“It’s just as good as the original.” How many times have you heard that line? The purpose of that line is to get you to buy something that costs less. Sometimes it makes sense to buy a copy, but other times it is worth the extra dollars to buy the good stuff.
Cubic zirconia is often passed off as “just as good as a diamond. After all,” the salesperson says, “who is going to know the difference?” At the grocery store, the store-brand cookies sit next to the originals, often with shelf tags showing how much money you save by not buying the original.
When I was away a couple of weekends ago, I stopped by the store to pick up some cookies, chips, and crackers for my students to munch on when we gather in the evening. I was looking to buy the “just as good” stuff, but the store where I stopped didn’t have the generic stuff. So I bought real Lay’s Potato Chips, real Fritos, and real Oreos.
Since I don’t have these treats very often, I decided to try one of the Oreos. It has been years since I’ve bought the real Oreos. I have typically bought the ones that are cheaper, but “just as good.” The taste and texture of the real Oreo got my attention right away. I tasted what I had been missing, and the taste was wonderful! The other cookies are not “just as good.”
Sunday, I’m going to talk about how we buy into versions of Christianity that seem to satisfy, but ultimately they don’t satisfy. It’s easy to try to live out our faith with expectations that carry less demands than the real thing. It’s easy to back away from a deep commitment to Jesus, but arguing that our half-heartedness is “just as good.” It’s not.
See you Sunday. I just might be the guy eating an Oreo.
What we do here matters.
It was just a few years ago. I can still remember the excitement in my Mother's voice as she told me about her new car. She had a new Buick. She told me about the heated seats and steering wheel, about the power seats and automatic lights and wipers. "It just has everything," she said. I have rarely seen Mom get excited about too much, but she was sure excited about her new car.
A couple of years later, Mom had to give up driving because of seizures and Parkinson's disease. So, Dad took over as the driver of Mom's dream car. Then Dad had to quit driving, too, because his vision faded quickly. They had this nice car, the best one they had ever owned, and neither of them could drive it.
Last month, they caught wind of the fact that my vehicle had just died. So, they called me to tell me that they were giving me the Buick. As my Dad said, "There's no use in it sitting here. Take it and drive it."
They had already moved out of their house and into a retirement center. Now, they were giving up their car. As we signed all the documents, I realized that my parents were signing away their last shred of independence. It had to be, but it didn't stop my tears from flowing, especially as I drove away in their last car, the car my Mom was so excited about just a few years earlier.
I think they've had years and years to develop a faith that keeps moving them forward. This is where they are now in life. I shed tears for them, but I think I saw in them a faith that knows that whatever obstacle life throws at them, a gracious God is still in charge of their futures..
Ultimately, we all face a future that is cloudy and uncertain. Still, our faith teaches us that we can face the future without fear, knowing that the God who has brought us to this point will bring us to His presence when our time on earth is ended. So we look forward in hope.
See you Sunday. I'll be the guy driving the Buick.
What we do here matters.
Fifty-three dollars and seventy-two cents. $53.72. After I counted the money, I was somewhat surprised that there was that much money. I thought that there was probably $20 at the most.
Last week, I sold my 19-year-old Chevy Blazer. It needed more help than it was worth, so I sold it to someone who wanted to fix it up. I have driven that Blazer exclusively for nearly six years. During that time, I developed a habit of tossing any spare change I got from drive-throughs into the console. You can get 32 ounces of iced tea at McDonalds for a dollar plus tax. They even add my favorite artificial sweetener to the tea. So every cup of tea meant that about 90 cents in change got tossed into the console. Add to that my favorite cup of coffee can be had at Dunkin Donuts for $1.50, and every cup meant more change in the console.
So that’s how I ended up with $53.72. Little by little, my change grew to the point that the change in my vehicle was worth about as much money as my vehicle itself.
Stuff slowly accumulates. Too many calories equal too many pounds. Too many swipes of the credit card translates to a mountain of debt. Too many angry words equal damaged relationships that may never be fixed.
Now, we’re coming up on a time when we’re all talking about New Years resolutions, and making needed changes in our lives. Sometimes, bad stuff creeps into our souls and turns us into people we don’t like. Sometimes, we know that what we need is a little change, not some drastic personality overhaul.
Some advice for making changes both great and small: ask God for help. One of the last things God said in the Bible is this: “I am making all things new.”
See you Sunday. I’ll be the guy who looks $50 richer.
What we do here matters.
Saturday, December 5, 2015. It was a beautiful day, and I had work to do. It was time to mow my grass one last time, and to gather up leaves and other yard waste. As I worked myself into a sweat, bagging up leaves and grass, I began to ask myself, "Do I normally mow grass in December?"
Usually, by December, there has been enough frost that the grass has gone dormant for the Winter. But not this year. The grass is still growing, and I'm even doing battle with a few dandelions. I actually love to mow grass. I know, strange, isn't it?
Inside the house, while I was outside doing my thing, Mrs. Gilbert was working with a very different motif. She was decorating the Christmas tree and transforming our den into a Winter wonderland. I think she also had music playing that help set the theme for the White Christmas.
So, on the outside, it was a Spring-like day, but on the inside, it was all about snowmen and frozen trees and ice skates, and carolers bundled up against the cold weather
On Sunday, I stood in the pulpit and expounded on a passage of Scripture from Malachi. It stated that God was coming, and that was going to be a fearful thing. He was coming with fire and bleach, to clean his people up. Then, we read more words from Malachi. God can always be counted on to be gracious towards his people, no matter how badly we need to be scrubbed and refined.
John said that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that through him, the world might be saved. Judgement and grace, side by side. That's how we celebrate the coming of Jesus. Not to condemn, but to save. Spring outside, Winter inside. Judgment outside, grace inside.
See you Sunday. What we do here matters.
Last week, we walked into our Sanctuary and saw the traditional signs of a Thanksgiving service. This is as it should be, because as followers of God, we should be grateful and acknowledge the source of our blessings.
Then something happened. This past Sunday, we walked into the Sanctuary to an entirely different scene. There's the beautiful Chrismon tree, the stately Advent wreath, and greenery around the walls and windows. Something new is coming, and we all know what that is.
Outside the Church, we will be bombarded both by religious and secular symbols everywhere we go. Decorations will be everywhere, Christmas songs will blare from every available speaker, and everyone will be challenged to be merry and bright.
Whether you're as jolly as old St. Nick himself, or your approach is a bit less festive, you will feel the pressure to put on a happy face and go forward. For some, that will be easy. For others, the tidings of comfort and joy turn into bad news of financial and personal distress. Given that, i want to challenge you to try four things as you enter this Holy season.
Come visit us!