Future. Change. Possibility. New. These words spark different feelings among people. New things are scary and exciting things. One thing is for sure, when change comes, the experience touches everything in its path. Whether people avoid or accept change will affect what happens. Another thing that happens is the younger who will receive the results of the consequences will experience them much stronger than the previous generation. 

To talk about change we have to talk about The generations in the Church. There have always been issues between the imaginative, futuristic minds and the people who desire traditionally familiar approaches. It has led to conflicts that range from low key church splits to drawn out heresy trials. Those of us familiar with Church History can recall the split of the eastern and western church around one thousand years ago. Another instance is Martin Luther standing against the Catholic Church and being put on trial. The core reason for the extreme reactions during these events was that change was in the air. 

These days, we do not have many heresy trials like we used to. We definitely have stopped killing people for heresies. However, change is one of those things that produce high anxiety among many established churches. A Church might be established for a mere two years and can create its own traditions which result in no chance for change without a reaction equivalent to a rabid lion. That is why many older congregations chase off new people and die off while new congregations platue within the founding generation by not being able to find new people.

How do we combat this? We know that change is necessary for healthy growth. No change produces a misunderstood community cutoff from the world. This sort of self imposed exile in the of spirituality produces the shrinking community which will not take part in the missional imperative of evangelism. However we know that tradition is also important since it is tradition which has shaped the core of our identity.

The prominent figure who shows us how to straddle this paradox of keeping tradition while initiating new things is Jesus. Jesus challenged the traditions of His day. He sent His disciple to not just Jews, but Gentiles as well. He made the relational God more important than the God revealed through rituals. Yet, he still participated in Temple worship, synagogue meetings, and even said that He came to fulfill the traditional Mosaic Law that is central to Judaism. The changes that He created led to many conflicts with the leaders of His religion who saw themselves as protectors of the religion, but it led to positive interactions with the common Jewish person and even Gentiles He came in contact with. Even within the leadership there were individuals who saw Jesus as good and not evil.

Jesus revealed that the problem with exclusively traditional approaches is that it loses touch with the reality of God’s mission. Judaism was meant to be a light unto the nations, but it was not living up to that at the time. Jesus wanted them to show everyone else the better way to live, but the people wanted to relive their former glory and bring the strict adherence to Mosaic law. It was not healthy and did not bring hope to the world.

Jesus also revealed that changing everything at all costs was not good either. Jesus still adhered to the essentials of Judaism. Basic observance of the sabbath, teachings of God bring liberation to His people, and even keeping the dietary laws. Although He pushed the limits of what was allowable by challenging the man-mad parts, He made certain that was fulfilling the law.

People who bring in the future need to copy Jesus. There is this balance between keeping the core of Christian identity, but change is necessary to translate those element into relatable practices today. The traditions that are important are those that show us the true character God, such as love, justice, and peace, and how being in the presence of that God produces joy or misery depending on the desires of our hearts (Revelation 14:9-11). In the end, we should ask if people can understand our traditions? Can they see the character of God? When they see Him, does this affirm their own character with joy or challenge it with the angst of being out of sync with the God who loves the world? These questions will help us navigate the traditions and changes needed as we find the unchageable elements as well as how we should morph into a powerful force.

As a body of believers, the mission is not about us. This only leads to making a religion and a God in our own image. Changing others or God is not our calling. We cannot change others. Only the Holy Spirit can. We cannot make God in our own image because we have already been made in His (Genesis 1:26-27). Change must start inside us (Romans 12:1-2). Pray and meditate on God. Read the scriptures.  Find out how you sync with God’s character. Seek the traditions that show us what is true about God and seek out how that should you. If you allow the transformation that God requires inside of us individually, we can then be used by Him to change the important things that will change the world for peace.


Self Importance

My wife and I took on the opportunity of sponsoring a kid overseas. It’s been quite a journey. You definitely have to keep an eye out to make sure you have funds for a someone who is in need of it. The thing that I have missed is that this has been one of the most important things I have ever done. 

 How did I miss this? 

Any sane man would see that this was a very valuable pursuit. Sometimes, however, desire for certain positions of greatness can cloud judgement. I used to be a youth pastor. I have wanted to be a pastor ever since I left that position. It has been a desire that has enveloped many thoughts and efforts ever since I started college. Being like any other human being, my focus on this has led me to be blinded to other things that God has led me into along the way. Working outside of the Church has led to me to interact with unbelievers. Being a regular attendee has led me to see being a pastor with a different perspective. I have also experienced both humility and greatness in changing a life in a very simple way.
Changing one person’s life is how you change the world. That can be very difficult to see when you are trying to focus on your own future. Sure, doing good things are easy, but if you do not recognize that to be a result of the purpose God has given, you will still be frustrated and wondering when God is going to use you for great things.

Participation in the kingdom is about being least in the kingdom. How does that relate to my previous point? We are sometimes blinded by our own desire for greatness that we will miss the great things happening around us. Missing those moments of being a servant for God’s glory can cause us to resent those moments or miss out on them altogether. In Matthew 9:13, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 by declaring that God “desires mercy and not sacrifice.” The leading religious people of the day were always trying to find that next thing that they wanted to be involved in that had leadership and respect connected to it. They found purpose in their positions and not in the purposes God had made for them. Mercy, love, and justice are primary responsibilities of the believer. However, these can be lost when our main focus is on something that makes us feel important. To put it another way, “whoever is least among you is greatest.” (Luke 9:48) 

Serving others or submitting tho their needs can never be replaced by a sense of self importance. Positions never bring importance and purpose. Instead, relationships do the heavy lifting in how we feel in regards to purpose and spiritual health. If you want position and status, you will get that only. No meaningful relationship can be built by just pursuing being a pastor, teacher, priest, etc. It can only come from interacting with the rest of God’s creation with mercy, love, and justice. Instead of trying to lift yourself up on a pedestal, lift others up above you and make sure they are the ones achieving greatness. The only way to be great in the Kingdom of heaven is to make others greater than you.

Our Fate and God’s Goodness

Goal: show that God plans for good. Despite our choices which bring consequences, God is bringing us blessing.

All of us make mistakes. Despite what you have been taught, the human tendency is to eventually mess one or two things things up along the way. Since we make mistakes, we understand another thing all too well, consequences. They hurt when we make the wrong decision and feel great when we make the right decisions. It can seem like life will end before we can make the consequences go away or experience something good again.

Most of us have heard or seen Charles Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol.” In this story, Ebenezer Scrooge has made some serious choices to pursue money and resources. His heart freeze and he pushes everyone out of his life. Although the story makes it seem easy for Mr. Scrooge to make up for bad decisions, it shows us that how we choose to live today can have devastating effects on us and those around us.

We all know that finding out way out of bad decisions is hard, but there is a darker theology in which people assume that decisions will lock in the results for a lifetime with no hope of escape. One of the ways we tend to lock in consequences is to spiritualize the matter. Sayings like “God will not bless that” or “God’s going to get you” point to a theology that God only blesses those who please Him. That would make sense from our perspective. If someone wrongs us or messes up our plans, we want to get back at them. If we were given the powers of a deity, we would draw our line very clearly and return spite for spite.

The good news is that God is not like this. God’s character is to combat evil with love. That would include inviting the people who have offended Him to participate in His kingdom. Note that this does not do away with consequences. Whatever choices we make will define many events that follow. Choosing to punch someone will lead to either a fight, jail time, or even death. Choosing not to follow God will lead to not participating in what He has for your future. Despite that, God is still reaching to us. God’s grace includes the broken people although we may think blessings should only go to the ones who deserve it.

Matthew 5:45b makes the point perfectly. God sends His blessings and resources to all of humanity, both good and bad. We decide how to use those blessings. We can choose to make a world better since He has . Romans 5:6-8 shows how God shows grace regardless of our rebellious choices. What is God’s purpose? To draw us to Him and His plan. If God is blessing us, then should we not return the favor of kindness to all around us and at least try to bless as best we can? This God even sent His Son into a hostile world to save the enemy, all because He does not consider us the enemy at all. Being an enemy is a reality that we have created. It is fake and goes against all that we were created to be.

God moves towards us even in the midst of sin. We are not victims of a fate which is out of our control and is uninterested in benefitting us. Choices can define us for a moment. In light of Christ, we have hope in the midst of devastation. There is no eternal torture necessary. God has given us a path to peace, but we have to be willing to follow Him to that place and help each other get there.