Friday, January 28, 2011

Name Tags

Throughout the afternoon I had been meeting people, going in and out of stores, fulfilling routine tasks with a name tag stuck to my shirt. I had attended a seminar in the morning at which every participant was required to use one and had forgotten to remove it after the meeting. Name tags with adhesive on the back are really very handy--especially when you need to remember someone's name. But one of my children was kind of embarrassed by the fact that I was walking around advertising who I was to everyone close enough to read my name tag. All it took was, "Dad, will you please take off that name tag" to get me to quickly remove it from my shirt. That's the other great thing about name tags--when you don't need or want them anymore, they peel off very easily and no one would ever know you had one on.

Unfortunately, it's very easy to fall into a "name tag" Christianity. On Sunday mornings we're happy to put on that name tag. When we're with other Christians discussing the woes of our world it comes out again. But when we're at work and the conversation turns to those "hypocritical, narrow minded Christians" or someone makes the comment, "I don't know how an intelligent person could be a Christian," then we have the tendency to quickly take off our Christian name tag and remain inconspicuously quiet. Or, it may happen that we're at a get together and we start having a little more "fun" than we know we ought to be having and again we just conveniently ignore the "Christian" part of our life.

One of the first things Jesus did when he started his ministry was to call disciples. The word disciple means "learner" or "follower" and it was used not only for the 12 disciples we hear about in the Gospel accounts, but for anyone who believed Jesus to be the Promised Savior, the Son of God. This Sunday we are going to study the kind of life Jesus intended for those he calls his disciples. To be sure, it's totally different from the "name tag" Christianity which some people find attractive today. But, it is different in all the right ways!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Temptation: Tragedy or Triumph--Which Will It Be?

The word temptation is usually understood as something so powerfully attractive that it forces a person to do something that isn't good either for him/her or others. Years ago, however, the word temptation had two meanings: it was understood as we understand it today, a luring into some kind of destructive behavior, but it was also used to refer to a test, something which if passed, could be very beneficial to a person.

We live in a society that doesn't much believe in willpower. Americans like to indulge. In fact, we like to indulge so much that when we're told we've got to stop what we're doing we say, "I just can't. It's too much of a temptation." And that's how we've come to see temptation as so overwhelming that a person cannot be expected not to do what he/she wants to do.

The truth of the matter is, however, nobody forces us to give in to temptation, we choose to. And the temptations we experience are no more powerful than those experienced by people in the past. What has changed is our attitude towards destructive behavior. Instead of having a healthy fear of disobeying God, we rationalize our weaknesses by saying things like, "But God doesn't want me to be unhappy and so I do these things I know are wrong because they make me happy." That kind of reasoning may make a person happy for the moment, but it certainly doesn't make sense to a Christian.

We live in a world of spiritual warfare. There is a very real devil who is using his very considerable abilities to lead people away from Jesus Christ. Satan's attacks come daily and in many different ways, but they all have one objective--to lead people to hell.

Did Jesus believe there was a devil? If you join us this Sunday at 10:00 am you'll see he not only knew Satan exists, but was tempted by him, just the way you and I are tempted. But rather than seeing those temptations as overwhelming, he resisted them. It was to defeat Satan and take away his power over us that Jesus Christ came to this earth. His battle with the devil in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry was one of many he would fight with the evil one until the Lord dealt the death blow to Satan on Good Friday.

By trusting in Christ as your Savior from sin, you have the conditions to turn temptation into triumph. You have the motivation to say "no" but most of all you have the power of Christ living in you, enabling you to overcome, day by day, as he molds you into the person he intends you to be.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Cure for Polarization?

What do you do to get two people to show respect to one another who disagree strongly on an issue they both consider to be very important? Maybe a better question is, "How do we convince ourselves to demonstrate respect towards those with whom we disagree?" It's easy to point the "polarization" finger at other people, but the truth is, we all have an incredible ability to see others as enemies who don't see life the way we do.

In the wake of the Tucson tragedy there has been a call for less polarization and more civility. Most of the media attention concerning this topic has been in regard to politics, but it's not just politicians who are at odds, it's families, neighborhoods, and just about wherever there are two or three people gathered in one place. Some editorialists have blamed the growing narcissism of our times, others the isolation caused by ever increasing technology. Much closer to the truth is that we all struggle with self-centeredness.

A look back into history demonstrates that people have always been polarized when other people don't agree with them and the violence of such polarization of the past has been as violent if not more violent than today. So does that mean there is no cure for polarization? No, it just means the cure is a whole lot more radical than people saying, "Let's everybody be nice to each other." Any parent who has tried to help their children get along knows it takes much more than saying to them, "Now say, 'I'm sorry' to each other and be nice."

The cure for polarized people is found in the teaching of a man who lived a couple of thousand years ago. His name was John and he was called the Baptist. His message was pretty simple. He said, "Repent of your sins. Believe in the forgiveness that Jesus Christ would bring. And then change your ways." That message may seem a little too simplistic to people living in our very complex world of 2011, but it is exactly the cure. Why? The only way we human beings will stop being self-centered and give in on something we want very badly is if we understand there is something bigger than ourselves to life. That's what John's message is all about. It says that there is a God, real and personal, who is also holy and just. That's good because it means God is good. But it also means God sees a whole lot in us that he doesn't like. But God doesn't leave it at that. He provides a way to be freed of the guilt of our wrongdoings. That means that even though there is a place called hell, we don't have to worry about it. He's opened heaven for us.

Now think about that: if there is life after death and God has done everything to make sure you spend it with him, isn't it going to be a whole lot easier to get along with people here on this earth, even if you don't agree with them. Especially when you realize that you haven't done anything more to deserve what God's given you than the person you're fighting with. You see, peace with God is meant to lead to peace with other people.

Hawaii Lutheran Church (WELS)

My photo
Honolulu, HI
Community Lutheran Church holds protestant chapel services in Honolulu, Hawaii near Pearl Harbor, HI. We are next to the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hickam Air Force Base, and Fort Shafter Hawaii. Look for us directly behind the Salt Lake, Hawaii, Target.