Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table: Savoring Mercy

Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table: Savoring Mercy

Where do you want to go to eat?  This question in my home typically elicits one of three answers.  If it’s not my children’s favorite fast food joint or a place serving breakfast all day, it’s almost always their favorite buffet – known affectionately in our home as the hog trough.  Why?  Because buffets are full of choices – unending choices, sure to please the pickiest eater.  Of course, the enticing, all-you-can-eat dessert station, complete with cotton candy, might have something to do with their palate’s restaurant of choice.

Our lives are often a lot like that buffet.  Every week includes a series of choices – some that fill us well and others that feel good for a moment, but leave us empty, like the cotton candy in the dessert line.  But in any case, we make the choice – from the places we shop, to the sports we play, to the videos we stream on the device we choose to carry into the restaurant we choose to patron, to the church activities in which we engage.  Life’s options often feel like a line at the local buffet.  In fact, for many of us, the Christian life has become a series of trips to the buffet line.

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Hurry Up and Wait!

Hurry Up and Wait!

Nearly every morning, one of my children waits by the door.  Backpack slung around their shoulders, left hand on the doorknob and eager anticipation written on their face.  “Dad, can I go yet?  I don’t want to miss the bus!”  “Not yet,”  is often my reply 5-10 minutes before it’s time to leave.  “Isn’t there something you can do while you wait?

This familiar exchange reminds me that unlike their father, this young child has mastered the art of being early, which means the opportunity to learn the art of “hurry up and wait!”

Life, in many ways, is a series of waitings – filled with regular opportunities to hurry up and wait.  We wait to graduate from school.  We wait to hear back from a prospective employer about a new job.  We wait for the day we can finally afford that house, that car, that vacation.   We wait to meet the love of our life.  We wait for the birth of a child.  We wait by the bed of a sick or dying loved one.    We wait for that diagnosis to discover the cause of our symptoms.  We wait for reconciliation.  We wait by the phone for a call that may never come.  The question for us is not will we have to wait, but instead, what will we do in our waiting?

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What is the Purpose of a Gift?

What is the purpose of a gift?  In recent days, I have been thinking about this question, as my children excitedly complete their Amazon wish lists with a number of items they hope to receive as gifts this year.  As I scroll through their list, I’m not sure there is enough hours in a year to play all the video games they’ve saved, enough space to fit all the stuffed animals my daughter has marked, or enough bins to hold the variety of Legos they want to add to their collection.  As I look around our home, interspersed with long-neglected toys, clothes that still include the tags, and books collecting dust, I cannot help but wonder – how long it will take for this year’s gifts to join them in the dustbin of obsolescence.

Both giving and receiving gifts is a special experience, but the reality is, once the initial excitement wears off, gifts often fail to live up to the purpose for which they were given in the first place.  This is a picture of what can happen in the local church.

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From Danger to Praise

From Danger to Praise
From Danger to Praise!

“Warning!  Serious Injuries and deaths have occurred beyond this point.”  These are the “welcome” signs that awaited Bethany and me this week, as we hiked at Hanging Rock State Park together in celebration of 14 years of marriage.  I both chuckled and cringed at these signs of warning, knowing they portend real potential danger, illustrated in the stories of real lives lost and real lives changed by a false step, or simply an unforeseen disaster.

Yet, we forged ahead, along with countless other men, women and children, because at the peak of hanging rock is a glorious view that with sure footing leads to praise!  “You’re almost there,” people would say to us on their way down.  “It’s beautiful and amazing and so worth it!”  They were right.  As we stood at the peak of Hanging Rock, I thought, “I can’t imagine what would have been lost if I’d turned back at those signs.”

Many of us, including myself, often view the journey of the Christian life as a hike to the top of Hanging Rock, particularly when it comes to the call in the life of every believer to evangelism, or sharing one’s faith.  The journey is one full of signs that scream, “Warning!  Serious injury and deaths have occurred beyond this point.”  Sharing our faith can be quite an adventure, but we are often afraid of the dangers, the consequences of saying the wrong thing or of being rejected by our families, our neighbors, our friends, and that can feel like death.

However, when we have seen a greater glory, we cannot help but respond in a praise that extends beyond ourselves and to those around us who are hiking the truly dangerous journey of life – one without God.  In Psalm 40:2-3, the Psalmist testifies to what God has done for him, saying, “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (vs. 2).  When Jesus saves, he does so out of our real danger and sets our feet upon the One who is our solid rock, enabling us to behold a greater glory.  The response?  Praise that extends to a world in danger.  He continues, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” (vs. 3).

Has the Lord Jesus taken you out of the pit of destruction, the miry bog and set your feet upon the rock?  Has he put a new song of praise in your mouth?  If so, may He enable your praise to extend beyond yourself to your family, your neighbors, your friends and co-workers, who are in need of the same.

This Sunday at Calvary, is Neighbor Sunday, and we will be sharing the Good News of how Jesus has come to seek and save the lost, those who are truly in danger, that they might see a greater glory.  Use this opportunity to invite your friends to join us, that they, too, might “put their trust in the Lord.”

Whom Should I Invite?

Invitation
Whom Should I Invite?

Whom should I invite?  This was the question my wife Bethany had to answer leading into her 10th-birthday sleepover some years ago.  As she pondered this question, she couldn’t fathom leaving any of the girls from her 4th-grade class out of the opportunity to gather for her party, so her parents graciously let her invite every girl from her class.  I’m not sure they ever did that again, but Bethany had a great time, and all of the girls felt welcomed!

We extend invitations for events that we think are important and to people whom we care about.

In Luke 14:15-24, Jesus tells a parable about a man who sent out invitations for a great party.  Invitations were extended to close friends, but they made excuses.  They had better things to do and other commitments in their life.  So, the servants were sent to the alley-ways and the overpasses of the city to extend invitations to the homeless, the blind, the crippled, and the lame.  When that didn’t fill his party, he sent his servants to extend invitations to people outside the city – the highways and the hedges.  Why?  It was to be a great party, and a great party needs guests eager to dine at the table of the host.

Do you believe that that the people you know and meet need to be invited to the great party to dine at the table of the great host, Jesus?  When was the last time you invited someone to church?  When was the last time you invited someone to meet your church family, or more importantly, to meet Jesus?  After all, there is no greater party than the ones thrown by Jesus.

On Sunday, August 6, Calvary will be hosting “Neighbor Sunday”, complete with a community party.   This is a unique opportunity to invite our family members, co-workers, neighbors, and friends to dine at the table of the great host, Jesus, whose parties outshine all the rest.  We will have great food, games, and bounce house and slides for the kids.  This is not a gimmick, but an opportunity.  It’s not a guilt trip but an invitation.  It’s not high-pressure, but a friendly welcome to all who would come to meet Jesus and meet your church family.

Let’s consider together whom we might invite, because we aren’t simply extending an invitation to a fun afternoon on a hot summer day, we’re inviting those we care about to come and dine at the table of King Jesus.