“PRESIDENT/OWNER”

September 30, 2016

I like computers, but one of their less desirable traits is the ability to generate tons of supposedly “personalized” mail. It’s still junk mail. We received at the church an envelope on which was printed:

PRESIDENT/OWNER
CHURCH OF CHRIST

No doubt we were on a mailing list comprised mainly of businesses for which the addressee of President/Owner was more appropriate, but with that title staring me in the face, I couldn’t help but think of some analogies.

In a sense, we do have a “President/Owner,” although the more familiar and biblical terms are “Lord” and “head of the church” (Ephesians 1:22, 5:23). He is in fact the sole owner. No stocks were sold; no share-holders were invited to participate in the financing. He alone gave his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). That should say something about the kind of allegiance we owe him.

He has even give us inter-office memos and memorandums to follow. (We call them the New Testament.) He has set up an organization to provide proper training of his people. (“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” Ephesians 4:11–12, ESV). And he has even been known to threaten closing down a “branch office” when it failed to live up to the task. (“I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” Revelation 2:5, ESV).

We are conditioned to give due respect to presidents, urgent memos, job training, and the like. When we turn from the world of business to the church, let us not lose reverence for our Lord, urgency for his word, dedication to his training and mission, and respect for his warnings. He is after all our “President/Owner.”

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It’s A Small World

September 23, 2016

Have you ever met a perfect stranger and after a bit of conversation find out that you have a mutual acquaintance? Or, maybe in the conversation you find out that someone you know knows someone they know.

Social psychologist Stanley Milgram did a study on such coincidental meetings. He selected a group of people at random. He gave each of them a document to be sent to another person chosen at random from across the country. The instructions were that they were to mail the document to someone they knew that had the greatest chance of knowing the target individual. That person was to follow the same instructions until the document reached the randomly selected target individual. How many such mailings do you think it would take to reach the target? It only took from 2 to 10, with 5 being the most common number.

John Allen Paulos in his book, Innumeracy, suggests that there is a 1 in 100 chance when we meet a stranger that we will have a common acquaintance. But there is a 99 in 100 chance that we will be linked to one another by a chain of only two intermediates.

It’s a small world. We are linked to one another more closely that we may realize. We need to remember the teaching of Jesus:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46–48, ESV)

May we show kindness to all we meet. May we demonstrate the love of the Father in all aspects of our life.

Who knows what may come of a chance encounter? We may find connections that we never dreamed of. But more importantly, we may be that person’s connection to hearing about Jesus.

Let us not be afraid to share our faith. After all, it’s a small world.


Are You Connected?

September 16, 2016

Psychiatrist, Dr Edward M. Hallowell, in his book Connect, argues that we all need connectedness to live more fulfilling and healthier lives. Connectedness is more than just human contact. It is to feel a part of something larger than yourself. It’s feeling close to another person or group. It’s feeling welcomed and understood.

To connect to other people is not just emotionally desirable—it affects us physically. He cites the Alameda County Study by Dr. Berkman. She and her team surveyed people between the ages of 30 to 69 to determine how they were connected or not connected. The group was followed over a period of nine years. Isolated people were found to be three times more likely to die in that nine-year period than those with stronger social ties. The statistical advantage of living longer was evidenced in every age group. Even those with poor health at the beginning of the study or whose life style posed greater health risks lived longer if they had strong social ties.

Being connected gives meaning in life. It provides emotional resources in times of crisis and the physical benefits noted in the Alameda County Study. Yet modern life often frustrates these important relationships. Hallowell comments: “But many things get in the way of people reaping these benefits, stumbling blocks like too many daily obligations, or shyness, or time, or fear.”

This research shouldn’t surprise the reader of the Bible. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” which resulted in the creation of woman and the family. Through history, God has also desired a people to worship and serve Him—the families of the patriarchs, the assembly of Israel, and now the church of Christ. Hallowell certainly argues that connectedness can be found in many different ways, and he is primarily dealing with emotional and physical health benefits. But it is obvious that the church provides this connectedness with its emotional and physical benefits, plus a spiritual benefit.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19–25, ESV)

The stumbling blocks to connectedness in general can also be stumbling blocks to connectedness in the assembly—“too many daily obligations, or shyness, or time, or fear.” For emotional, physical, and spiritual health, we need one another. Are you connected?


Bruises, Sores, and Raw Wounds

September 2, 2016

As Isaiah looked around at the people of his day, he saw a generation that was trusting in self not God. They were rebellious, abandoning God, and even despising him. While outwardly religious, they continued in an evil lifestyle. The result was a mass of hurting people. He addresses them as “a people laden with iniquity” (Isaiah 1:4).

Why will you still be struck down?
Why will you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.

From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up
or softened with oil. (Isaiah 1:5–6, ESV)

Isaiah experienced the distress of trying to warn people who were going the wrong way. Immorality has a way of leading to pain and brokenness. How often his pleas seemingly fell on deaf ears!

Isaiah described the people of his day as “people who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). That has a very modern ring to it. While people declare that they decide what is right and wrong, violations of God’s moral will continue to result in brokenness.

But Isaiah also had hope. Though we may mess up our lives until we are like a wounded person there is still hope for us with God.

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, ESV)

The message rings out loud and clear: without God there is brokenness, with him there is healing. When we find ourselves wounded and bruised by our own willfulness — sitting in the mess we have created, let us run to the Father just as the prodigal son did. May we find that in him there is forgiveness and healing.