Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Greatest Love for all

Our ConnectGroup is about halfway through Tim Keller's book, "Making Sense of God".  The last couple of chapters have been about how people get their sense of identity.  Those considering themselves secular get their sense of identity from one of two places.   They either let other people around them define it, or they look inside themselves for it.  Last week, we listened to one of Whitney Houston's smash hits from the '80s, "The Greatest Love of All".   She tells us that "learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all".  I loved that song when she released it.  I think loving yourself is important, and that we shouldn't let others control or define how we feel about ourselves.  But 33 years later, I don't hear that song the same way.  I am a broken sinner, and if some of my actions and thoughts define me, then I should probably go crawl in a cave.  I believe that God created me in His image, but He didn't stop there.  He came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died the most excruciating (no pun required) death known to man, as a payment for my sin and the sins of mankind.  Trying to find my identity in Him is what I want to live for.  20 years after Whitney released "The Greatest Love of All" she released this song with a different message.  We know that Whitney battled demons until the day she died, but I hope that the words she proclaimed here were true for her.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Flee for all?

Fadi is a husband and father to two children.  His family was sleeping soundly when a missile hit their home and destroyed his shop.  Fadi's wife was critically injured.  In an attempt to find a safe place for his children, he located the Alliance Church which opened its doors to his family and others whose homes had been destroyed by the bombings.   Days earlier, the Alliance Church had a meeting of its leadership to decide if the church would remain open or if the church would close so its members could flee to another area.   The leadership elected to stay in harm's way so they could be the hands and feet of Jesus to those that needed them.  I don't often visualize churches in Syria, but today I am praying for this one.  

I got Fadi's story from this article.  It includes more information about what Christians are doing in Syria.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Freedom Seekers

Last night our ConnectGroup discussion centered on freedom.  If you ask most people what freedom is, they will say, "the ability to think, do or say whatever you want".  But while we all love our freedom, almost everyone will admit that freedom has limits.  Nature, the government, our employer, and our friends all impose limits on our freedom.  So who decides which limits are right and which ones are wrong?  As Christians, we believe that God made us, and that He made us to be in community with others and with Him.  He told us how best to do that by inspiring humans to write down those instructions, and those words have been curated for us over the centuries.  We have the freedom to abide in them or to ignore them.  My true freedom comes in knowing that I can please my Creator by doing my best to know Him more, and that when I mess up, He is waiting for me with open arms.   

One of the most egregious offenses against human freedom was the white man's treatment of Africans as they were bought and sold as slaves for the "owner's" personal gain.  We are still working to try to overcome all the wrong that was done, and that is likely never possible, but I was reminded of one amazing piece of work that gives me hope.   I hope you have 8 minutes to be inspired.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Creating Meaning?

We are discussing Tim Keller's book, Making Sense of God, in our ConnectGroup.  This week's discussion centered on the differences between "creating meaning in life" and "discovering meaning in life".   Many of us spend a lot of energy trying to create meaning either through pursuing our work, our possessions, our leisure, etc. There is nothing inherently bad about pursuing any of those things, but when we think those things are going to create meaning or true joy, we are almost always disappointed with the outcome.  Keller referenced a song by Peggy Lee from the late 60's called "Is that all there is?"  I was curious to see if I could find it, and sure enough, here it is.   This has to be one of the saddest, most depressing songs, I have ever heard.  Ecclesiastes 1-2 describe this as "chasing after the wind".   Keller encourages us that instead of trying to create meaning in life, we focus on discovering the meaning which our Creator has already set in place.  "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."  Ecclesiastes 3:11

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Today's antiphonal trumpets

I grew up going to First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, GA, complete with six-figure pipe organ and even some antiphonal trumpets in the balcony.  The trumpets didn't get exercised that much, but when they did, you knew it.  I sang in the choir and even played my trumpet a few times in worship.  I have fond memories of those times and still very much enjoy traditional church music.  I have been attending contemporary worship services for the past 20 years, and the music we sing has been shaped by musicians from a handful of churches scattered around the world.  One such church is Hillsong.  Hillsong was formed in 1983 in Sydney Australia, and now has churches in 23 countries, hosting over 130,000 people weekly.  A couple of weeks ago, they hosted a conference in Sydney, recorded this video, and almost a million people have viewed it already.  I am thankful for the people that have dedicated their lives to letting others know how they feel about Jesus through writing, performing and sharing their music.