I have several friends who are basically blind. They have to wear glasses or contacts or else they would bump into things and fall off cliffs to their deaths (this is unlikely since Indiana doesn't have many cliffs, but you get the point). A special lens has been created for their eyes that allows them to see an out of focus world with focus.
Reading the Bible can be similar. We can open up to an Old Testament book and find it confusing. We bump into things we don't understand and might even fall off a proverbial cliff of faith if we aren't careful. The words seem strange and the teachings odd. We see them, but they seem out of focus. We can't quite make them out. We need a lens.
The good news is that we have one. Jesus is our lens. Once we understand who Jesus is (Messiah and Lord) and what Jesus taught us; it is then that we can begin to really see and understand the whole message of scripture. Knowing Jesus is like putting on the right prescription, we find that everything comes into focus.
After the death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to a few of his disciples who were traveling. He spoke to them and took time to explain to them how the Old Testament was connected to his story. Luke 24 tells us, "Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself."
The Old Testament may not include the name Jesus; but it is about Jesus...and it is understood through Jesus. Like the right pair of glasses, it all comes into focus when we see it through the life and teachings of Jesus our Lord.
My prayer is that over this "Red Letter Year" as we study the teachings of Jesus; you will find that the rest of scripture starts to become more and more clear as well. May Jesus be the lens that helps truth come into focus for you.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says "whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
I always took this to mean that no matter what it was I was doing, I should give it my best...because it was really for God. My schoolwork wasn't just for me, it was to glorify God who gave me a brain to learn with. My chores weren't just to earn an allowance, but to glorify God who gave me hands to work with. Even my recreation time, like sports, weren't just for fun, but a chance to witness to my teammates and set a positive example for them of faith, hard work and dedication.
But, taken too far, this mentality can lead us to a point where we work and work and work and work...never taking time to rest. But rest is commanded in the Bible. Remember that God made Sabbath (a whole day of rest) one of the 10 commandments and that God himself rested on the 7th day of creation. Jesus also modeled resting by making time for solitude, prayer and spending time over meals with his friends.
And, to paraphrase 1 Cor. 10:31...if we are gonna rest, we should do it well...because it too is for the glory of God.
Rest is good. God knows we need rest. He knows that without it we will grow bitter, far from him and from others and eventually burnout. Our bodies need rest and so too do our souls.
So I encourage you to rest well. Take time away from work, from chores, from stress. Take a vacation. Take a walk. Take a break. Listen to music. Sit down and relax. Watch a movie or read a book. Spend time with a friend or spend time with God. Make time for yourself. Rest well. It's good for you. It was God's idea after all.
A few weeks back we had the honor of hosting Dr. Mark Gorveatte, our District Superintendent, who visited our church to bring greetings and to worship with us as he does each year. Afterwards he made time to meet with our board, our staff and with me to answer questions, provide feedback and catch up.
At one point over lunch. he made a comment about our worship, how we sing both old and new songs...hymns and contemporary worship. He said that some people might think that we are confused about our identity as a church. You see some churches are laser focused on a certain demographic. They want to reach 18-25 year olds for example, so they only play the newest songs and wear trendy clothing and have the best technology. Other churches cater to the Boomer generation and play music that sounds a lot like classic rock while wearing clothing that looks like it came out of an Eddie Bauer catalog.
So a person might show up to Six Points and think that we don't know who we are or who we are trying to reach...but we do. We want to be a multi-generational church. We value being a church where a 90 year old and a 9 year old can worship side by side. We want to be a church where kids, teens, parents and grandparents can all worship, grow, serve and give as a community together. We think that we are better together. We get wisdom and maturity from our senior saints and we get passion and vitality from our younger generations. We know who we are. We are a church that wants to reach all generations for Jesus.
So we sing a few songs that I don't like from time to time...but somebody else does; so what? As long as Jesus is glorified; that's all that matters. We worship together, all generations gathered in the name of Jesus. That's who we are.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. We are not having a service this year at Six Points, but I do encourage you to observe this Holy Day on your own and to think about this ancient church season as we lead up to the celebration of Easter.
Lent is a time of reflection, a time of repentance and a time of confession. In the ancient world repentance was often shown by the wearing of sack cloth (think burlap...itchy) and placing ashes on your head. This was a way to show others that you were in mourning (for a death or sin) and to "feel" your sin in a deep way. It also reminded a person of their mortality. We all, eventually, die and our bodies decompose into dust...into dirt. Adam was made from dirt (fun fact, the word Adam actually means dirt in Hebrew) and we all turn back into dirt. So placing ashes on our heads is a way to remember our mourning, our repentance and our mortality.
May God use these days to help you repent of your sin, turn from your wicked ways and have the power from the Holy Spirit to "go and sin no more" finding freedom in Christ to live in love.