The Who and Why of Life

I heard a story recently that I want to pass on:

Years ago, a hitchhiker was trying to catch a ride one night in Los Angeles. A car pulled over to pick him up, and when the hitchhiker got into the car and turned to thank the driver, he recognized the driver immediately.  Stopping to pick him up was Academy Award winning actor and director Kirk Douglas! Dumbfounded, the hitchhiker blurted out, “Do you know who you are?”

Okay, this could be an apocryphal story, yet it rings of truth, especially the relevance of the startled passenger’s question.

So, do you?

Know who you are?

Christians give witness to the One who helps us answer the question of identity. In Jesus Christ, we grow to understand (and rejoice!) that we are chosen and beloved of God.

Who are we? Here’s the answer we are given:

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(I Peter 2:9-10, The Message)

By the grace of God, we have our eyes opened.  Jesus Christ helps us see ourselves as God sees us.

How about this question:  Do you know WHY you are?  Through Jesus Christ, we receive God’s mercy and are appointed for God’s mission, “to work and speak out for him.”

In Jesus Christ we are becoming new creations and we find new purpose:  we are chosen of God to help others see themselves and others in the light of Christ Jesus — to see that all of us are chosen and beloved by our Creator.

Again, we stake our lives on Jesus Christ, in whom our identity AND our purpose became clear and real.  The who and why of Jesus are that he is God who came to us as one of us for all of us.

Who are you? Chosen and beloved of a holy God.  Why are you? To serve others in selfless love, to be a sign of God’s gracious will for the world.

And though we may be wary of picking up hitchhikers, we still can look for ways to help others along the Way.

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More Than Ever

Earlier this week, lifelong humanitarian, one-term U.S. President, and Sunday School teacher of decades Jimmy Carter spoke on the “turning point” at which we find ourselves:

“What is needed now, more than ever, is leadership that steers us away from fear and fosters greater confidence in the inherent goodness and ingenuity of humanity.”

The pain we witness in the world — up close, from a distance — threatens to overwhelm us:  Multiple shooting victims in Orlando and elsewhere… refugees risking and losing all to escape violence and hardship in Syria and other failed or failing states… those who are targeted and traumatized by sexual predators… neighbors in our communities and country who feel disrespected and disenfranchised…

More than ever, God’s people are called to be a whatever people.  NOT “whatever” as cynical dismissal but the Whatever’s the apostle of Jesus Christ lists in Philippians 4:8-9:

Whatever is TRUE,

Whatever is HONORABLE,

Whatever is JUST,

Whatever is PURE,

Whatever is PLEASING,

Whatever is COMMENDABLE,

if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, focus your hearts and minds on these things… and the God of peace will be with you.

In times of profound suffering and profane surroundings, we are a holy God’s active response and counter measure.  More than ever, we can help one another to set our hearts and minds on the uplifting Whatever’s within us and all around us.

 

 

 

 

 

Swinging Higher

Did you ever swing on a swing set, pumping your legs to reach higher and higher?

Earlier this year, through an ongoing partnership with Matthew 28 Ministry, a mission team from our church built a playground for an orphanage in Haiti.

This was the first playground — swings, climbing features, etc. — that most of the children had ever seen, but they took to it immediately, especially the swings.

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Swinging on a swing set was a new sensation for these children, and in just a few weeks they wore out the swing hangers, the essential hardware combining hooks and hinges.

These hangers are what makes swings… swing, but without these special hinges, the swings stopped. So, our mission team located and installed HEAVY DUTY swing hangers and the joyful swinging has resumed.

Pardon a pastor for resorting to a simple analogy to highlight a most profound and powerful truth (truth is, we pastors do this all the time), but here it goes:

All of creation hangs upon one unmistakable and essential trait of God our Creator. Our lives hinge entirely on one heavy duty truth — the GRACE of God.

Apart from divine grace, everything comes to a stop. If we hang our hopes on anything other that the love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ, our hopes will wear out. Without God’s grace, we cease to live and move and reach higher.

This is our testimony — all that we experience and hope to experience hinges on God’s grace. And in Jesus Christ, God’s grace is given all God’s children to set our spirits soaring.

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