Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sermon 4/27/08 EMIM Sermon- Divine Design Part One "Created to be do More than a Dime"

“You’re Designed to be More than a Dime”
Ephesians 2:1-10

One of my favorite scenes from “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown has Lucy coming in and finding his her brother Linus watching TV. The following dialogue takes place,

Lucy: Okay. Switch channels

Linus: Are you kidding? What makes you think you can come right in here and take over.

Lucy: These five figures, individually they are nothing. But when I curl them together into a single unit they become a fighting force terrible to behold.

Over the next two weeks, we will be talking about what happens when the church pulls together and the ministry that can take place when we serve together. This sermon series is called “Divine Design” because God has created us to be in service together. We will be exploring two passages in the book of Ephesians together.

“You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” begins with Linus telling Charlie Brown that he does not have anything to worry about because science has shown that your character is not established until you are at least five years old. To which Charlie Brown says he is more than five. Patty adds her comments to the discussion,

The only think wrong with Charlie Brown is his lack of confidence; his inferiority and his lack of confidence. His clumsiness, his inferiority and his lack of confidence. His stupidity, his clumsiness, his inferiority and his lack of confidence.

Patty knows how to boost a person’s self-esteem. If Charlie Brown was not suffering from those things before, he surely was when it was after hearing what she said about him. Lucy does not help matters; she adds that he has a failure face.

Throughout the play this theme of low self-esteem continues to come up. There baseball team can’t win any games and even Lucy gets down on herself for being crabby. So often it is easy for us to be down on ourselves, but the first step in being in ministry together is to understand that we are created for a purpose.

In Ephesians Paul reminds his readers of their self worth. He is probably writing to a large Gentile audience and he spends the first portion of the letter in chapter one telling them who they now are because of their belief is Jesus. He says they are:

 every spiritual blessing in Christ
 chosen in Christ
 predestined us as adopted sons in Christ
 Redemption in Christ
 All things are summed up in Christ
 Obtained an inheritance in Christ
 Sealed in him.
 Listened to the message of truth in Christ

In chapter two Paul continues to remind his readers in Ephesus of their value as compared to the former life. He writes,

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

One of the fastest ways to jump into this text is to notice Paul’s comparison between their old life and their new life.

1. Dead in transgressions (vs1). Verses Alive in Christ (vs5)
2. Deserving wrath (vs4) Verses Being Saved (vs6)
3. Being disobedient (vs4) Verses Good works (vs10)

Paul is pointing out a reality that he believed was in every person prior to their experience of salvation. In the very nature of our being when we are a part from God, we “gratify the cravings of our sinful nature.” Paul continues though and reminds his readers that this is no longer true for them. They now, because of the great love of God, been made alive in Christ and they have been saved from their former life so that they can now experience God’s kindness.

The next three verses may be some of Paul’s most famous words,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Paul seems to be going back and completing the thought he began in verse 4, that salvation is by grace, through faith. He then adds that this is a gift from God, it is not by our works that we earn salvation. Paul uses two terms in these verses grace and mercy. It has always helped me to think of the two terns like this: Mercy is not getting what you deserve and grace is getting what you do not deserve. Paul has already said that God was rich in mercy and now says for the second time his listeners are saved by God’s grace. God has acted towards them in ways they did not deserve. Paul says this is a gift from God that he has offered them. Salvation is something that we simply receive, we do not earn it.

Paul them moves on and says that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared for us to do in advance. This last phrase tells us of both our uniqueness and our similarity. As Dwight Kilbourne pointed out in his sermon on this text,

Our genetic codes are so unique that we can be identified by it. In each of the 100 trillion cells in your body, your unique DNA is present that contains around 3.5 billion letters. Even though there is only around a .2% variance in human DNA(, that small difference is enough to make each us different. Even if there were two people with identical DNA, their life experience would make them unique. Identical twins may have very similar features, yet they are unique.

God has made us unique and we are all God’s handiwork. Think about the implications of what Paul is saying. You are not messed up; you are a unique child of God. All of your differences were given to you by God.

While we are unique, we are also all created to do good works. Paul is not specific about which good works we should do, we simply says we were uniquely created to do good works. This is a trait that every one of us has. This is so important for us to understand because Paul is reminding us of what it means to be human. Being human means that we are created to do good and created to serve. I am convinced that when we serve others with the unique gifts that God has given us, we become the people God has created us to be.

I am not sure how many people watch the show “Design on a Dime.” I actually have seen a couple of episodes (I am not ashamed to admit it.) The concept of the show is about helping people redesign a boring space in their house with a very small budget. They get $1000 and a design team will go in and renovate the space. The name of the show is “Design on a Dime” to denote that they design a room with very little money. (I need a Design on the Penny” show) Somehow “Dime” has been used to denote “a small amount of money.”

One of the biggest problems I see in the church is that we somehow think that we are like a “dime” and cannot do very much. We think we are created to do very little. Maybe there is some kind of flaw in our DNA. Paul is telling us this morning that we are created for a purpose. We are created to do good works. Remember that he who created us will be faithful to see our works through until they are completed.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sermon 4/20/08 Graduate Sunday: "Bloom Where You Are Planted"

“Bloom Where You Are Planted”
Jeremiah 29:11-14

My good friend Daniel told me of his story of visiting a gym for the first time with his wife the other day. For those who do not know Daniel, he is from a small town in Mississippi. After college, he moved to what his family calls “The big city of Chattanooga.” Daniel grew up on a farm and spent a lot of his time working outside and he stayed in pretty good physical condition. Now that he has been in Chattanooga working at an office job and getting older, his wonderful wife encouraged him t visit the gym with her.

Daniel goes to the gym for the very first time and gets ready to work out when he notices that everyone around him has towels. Daniel, not wanting to be left out, decides to take a large bath towel with him to do his exercises. Thankfully his wife helps him find the correct size towels. Daniel then proceeds to the elliptical machine where he gets on and begins his workout. About ten minutes into the workout, his wife notices that he is moving backwards. Then, she looks down at the machine and realizes that nothing is lit up. My good friend Daniel spent tem minutes running backwards on the elliptical machine while it was turned off. It was quite obvious that Daniel was a man in unfamiliar territory.

Today we are celebrating Graduation Sunday for those who have graduated from high school and college. While this is always an exciting time in our lives, there are many unknowns ahead. Many of our graduates will find themselves, like Daniel in the gym, in unfamiliar territory. Some of our graduates will be going off to college, some will be leaving school and heading to work, some will be moving from one town to another.

In the book of Jeremiah, the Hebrew people where undergoing a very difficult transition and are now “out of place”. At this point, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, has come into Jerusalem and taken a large group of people to Babylon. Now that these exiles are arriving in Babylon, they are unsure about what to do. Some so-called “prophets” where telling them not to work because God would soon come and rescue them from captivity.

In order to help those in exile, Jeremiah sends them a letter from Jerusalem in which he says,

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them," declares the LORD.

The first part of the Jeremiah’s advice is that the exiles should carry on with everyday life as if they were still in Jerusalem. They should plant gardens, build houses, get married, and have children. Next Jeremiah tells them they are to seek the welfare and pray for the city they are now living in because in doing this, they are seeking their won welfare. This advice is in direct opposition to the advice many of those among them claiming authority.

On one hand, this advice seems like common sense. You would think they would have been driven to succeed no matter where they were located. The fact though, was that this advice ran counter to their way of thinking. They believed God had given them the their land and now that they were in exile, all they should do is try to get back to their promised land. Those claiming to be prophets were making matters worse because they fueled this line of through by telling them that God would come and rescue them soon.

Jeremiah goes on to tell them why he is giving them this advice. He says, “This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” In order to understand this, we need to understand that numbers took on more significant meaning than just the meaning of the number itself. Seventy, because it is a multiple of 7 normally meant “completion or fullness.” Jeremiah was saying that you will be in exile for a “completed amount of time” before you come back home. In actuality, the exile lasted around 50 years. Jeremiah is telling them that they should try to prosper and pray for the land because they are going to be there for a while.
One of the things I have learned about life is that you should not make your plans “too definite.” When we set off to college or we begin our career, we may think we have an idea of all the details that will follow, we in actuality we really have no clue. Being uncertain is a freighting thing and for this reason, we like to stay where it is safe. The Israelites wanted to go back home where it was safe and we want to be in familiar places where we are safe.

In the play “You’re a Goodman Charlie Brown” Snoopy has several random lines throughout. At one point Snoopy says, “Sometimes I think I’ll just pull up stakes and move out of here. Broaden my horizons, meet new people. But something binds me to this spot. That old supper dish.” Many good Christian people have missed out on what God could have done because they have been too scared to be uncomfortable. Jeremiah tells Israel that they will be gone for some time so they should stop thinking about home and move on.

Jeremiah adds to this thought by saying,

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah is telling his audience that even though they are going to be in exile for a long while, they can still trust God because God has plans to prosper them and to give them hope and a future. Although things seem grim now and it appears that all has been lost with the destruction of the temple and their wonderful city, God still has plans for them. This is great news!

Jeremiah adds that then they will be able to call on God and he will listen, they will be able to seek him and they will find him. This is especially important because the place in Jerusalem designated for calling on God and praying was the temple. Now the temple is gone, but God can still be found. As Robert Davidson nicely puts it in his commentary in the Daily Study Bible Series,

He (Jeremiah) challenges them to see that, having lost Jerusalem, the Temple, their homeland, everything that they had previously considered essential to their faith, they had in fact lost nothing. True faith consists in praying to a God who hears, in seeking “with all your heart” and finding; and that can be done as surely by the waters of Babylon as in the temple in Jerusalem.

The truth is that God does not care whether you live in Kalamazoo, Michigan or Memphis, Tennessee. God wants you to seek him no matter where you go. God is bigger than any city, any where. God can even speak to you in a different church! HE can even speak to you in a different denomination or a different zip code. All he asks of us that no matter where we are transplanted to or for how long, we seek after him with our heart.

One of the greatest questions I get from people who are graduating or from people who are planning ahead for their future is, “How do I know the plans God has for me?” We somehow think that God ahs already mapped out our path and that if we do not follow this detailed blue print God has laid out we will be miserable.

I hope this passage can ease your thinking some because this passage reminds us of the resourcefulness and the flexibility of God. Notice what Jeremiah is telling his audience. God had brought them into the Promised Land, but now they have been exiled to another place. God says, “This is not a big deal to me.” “You can still find me and I still have plans to prosper you.” Often times our concept of God’s will limits what God can do. It is not where we attend school or what job career we choose. God can still be found. The heart of the matter is whether or not we seek God with out heart in the midst of the situation we find ourselves in.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sermon 4/13/08 1 Peter Part 3 "When There's Something Strange in Your Neighborhood"

“There’s Something Strange in Your Neighborhood”
1 Peter 4:12-5:11

Many people will remember the movie Ghost Busters that came out in the 1980’s. I still walk around singing that theme song by Ray Parker,

If there's something strange
in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call?

If there's something weird
and it don't look good
Who ya gonna call?

Peter begins the final section of his letter by telling them that if the suffering they are enduring appears strange, it shouldn’t because suffering is the consequence of being a follower of Jesus. He writes,

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God's household.

Peter refers to a “fiery ordeal” that has come upon his listeners. It seems that his listeners are confused about why it is that this ordeal has come their way. In 1Peter it is difficult to know exactly what this “fiery ordeal” The theme of suffering is quite prevalent throughout the book.

(1) Suffering in general 3:14,17,4:15, 19,5:10
(2) Physical violence 2:19-20
(3) Slandering 2:12, 3:16
(4) Insulting 3:16
(5) Reproaching 4:14
(6) Reviling 2:23, 3:9

Instead of complaining about suffering, Peter tells them they should rejoice. The reason they should rejoice is because Peter reminds them that by suffering, they are participating in the suffering of Jesus. This theme of suffering runs throughout the book of 1 Peter and the suffering or “fiery ordeal” has come to them because of their commitment to Jesus.
Just as Peter talks often about suffering, he also mentions the benefits of persevering through the persecution. For example,

(1) Receive an Inheritance that will never fade 1:4
(2) Salvation of your soul 1:9
(3) Silence non-believers 2:15
(4) Conversion of non-believers 3:1
(5) Inherit a blessing 3:9
(6) Imitate Jesus 2:21, 4:13
(7) Be holy 1:13-16, 2:9-10

Next, Peter distinguishes between two types of suffering. He in essence says there are two types of suffering that followers of Jesus could experience. They could suffer because of their faith and doing what is “right.” Or, they could suffer due to being disobedient to the laws, such as criminal activity. Peter then adds the term “meddler” to the mix as the wrong cause of suffering.

I looked up the meaning of the word “meddler” and found that the Greek word literally means “one who busies himself in the affairs of others in an unwarranted manner.” Other translations use the words, “busybody”, “informer”, and “prying into other’s affairs.” Basically this means to put your nose where it does not belong so as not to bring trouble on yourself. I cannot count the number of times that I bring suffering to myself by doing things I have no need in doing.

The other day I was playing basketball with some college students (mistake #1: They are in a lot better shape than I am) and I left the gym with a carpet burn from my ankle to my knee. This all came about because Justin, a college student who is by far faster than I am, told me that if he guarded me I would never get the ball, much less score. Just so you know, I got the ball about 10 times and I scored once. At one point, I somehow got open and got the ball and decided that I could get by Justin and either make a nice pass or score. (Mistake #2: Justin was much faster and quicker than me, although I blame this on my age) When I went to make my move, I realized that my mind was about two steps ahead of my body (mistake #3: I am not as young as I once was), causing me to trip and slide across the carpeted floor.
For the next week and a half, I have suffered from the worst carpet burn of my life and my wonderful wife has been reminding me that this suffering was brought on by ME! It was not due to any heroic act or by any medical condition that I could not help, but by my trying to be younger than I actually am.

In the same way, oftentimes we bring suffering on ourselves by our own actions. So many times I have heard well meaning Christians talk about how much they suffer when oftentimes this suffering is due to things they bring upon themselves with stupidity. Peter is not interested in self-inflicted suffering.

Peter moves on the verse 17, which to me is a very difficult thing for us to hear. He tells his listeners that God’s judgment will happen to those in the church first, before God judges those outside the church. Think about this statement. Those on the outside of the church are the ones persecuting those on this inside and Peter tells the church that while they may be waiting for those persecuting them to be judged, God is going to begin with those on the inside first. He says this to them so that they will realize how important it is for them to stay committed to God.
Peter then concludes this section of the letter, after telling the elders about their responsibilities, by saying,
Humble yourselves therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you…. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.
I think Peter understood the importance of these words personally and knew that this was how he needed to end a letter to people who were suffering so much for their faith. The same God who will judge them first, will be the same God who will lift them up. He will be the same God who will care for them. He is the same God who wants them to casts their anxiety on him. He will restore them and make them strong, firm, and steadfast.

In his book Everything Must Change Brian McLaren tells the story of Graciela and Luiz. There were in South Argentina and they decided to drive up into the mountains and they discovered that many of the ingenious people lived up there and they seemed to be suffering terribly. Their hearts broke for the people so Graciela asked them what they needed most and the people told them that the needed a school. Graciela and her family brought in an architect and they built a school, which changed the whole community. Brian McLaren then asks Graciela why they had never built a school before if that seemed to be the thing that brought life into the community. She answers him by saying, “When people have no hope, all they think about is scraping by for one more day.”

I think churches and people all think the same way. When we loose hope, we loose faith that God can actually bring us out of our despair. We loose heart that God can actually use our church to do more than run the air conditioner in the summer. We loose spirit that God can use us to make a difference. When we are reminded that we have hope, we can change a village, change, our communities, and even change our own lives.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Sermon 4/6/08 1 Peter Part 2 "Livin La Vida Loca"

Livin' la Vida Loca
1 Peter 2:11-4:11

Recently I opened an e-mail and received the following story:

An atheist complained to a Christian friend, "You Christians have your special holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. Jews celebrate their national holidays, such as Passover and Yom Kippur. But we atheists have no recognized national holidays. It's unfair discrimination."

His friend replied, "Why don't you celebrate April first?"

It seems more and more we are hearing in the news and through stories from friends the conflict between people who believe in some sort of god and people who don’t. Normally the conversation is over “our basic rights.” Non-Christians argue that the government should uphold their right to reject Christianity and should not be forced to celebrate Christian holidays, pray, or have to see religious writings. Christians on the other hand, want the government to protect their right to worship God and experience their religious traditions.

As oddly as it may seem, this debate is not a recent debate. It has gone on for centuries. Christians have talked a lot about how best to live a Christian life in cultures that were antichristian. Various persons have had a wide number of thoughts on this. Richard Niebuhr wrote a book called Christ and Culture in which he lays out the positions that have been held by the church.

1. Christ against Culture- This is one of the earliest positions in which the Christ was directly opposed to the current culture and persons would have to make a choice, to either follow Christ or the Culture. “If Jesus is Lord, the Caesar is not.”

2. The Christ of Culture- Directly on the opposite end of the spectrum, and coming out of the liberal movement f the nineteenth century, is the view that many of the values we see in culture are the values of Christ. Our culture helps us to see the truth in Christ and Christ helps us to see the value in our culture.

3. Christ above Culture- As a way of bridging the gap, Thomas Aquinas held that the laws of culture were given by the will of God and needed to be followed to lead us to the greater laws and ways of Christ. Our commitment to Christ exceeds our commitment to culture, but culture is still a high priority because Christ fulfills culture.

4. Christ and Culture in Paradox- This view acknowledges that culture and Christ have authority, but that Christ is superior. Martin Luther, who held this view believed Christians technically lived under Christ and a higher law, but had to live by the laws of culture until the world was completely converted.

5. Christ the Transformer of Culture- This last position holds that Christ and Culture are often at odds, but Christians must live in the culture in such a way that enables the transformation of the culture. The difference in this position and the final one is that Luther believed this transformation would only happen in the end.

As we move into the second section of 1 Peter, we will be focusing on the question, “How do Christians live in a Non-Christian world?” Last week we examined this question by focusing on how we live our personal lives before God and fellow believers. Now we will see how Peter tells us to live out our faith in the world around us. Peter begins this section by says,

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

These first two verses she light upon what we will be reading about in the following verses. As we read last week, Peter reemphasizes what he has been saying, that his hearers who are living as foreigners and exiles, should abstain from sinful desires. In other words, when they desire to do something sinful, they should make the choice to not give in. In chapter 1 Peter tells them to live holy lives in order to please God, who is holy. In these verses, he gives another reason for living a holy life: So that the non-believers will see their good works and glorify God. Peter does not want these Christians to simply withdrawal from the harsh environment that they find themselves in, he wants them to affect them with their good deeds.

In the following sections, Peter outlines what this will look like.

(1) Submit to every human authority. Peter says this will “silence the foolish talk.” We are not quite sure what he has in mind here, but it is possible that Christians are getting “bad press” because they are unwilling to worship all the local deities, serve in the military, and conform to the social customs of those around them.

(2) Slaves are to submit to their masters. Peter tells them this is important to do even when they are mistreated. HE compares slaves suffering to that of Jesus.

(3) Wives are to submit to their husbands. Peter points out Sarah’s obedience to Abraham as an example of this type of submission.

You may be wondering why Peter would tell Christians to submit to such evil institutions like slavery or the mistreatment of women, or submission to corrupt leaders. He makes two things very clear. (1) They are really to submit to God. There submitting to rulers, masters, and husbands is the way in which they submit to each other. (2) Notice the explanation Peter gives to the wives. He tells them to submit to their husbands: “If any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” Peter is not defending slavery or corruption; rather, he is hoping his listeners will use these systems in a way that will convert those around them.

In the Bible, several letters during this time frame use what is known as household codes to describe the Christian life. The most notable is found in Ephesians and is written by Paul. The biggest difference in the code written by Paul and this one by Peter is that Paul spends more time talking to husbands about how to love their wives and how masters should treat their slaves. Paul is actually taking the tradition household codes and turning them over on the head. Peter, with the exception of one verse, only talks to those in the minority.

Joel Green in his commentary on 1 Peter believes Peter has a trick up his sleeve as well. Peter is using this household code to speak not just to slaves and wives, but to speak to everyone who is in the subordinate category, which would have included just about everyone reading the letter. Peter uses these examples to tells everyone how they should respond when people assert power over them. This becomes clearer from 1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Peter again tells everyone to respond to evil the way he has told slaves and women to respond to those who have authority. He says do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. WHY! Peter does not see non-believers as enemies to be conquered, but as people in need of redemption. Christians are not living for themselves anymore; they are living under the reign of King Jesus. Christians are no longer their own, they are the property of God.

These words in 1 Peter amaze me because they go against our natural inclinations. Some years back Ricky Martin made a name for himself singing "Livin' la Vida Loca," which means, “Living the Crazy Life.” The song is about a girl who does crazy things, for example, the first line begins by saying that she is into voodoo dolls. She has an addiction for every day of the week. As I was reading the song lyrics, her life seemed to remind me of the NORMAL life that I see portrayed on TV. It seems to me that the life Peter is telling Christians is more the example of the crazy life. It is very counter-cultural to love someone when they hate you. It is crazy to think that we can introduce the gospel of Jesus to people without having political clout. The task of following Christ in a non-Christian world is the true “Crazy Life.”

Moving to the end of this section, Peter continues this theme with very good advice:

If you speak, you should do so as the one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides so in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

It seems that Peter brings this unit to a closure by going back to the basics. If his audience is at a lose for how to live the crazy, counter-cultural, not-so-popular Christian life, then he tells them to do everything they do in order to bring glory to God. If we are struggling with the way we live our lives, we can ask this basic question, “Are our words and actions bringing glory to God or are they an attempt to bring glory to me?”

Next weekend our band, some of our college students, and some of our young adults are going to a conference in Atlanta called Passion. Passion began as a ministry to reach college students and it has now gone world wide. One of the things I like about Passion is that they are upfront about their purpose: They are not about playing good music or bringing creative messages, although most would say they do, their primary purpose is to bring glory to God. We can learn from the Passion movement and live our lives in such a way that everything we say and do brings glory to God. I believe when we get back to this, we will be able to live the crazy life God calls us to.