn to inhabit the world in this way, as an environment charged by the presence and activity of God.”

Worship “enchants” our everyday lives… I like that.

Reading that reminded me of an ancient Celtic belief that heaven and earth are only about three feet apart.  Thus, heaven is always within reach – always, everywhere.  But, there are also times and places where the separation is much thinner.  Celts called those “thin places.”

Could we also call them “enchanted places?”

Though I know, theologically, that God is always with me, those thin, enchanted spaces and moments, reveal God’s presence more intimately, more obviously, more clearly.  I find rest and peace there.  Some of my thin spaces include…

My back porch, especially on those rare cool mornings, surrounded by my bonsai trees, some in bloom.

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In deep conversation, over cups of coffee, with intimate friends (you know who you are).

An ancient church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, early in the morning, when the Mayan incense is rolling in from the front doors.

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On top of Volcan Pacaya, in Guatemala, with beloved friends, as the lava flowed a few feet away, and we shared in Holy Communion.

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On top of Mount Nebo, in Jordan.

Riding my motorcycle on canopy roads or along the coast.

Laying side-by-side with my wife, holding hands, completely relaxed in each others’ presence.

Duke Chapel, where I went to seminary.

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Holding someone in my arms as they weep.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit, where I have gone for many, many silent retreats.

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The birth of my children.

Standing in the surf, at sunset, baptizing students when I was a campus minister.

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The sanctuary at First United Methodist Church of Orlando, where I discovered a spiritual home for the first time – where I was married, heard my call to ministry, preached my first sermons, and performed my first wedding.

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Fall Creek Falls, where I went to camp as a teen, and played and worshipped at the base of the falls.

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Corpse pose, after a good hour of yoga.

Time on the beach, early in the morning, listening to Bob Marley.

Occasionally, while I’m preaching.

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Sometimes, when I cry.

Sometimes, when I write.

And, oddly, a few unspeakable moments of unbearable tragedy, when I was called upon to be a pastoral presence.

As Smith writes, these, and others, have been thin, enchanted places, “charged by the presence and activity of God.”

It was good to be reminded of those places this morning.  It was good to be reminded that those places exist.  It was good to be reminded that I need those places.

So, this morning, I took my cup of coffee, and walked out to my porch.  I walked from bonsai tree to bonsai tree, to look at each blossom and to look for new growth.  I enjoyed the moment.  And, I felt God’s enchanting presence.  And, it was good.

Where are your thin places?

Restored Minds – the 5th message in a sermon series called “Restoration,” preached on April 2, 2017 at First Church of Coral Springs

Restored Minds – the 5th message in a sermon series called “Restoration,” preached on April 2, 2017 at First Church of Coral Springs

We’ve been talking, lately, about how God takes broken things and restores them into something new.  Today, I want to talk about the most broken thing of all – our minds.  I’m sorry to tell you this – you have broken mind and it needs restoration.  If you think I’m wrong, then you definitely have a broken mind!  No matter what your politics, your philosophy, your opinion, your theology, your prejudices, your preferences, your education, your taste – you are wrong! – because your mind is definitely broken.   You are definitely wrong.

Turn to your neighbor and say, “You’re wrong.”  Turn to your other neighbor, and tell them, “You’re wrong, too.”  But, be careful if it’s your spouse.  They’re wrong too, of course. But, they may be tired of hearing that from you!

The bad news is that we’re all wrong – there’s no escaping it.  The good news is that you’re not the only one.

Here’s the problem – All of us view the world through a limited, biased perspective.  Let me ask you…  Have you ever thought you were right, only to discover later that you were wrong?  Have you ever changed your mind?  Have you ever learned something you didn’t know?  Do you have any biases, fears, prejudices, opinions, preferences?  Do you feel anger or hatred toward anyone?  Any self-esteem issues?  Have you ever considered how all of that may give you a somewhat biased, lop-sided view of things?  Have you ever considered that you might be wrong?

John Wesley once said, “When I was young I was sure of everything; in a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before; at present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to me.”

            The only person who is never wrong, of course, is Jesus.  The rest of us – well, not so much.

 

 

What if you are wrong?

Throughout the 2000-year history of the Church, Christians have been seriously wrong about lots of things, and have committed terrible atrocities in the name of Jesus.

  • Christians believed that the world was flat and orbited by the sun. Devoted Christians, like Galileo and Copernicus, were branded as heretics for saying the earth is round and revolves around the sun.
  • Christians believed that slavery was biblical.
  • The Bible has been used to treat women, Jews, and people of color like second class humans, denying them basic rights.
  • The Church justified the conquering of non-Christian lands, and the subjugation of native peoples.
  • The Church justified the crusades and the inquisition.
  • Countless wars have been waged in Jesus’ name.
  • Churches have split, creating countless Christian denominations and sects – all claiming to be right.

David G. Benner writes, “We all tend to fashion a god that matches our falsity.”

If the Church can be so wrong so often, then you and I ought to be humble enough to admit that sometimes you and I can be wrong too – really, really wrong.

Jesus asked his apostles “Who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ.”  He was right.  Jesus then said that his life would end on a cross.  Peter objected, and Jesus turned to him and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” Matthew 16:23.   Peter didn’t say or do anything evil.  He just didn’t want his friend to die.  But, that was his agenda, not God’s.  One moment Peter’s right – the next moment he’s dead wrong.

What an interesting phrase, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  In essence, if you’re not thinking like God, you’re wrong.  More often than not, like Peter, we don’t think like God.

Ravi Zacharias says, “We have a right to believe whatever we want, but not everything we believe is right.” 

 

The Problem with the Echo Chamber

            Most of us want to think correctly.  Most of us are sincere about what we believe.  The problem is the “echo chamber.”  The echo chamber begins in the home and culture we come from, where we’re taught certain values.  Then, we tend to gravitate toward others who share those values.  We socialize with them, go to church with them, and marry them.  Maybe you watch TV shows that reinforce those values.  Maybe you read authors that reinforce those values.  Maybe you listen to radio shows that reinforce those values.  Maybe you vote for candidates that espouse those values.  Slowly, we become entirely surrounded by people who look like us, think like us, talk like us, vote like us – and we become more and more convinced that we’re right and everyone else is wrong.  That’s the echo chamber.

Others have said that we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with.  Those people influence what we do, what we talk about, what we watch on TV, how we spend our time, what we believe about the world, God, and even about ourselves.

The problem is that Truth is bigger than the Echo Chamber.  Truth is bigger than the five people you spend the most time with.  Though you may be surrounded by brilliant, godly people – they still aren’t Jesus.  And, they’re wrong.

 

Christian Worldview

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).  What is the pattern of this world, and how do we conform to it?

I recently asked a group what it means to be “blessed.”  Answers ranged from safety, to health, to family, to having enough AND enough to share with others.  I then asked the group to read the Beatitudes.  Jesus said,

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

 But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”  (Luke 6:20-26)

I suspect most of us would reverse those.  Most of us would say being blessed is having enough money and food, being happy, and being well thought of – and those are just the basics!  Jesus says the opposite!  Jesus says we’re blessed when we’re poor, hungry, mourning, hated and rejected.

Unfortunately, we don’t have time this morning to talk about why Jesus would say such things.  But, I think it serves as a great example of how contrary our thoughts are to Jesus’.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

From our daily choices, to how we spend money, to how we value people, to how we view ourselves, to the goals we pursue, to the people we vote for, most of us are far more influenced by the world around us, and our own limited perspectives, than we are by having the mind of Christ.  This is a major problem.

If you and I truly had the mind of Christ…

  • This church would be filled, beyond capacity, every Sunday, because we would make worship and keeping the Sabbath a priority.
  • We would baptize and welcome new members, weekly, because we would be inviting all of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and families – and even strangers.
  • We would have too many volunteers, because everyone would know their Spiritual Gifts and feel called to use them.
  • We would have more money than we could use, because everyone would tithe.
  • We would put ALL of our hope in Jesus and his Church – not political parties, or bank accounts, or armies, or anything other than Jesus.
  • We would be truly multicultural, multi-ethnic, and diverse in everything we do, because the body of Christ is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and diverse.
  • We would be healing and transforming people, families, neighborhoods, cities.
  • We would have teams leaving every week on mission trips.
  • We would be planting new churches.
  • We would love and welcome everyone, including the poor, the broken, the outcast, the rejected, the shunned, the forgotten, the least, and the lost.
  • We wouldn’t be worried about personal preferences and petty differences, because all that would matter is fulfilling the Great Commission and loving out neighbors.
  • We would be flexible and willing to change – like new wineskins for new wine. We wouldn’t care what time the service started, or how long it lasted.  We wouldn’t care what kind of songs we sing or don’t sing.  We wouldn’t care if the service was traditional, contemporary, or something else entirely. We would remember that it’s all about him, and not about us!

If we truly had the mind of Christ, nothing would matter to us but living for the Kingdom, seeing it advance, and honoring the Father in everything we do.  Until that is true, and as long as we live for ANYTHING else, WE ARE WRONG.  We need to have our minds restored.

 

Changing your mind…

            So, how do we change our minds?

First, be humble enough to be open-minded, and to acknowledge that only Jesus is 100% right – the rest of us aren’t.

Second, realize that we are constantly under the influence.  The old baptismal liturgies used to have a great question, “Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them?”  Did you hear those three influences; the devil, the world, and the sinful desires of our own flesh?  The question is not whether or not they are influences – and evil ones at that.  They definitely are.  The question is whether we will follow or be led by them.  Even Christians can be easily misled.

Third, we have to be very intentional in immersing ourselves in the Truth of Jesus Christ, and its entire width, breadth, depth, and height.  For many Christians, their belief in Truth is just too narrow, excluding too much that is true.  And, for some, it is too broad, embracing too much that is not true.  But, we all need to be seekers of the Truth, and be open to the myriad ways that God wants to stretch our capacity to understand all that is good and true.

We need Jesus, who is truth.  We need the Spirit, to lead us into all truth.

Paul writes, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8)

Proverbs 5:3-6 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” 

            Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”

            The only way we can think like Christ, and truly be kingdom-minded, is to have our minds restored.  Only Jesus can do that for us.

Until then, you’re wrong.