Sunday, March 27, 2016

This week's lesson (March 26 - April 1): Son of David

Even a glance at Christ's genealogy is enough to tell you he had a lot of ancestors.
  • Some good.
  • Some not-always-so-good.
  • And some completely unknown.
And yes, I'm thankful for this last group too.

It's easy to believe, after all, that God used good people -- people such as Boaz, Ruth, and Hezekiah.

It's possible to believe God used people who are not-always-so-good -- people such as Abraham, Jacob, and David.

In fact, I can even accept God using people who are downright evil, nasty, and rotten -- people like Manasseh.

But Jeconiah, Shelatiel, and Azor?

Never heard of them.

Yet there they are: just as much as part of Christ's ancestry as the celebrities on this list.

As such, the remind me that God uses all kinds of people: good and the bad, the famous and the infamous . . . and yes, even the not-so-famous -- people like Jeconiah, Shelatiel, and Azor.

Not to mention all the women -- women whose very names have been lost!

To be sure, nothing they did may have seemed all that important while they were alive.

In death, even the little they did was quickly forgotten.

But unimportant as they seem to be, they are still part of a bigger story; in fact, they're just as much a part of Christ's story as the people I've heard about.

In short, you don't need to be famous to make a difference.

You just need a God who is.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

This week's lesson (March 19-25): redemption

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. -- Matthew 6:9f, NIV

Don't think of heaven as just a place.

Think of it as an agenda too.

If you have a problem, after all, then it always helps to ask what the solution would be like -- what are its criteria?

When our church was planning a Fellowship Hall, for instance, we came up with a list of "non-negotiables," i.e. all the things this building must include (and exclude), such as:
  • seating for 100,
  • and given the weather on the Oregon Coast, a roof that doesn't leak.
Once we had this list, it made planning a lot easier. (Not easy, mind you -- but easier.) Talk of adding a stage, for instance, ran afoul of the first two requirements; talk of adding skylights ran afoul of the third.But in both cases, we knew what to do because we knew where we wanted to end up.
Likewise, the Bible gives a long list of Heaven's "non-negotiables" -- of all the things it will include (and exclude), such as:
  • righteousness.
  • mercy,
  • and peace.
Yes, all these things are gifts from God.
All these things will be fully realized, only in the future.
But it's no coincidence that all these things are meant to be our concerns in the here and now -- that Jesus blesses the righteous, the merciful, and the peacemakers who do "God's will on earth, [just] as it is in Heaven."
In short, heaven tells us what God's solutions will be like . . . 
And when you know where you're going, it makes knowing what to do a lot easier.
Again, this doesn't mean we can build heaven here on earth.
But maybe -- just maybe . . . we can show people what it's going to be like.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

This week's lesson (March 12-18): the Church Militant

Seven churches in the Book of Revelation . . .

And not one of them you'd want to attend.

Take Ephesus, for instance -- and yes, it's a hard-working church. Doctrinally correct. The kind of place where the potlucks always run on time (and they never run out of dessert).

But when it comes to love . . . sorry -- they're just not into that kind of touchy-feely stuff.

The rest are no better:
  • Smyrna? Definitely a church for the downwardly-mobile.
  • Pergamum? Too many weirdos.
  • Thyratira? All kinds of lifestyle issues.
  • Sardis? Spiritual zombies.
  • Philadelphia? Weak.
  • As for the church in Laodecia . . . it's nothing but a bunch of hypocrites!
No, all of these churches have problems; all of them exemplify everything that's wrong with organized religion . . .

Yet Jesus is there for them all -- yes, He cares for them, walks among them, has not yet given up on them . . .

In short, He's not too good for them.

And if Jesus doesn't think He's too good for these churches . . .

Then where else are you going to find Him?

Sunday, March 06, 2016

This week's lesson (March 5-11): Peter on the Great Controversy

"Any idiot can face a crisis; it's this day-to-day living that wears you out" -- Clifford Odet.
The Great Controversy doesn't usually seem all that great.

Just ask Peter.
To be sure, he believes in spiritual warfare; it's Peter, after all, who warns us that "the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8, NIV).
But when it comes time to "resist [the devil], standing firm in the faith," you won't find much that seems all that exciting in I Peter. No, there's nothing about exorcisms. Nothing about spiritual discernment. No equivalent to Hogwart's "Defense Against the Dark Arts" (which is probably just as well, given that class's high rate of faculty turnover).
Instead, Peter discusses the way we treat the people in our lives: parents and children, husbands and wives, servants and masters, church leaders and people who want to be church leaders.
But no, he says says nothing about Jedi Masters.
If we want to talk about the Great Controversy, in other words, then we need to talk about the way it plays out in our daily lives -- in the jobs we do, the wages we pay, the people we hire (or don't). 
Anything else, says I Peter, just misses the point.
That's because the Great Controversy isn't just great.
No, Peter reminds us that it's also local.