Sunday, April 26, 2009

Milk Carton Theology

Milk cartons used to be stamped with a “Use by” date. Then they started using a “Sell by” date. Now they just say “Best by” date. What’s up with that? After all, if a milk carton says “Use by” a certain date, and that date has passed, I don’t even open the cap. The milk gets trashed.

The “Sell by” date is a little more difficult. How long do you have to use it after it is sold? When should I start getting nervous?

But the “Best by” date is the most frustrating of all. For whom is it best? Is it best for the store’s profit margin to get rid of it by that date? It doesn’t have to be the “best” for me to use it, but I don’t want it to be the worst either. Just where should I draw the line?

See, this is all very complicated. Now I know some people would just say “drink it, and if it’s bad throw it out.” But I don’t always trust my taste buds. Sometimes I’ll taste the milk, and I’m not quite sure if it’s OK, so I’ll ask Kim to try it.

“Why?”, she’ll ask.

“Because I think it may be going bad”, I’ll respond.

“So you want me to drink sour milk”, she’ll say, and coming from her, it sounds like that much more ridiculous of an idea.

Of course, I have no reasonable response, so I’ll just throw out the milk, because whether it’s really bad or not, I’ve now convinced myself it’s undrinkable.

All this, of course, could have been avoided if they would just put the “Use by” date back on the carton. Not the ambiguous “Sell by” date or the vague “Best by” date, but the clear and unequivocal “USE BY” date.

If we benefit so much from definitive information on a milk carton, how much more do we need indisputable information on the more significant issues of life? And that’s where God’s Word comes in. Trustworthy and reliable, it is the rule of faith and practice for those who desire to honor God by the way they live.

You may not always like what it says. You may not always understand the logic or the reasoning behind its commands and instructions. But it says what it means and it means what it says.

Which is more than you can say for your average carton of milk.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lazy, Crazy Days of Summer

We're entering an extremely busy time for most of our families. Weddings, graduations and vacations will fill already crowded calendars over the next few months. It can be difficult to maintain some sense of normalcy in the midst of such crazy schedules.

As a pastor, I am deeply convicted that we in the church do all we can do to help people navigate these crazy times, rather than to add to the burdens of schedules that are overloaded. At Life Spring, we seek to follow the "Simple Church" model that calls for doing a few things with excellence, rather than to do a number of things in mediocrity.

That doesn't mean that we don't do anything in the summer, but we try to be even more intentional about not filling up the calendar any more than necessary. We'll have a church picnic, which is one of the favorite events for a lot of our families. Life Groups will meet, and our Men's & Women's Ministries will have a few events. But overall, we'll do our best not to add to the stress level of our folks by giving them more obligations than they can fulfill.

All of this is a part of our effort to move people away from equating "activity" with "spirituality". Some people seem to think that just because they're busy with church activities, that must mean that they're OK with God. Very often, just the opposite is true. They are so busy doing things, they don't have time to spend with Jesus (think Martha and Mary, Luke 10).

So if you are a part of our family at Life Spring, we hope you'll join us for our worship services each Sunday morning. Stay active in your Life Group. And attend other activities as your schedule permits. But don't fall into the trap of thinking you must be busier in order to be more pleasing to the Lord. Instead, spend more time at the Master's feet, and just enjoy being a child of the King.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's April 15

This morning, I went to Post Office before I came to work, and I did my civic duty. I paid my taxes. Of course, I pay taxes nearly every day of the year. Sales tax. Property tax. Twice a month, state and federal taxes come out of my paycheck. But Uncle Sam says they didn’t take enough this year. Sure seemed like enough to me, but in the end, I’ll go with what Uncle Sam tells me.

Like most Americans, I seethe a little when I see waste and fraud in the name of our government. I get more than a little irked when we learn some new detail about how our tax dollars are spent. But I’ve got to tell you, as I drove away from the mailbox, I felt a little sense of pride that I was doing my part as a patriot.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t enjoy paying taxes in the same way that I enjoy two scoops of Rock Chocolate Jayhawk at Sylas & Maddie’s. But as I consider the roads I drive on and the police that patrol our streets and the military that keeps me safe, it hurts a little less to pay those taxes. Just as I walked away from the voting booth last week with a sense of pride that I was contributing to democracy (I was voter #68 in the middle of the afternoon), I drove away from that mailbox knowing that the payment of my taxes was a part of the price of living in the United States of America.

Not only do I feel a little more like a patriot, but I also feel a little more spiritual. After all, Jesus said to render to God what is God’s and to Caesar (or Sam) what is Caesar’s (or Sam’s). So when I pay my taxes, I’m doing what Jesus instructed me to do.

It also gave me pause for a little thanksgiving. Thanks, Lord, that I have a job and a salary on which I am taxed. Thank you for my home and the mortgage interest deduction that it provides. Thanks for my wife and my daughter, or as they’re known in the tax world—my little exemptions. Thank you that my health costs didn’t exceed 2% of my adjusted gross income. Thanks that some of Kacie’s college expenses are tax deductible. We’re told to give God thanks in everything, and I guess that means on tax day, too.

I’ll still gripe about high taxes and waste and fraud. I’ll still prefer lower taxes to higher taxes. I’ll still take every deduction and credit I can. But when all is said and done, I hope I remember that even an unpleasant and mundane task like paying my taxes can be an act of worship if my heart is right.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Happy Easter

We celebrate Easter, 2009 during a time of great uncertainty.

The world economy teeters on disaster. No one knows how bad things will get before they get better. How many more people will lose their jobs? How many more families will lose their homes? How many more communities will lose all hope?

The moral fabric of our nation is unraveling at breakneck speed. The concept of sin has been lost on an entire generation. If you believe that God abhors homosexuality, then you are a “bigot”. If you think that God holds human life sacred, then you are “intolerant”. If you subscribe to the idea that in the beginning, God created all things, then society holds you in contempt as uneducated and ignorant.

If ever there was a time when we needed the encouragement of a risen Savior, it is now. If ever there was an occasion for hope rooted in unchanging truth, it is today.

When Jesus came into the world the first time, it was into a world of tremendous uncertainty, not unlike today. People were going through the motions of a lifeless religion. They were staking their futures on the hope of greater peace and prosperity, even as the world experienced greater chaos and turmoil.

Many people viewed Jesus’ death as the end of all hope, when in fact it was the root of real hope, for He defeated sin and the grave when He rose from the dead.

Over this next week, let’s take time to consider the sacrifice He made and the price He paid so that no longer would our hope rest on a fickle economy, feckless political leaders or a finicky religion. Our hope is now based on the firm assurance that He is not here; He has risen, just as He said!