Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Finding True Freedom

I heard the author of the book "Smart Sex" on the radio the other day. I liked what she had to say about personal freedom. She said that the goal of everyone in our culture is to be unencumbered - that is, we seek to have as few restrictions on us as possible. We don't want anyone telling us what to do about our sex life or anything for that matter.

As I thought about that, I had to agree. Even my discussion below about casual dress is about our desire to be free of anyone telling us how to dress. We want as much personal freedom as possible with as few people telling us what to do as possible.

But the desire for personal freedom flies in the face of what it means to follow Jesus. There's not one part of our life that is "free" from the call of God. The true follower makes it their goal to give up their personal agenda/desire for personal freedom to align themselves with God's design.

The Christian message is a tough "sell" when seen in this light. Why would anyone want to give up their agenda for God's?

The answer lies in realizing what true freedom is. It is a myth to believe that we are free when we throw off all encumbrances and call all of our own shots in life. True freedom comes when we submit ourselves to someone who cares for us and knows more than we do. How free are we when we reject the care and wisdom of physicians? How free is a child when she rejects the care and wisdom of her parents? How free are we when we reject the care and wisdom of a tour guide in an unknown land? Rejecting the care of these people can lead to great pain and even death.

In the same way, throwing off the "shackles" of God is not freedom but bondage. No one cares for us more and no one is wiser than God. I fear for what people will need to experience in life before they understand this. But, unfortunately, sometimes experience is the only way we learn. Hopefully there will be someone there to help us when we "hit the wall" and start looking for a better way.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

What Happens When You Die?

Someone recently wrote and asked me what the Bible says will happen when we die? Does our soul "sleep" and wait to be resurrected when Jesus returns?

I hope not! The apostle Paul said that "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." I take that as meaning that when we die our spirit is released from the confines of our physical body and goes to be with God. I think we cross into a new dimension - an invisible world that we can't see but is all around us now.

Going to be with God at death causes people to wonder what happens at the final resurrection when Jesus comes back. What will be resurrected if we are already with God? The thought is that we will be given a new physical body at that time. Paul talks about that to the Corinthian church. Our soul has a new "shell", one with a different quality than the original model. ( i.e., Jesus' resurrected body was able to pass through a solid wall.)

My speculation is that we are given a new body to live on a new earth. Not only will we be changed, so will the earth. The Bible has a lot to say about how God will transform the earth when Jesus returns. Now, that introduces another question/contradiction. Some think that the earth will be destroyed and heaven is this celestial type of Wonder Land. But the Bible talks about a new earth, as in, re-newed (just like we are renewed). In other words, heaven may simply be a new earth minus the curse.

It's all beyond me, but I hope this helps a bit!

Monday, August 01, 2005

How Casual is Too Casual?

I just heard a news report asking the question, "How Casual is Too Casual?" at work. The report talked about how people are showing up to work in flip-flops. They said that our culture has gotten very individualized...with personal phones and personal computers. It's a very "me" focused world so it's only natural that we want to dress to please ourselves and not others. But they said that we should stick to flip-flops at the beach.

I can relate to the desire to be casual. I just mentioned in church yesterday how I always try to dress as casually as I possibly can. I'd preach in flip-flops myself if I thought people would be okay with it ( I don't!). There's something about dressing down that seems to trick my mind into thinking I'm not working if I'm dressed like I'm on vacation.

I'm reminded of how my son would often go to high school in his pajama bottoms. In fact, I was in a very classy restaurant last week on vacation, and the owner came to our table with a glass of wine and pajama bottoms (thankfully he had a shirt on!). I thought it was interesting but not too strange...which is strange in itself that our culture has so quickly drifted to being so casual.

Applying all this talk to church...Cedarbrook is a super casual church. I heard someone say once about Cedarbrook that what they liked about it is that they can wear a dress or show up in their pajama bottoms and they fit in either way. I guess not too many churches can say that! But that begs the question...where is the reverance? Where is the sense of awe?

I agree that some church buildings (i.e. cathedrals, etc.) produce a sense of awe just walking into them. You won't get that at the CineMagic Theatre (where we meet for church). And some services produce a sense of awe (organ, silence, liturgy, etc). But what I like about being casual -and this is why we will always be casual - is that it reflects an approachableness. God is approachable. Many, many people don't know that. They are afraid of God, convinced that he is against them. But Jesus died so we could approach God without wincing. His death removed the unapproachableness of God. The book of Hebrews said that we can "boldly" go into his presence.

Now, we can miss the point and get too familiar. We can take God's approachableness for granted and think we can "slap God on the back" so to speak, like a good-'ol boy. It's one thing to be invited into the Oval Office to meet the President. It's another thing to put your feet up on his desk and smoke a cigar!

I guess, what I'm getting at here is that the reverance and awe that we try to manufacture in structure of service and buildings often does more damage than good. It scares people away from God. That's not a good thing. Our reverence and awe should come from within our heart when we encounter God and that can happen even in our pajama bottoms and flip-flops. Like the Bible says, God looks at our heart. He's not as concerned as we are about what's on the outside.