Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cracked Pots

I have always known I am a 'cracked pot' (play on crack-pot, if you didn't get it :)) and I have never liked it. It messes with my sinful desire to be perfect in all that I do and am. As I have failed daily at my misguided goal of perfection, I realize more and more that my reliance needs to be on Jesus and not myself.

As I have gotten closer to the mid-line of my life, I am learning to rest in my brokenness. (for my family as you read this - the emphasis is on learning.)

I am thankful that Jesus loves me despite everything and takes my cracks and breaks and shows himself through them to me and hopefully to the others in my life.

In our world, I think the hardest thing to accept and show publicly is our brokenness. We all want to hide those dark places from others, even those closest to us. By covering them up and hiding them though, we only make those cracks and shadowed places bigger.

Whether it is the lure of perfection, the false excitement of pornography (some of which is now called "mommy porn"), or the need to acquire bigger and better toys in an effort to fill our empty places, we all get disoriented and more lost the longer we deny our need for God. If we continue to search for what will fill us up in the world, then we will never be full.

The Apostle Paul tells his fellow believers in 2 Corinthians, chapter 4 to not hide their brokeness from the world but rather to have it out in the open so that people can see God's work in us despite our sinfulness. He writes:

"Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.

4If our Message is obscure to anyone, it's not because we're holding back in any way. No, it's because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won't have to bother believing a Truth they can't see. They're stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we'll ever get.
5-6Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we're proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
7-12If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best!
13-15We're not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, "I believed it, so I said it," we say what we believe.

We show our brokeness to the world so that the world can see how our God redeems it and works through us. We say what we believe about our God rather than denying Him to appease the world. We accept that we might look foolish to the world, but we disregard it because we are saved by that 'foolishness'.

We are all cracked pots, but when we let the light of God shine into the cracks, we become beautiful vessels of light that shine with hope and healing to the world.

Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, July 23, 2012

On a Mission From God: Whose Fool are You?

D.L. Moody was a famous Christian evangelist who used to walk around Chicago in the late 19th century wearing a sandwich board that stated on the front "I am a fool for Christ". On the back it stated, "Whose fool are you?"

One of the primary reasons Christians don't evangelize is because doing so in our multi-cultural, super-rational, "free to be me" society, makes us feel that we look foolish. We worry more about what we will look like to others and less that we have a message that can bring hope and healing to those around us.

I am guilty of this myself. As a Presbyterian pastor, I value education, intellect, and questioning authority. Sometimes I don't open my mouth to share the hope of salvation with others because I worry that some people might think I am a fool for believing in a God that I can't prove empirically.

It is this thought pattern that really makes me foolish. If I put the opinions of the world ahead of the opinion of God, then I am indeed a fool. If I am going to be a fool for anyone - and in the end all of us will be - I would rather be a "fool" for the God that created me, knows me and loves me anyway...even when I am a fool for the world instead of for Him.

When I am a fool for God, I am not foolish as the world defines it, meaning absurd or stupid, but completely and utterly dependent on the one who has saved me from myself.

When we can allow ourselves to be utterly dependent on the one who WAS and IS and IS TO COME, then we will be able to open ourselves to share His grace with a broken and hurting world. Sometimes these moments last only a few minutes or hours, sometimes a few days, but those few moments allow us to trust and rely on Him more as time passes and care less and less about how we stack up in this world.

God, help me to be a fool for you rather than a foolish slave to the demi-gods we have created to take your place. Help me to rely on your guidance, rather than my own and to open my mouth and let your words pour forth. Help me to be used by YOU - an instrument to bring grace and peace rather than greed and corruption. Help me to battle the desires that lead me away from You and bring me to the place where my need to control and contrive disappear.

If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, then this is our 'work': To reduce ourselves in order to increase Him. In doing so we will fulfill the mission that we have been given - to go forth, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and by doing so, make new disciples.

Chesney Szaniszlo

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? '- 1 Corinthians 1:18-20


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On a Mission from God - Part 3

We can't tell others about Jesus unless we really know His story ourselves. Unless we really understand the depth of God's love for us, His creations, we cannot be ambassadors for Him. God knew that we would turn away from him and abandon Him time and again, and  yet He still chose to create us in His image, love us eternally, and save us from our own brokenness and sin. How many of us can honestly say we would be willing to remain faithful to someone who was constantly unfaithful to us?

Once we truly understand this story of God's love for us, it becomes much harder for us to sit in judgement of others, to turn away from others in need, and to elevate ourselves above those around us. Once we truly understand that in the face of the glory and holiness of God, we are all depraved and terribly broken, it becomes much easier for us to accept the love of God and share it with others. The love that God gives to us and which we can reflect to the world is patient and kind. "It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Once we become disciples of Jesus, we all begin a mission for God. Part of that mission is to truly come to understand how God's story of salvation and our story intersect and become the same mission.

These missions that we begin will not be accomplished in our lifetime. They are lifelong commitments to wake up and do our best on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. We will fail and have to start again - often. But God will pick us up, dust us off, and send us back on our way with His grace, mercy, and love.

Chesney Szaniszlo

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.    - Romans 1:16


Monday, July 9, 2012

On a mission from God...continued

I took last week off from writing since my family had a "staycation" in Austin and I kept remembering that I needed to write the blog around midnight each night. So, this week, I am going to sort of double up on the last two sermon topics revolving around our series on evangelism.

The whole premise of this series rests on you accepting that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are supposed to be missional. Part of being a disciple is that you agree to live under the authority of Scripture. In scripture, Jesus commanded us to go and "make disciples of all nations." (Matthew 28:20) This is for our benefit (because it helps us to live out our committment to the gospel and follow the commands of our savior) and the benefit of those who share this world with us and were also created by our God. The good news of redemption, salvation, and grace is what brings HOPE into this world. There is no other world religion that has this same HOPE.

That hope gives those of us who follow Christ a certain outlook on life and if we allow God to work through us, we can reflect His light to a world that is filled with brokeness. Simply having a different outlook on the painful things of life, making choices that quietly share your faith with your friends and family, and letting love rule your actions is the beginnings of being missional.

You don't have to insert "Jesus Saves" into every sentence you utter. You don't have to list the 5 main points of Christianity. You don't have to (and Definitely shouldn't) go around making judgements on the people around you. All of these are things that many non-Christians expect from those of us who are Christ-followers. All you have to do is work on you, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, and be ready for the opportunities that God gives you.

He might give you an opportunity to talk about your faith in a dialogue with people you already know. He might give you an opportunity to show grace and mercy to someone who expects judgement and condemnation. He might give you the opportunity to show extreme patience with your own family.

Many  people think that being a Christian means you have to follow a check-list of rules - many of which Christians list out and then fail to follow themselves: it's why non-Christians think we are hypocrites. It is OK to agree with other people that Christians are broken and in need of grace, too - because we are and we do. It is definitely OK to have a conversation about what another person believes versus what you believe without leading them through the whole plan of salvation as laid out in scripture. It is OK to confess that being a disciple of Jesus is difficult...but so is anything else that is worthwhile in this world. Allowing our creator to mold us and re-make us into His image, rather than the image of a fallen world, can be painful but it is also one of the few things in this world that is truly joyful and hope-filled. It is that belief that we want to communicate - that being a disciple of Christ changes us for the better and gives us hope, joy, peace, love and strength to make it through each day. That is the real testimony that each of us can give to the world on an individual basis. We don't have to save the world - Jesus already did that. We just have to share through our own story, how he has met us as individuals.

Chesney Szaniszlo

'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'  - Romans 10:13-15