The Way I See It

Posted on Mar 3, 2012 in Blog | No Comments
Photo credit marfis75 on flickr

Photo credit marfis75 on flickr

“I’ll have a triple venti nonfat upside-down Caramel Macchiato with sugar-free vanilla, at 180.  Within these words of a typical order at any Starbucks coffee shop you can learn a great deal about the world in which we live. There is perhaps no more relevant or revealing symbol of today’s culture than Starbucks.  It is not the incredible popularity of Starbucks that makes it relevant; it is the fact that Starbucks offers exactly what the postmodern culture of the Western world is seeking. In other words, if you want to see the face of our culture, or to know its passions and pursuits, you need not look much further than your local Starbucks. The very symbol of Starbucks is the Siren, that mythical beauty of Homer’s Odyssey who lured sailors to their death with her song of enchantment. So too, does Starbucks entice us with promises of more than just a $4.00 cup of coffee.

One of the clever marketing tools of Starbucks is their “The Way I See It” campaign. These are the sayings or philosophies of various contributors that are found on each cup of coffee they sell. Postmodern philosophy and the most current politically correct crusade pervade these little “nuggets” of humanistic thought. But as a pastor, and all who desire to share Jesus with others, this is the culture we must learn to engage. We are expected to communicate Christ in a relevant and effective fashion. Paul introduced the God of Creation to the Greek philosophers in Athens by talking philosophy with them (Acts 17); in the same way, you and I can use the lonely, empty path of humanism to share the hope we have in Christ Jesus to those we encounter. We can contrast the incomplete and insufficient call for human charity with the full and perfect agapè love of God.

The philosophies of man and the pursuit of gods of our own making have been with mankind since Adam and Eve; but God has been about the business of redeeming a people of His choosing from among the all the world’s amateur philosophers and idol-makers. He has redeemed you and me, and now He calls us to love others, proclaim the gospel, and live out our faith in this world. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 6:2Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. The gospel message is urgent; and it is relevant. Let’s be anxious, loving, and always ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you. Just read the message of a Starbucks cup and compare it to the hope of the gospel. Then share the good news with others— maybe over a cup of coffee.

The Prodigal’s Lament

Posted on Feb 29, 2012 in Blog | No Comments
The Prodigal Son ~FallingSpirit on DeviantART

The Prodigal Son ~FallingSpirit on DeviantART

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is the familiar story of the prodigal son. This parable from Luke 15 captures not only the wayward heart of all of us, but more importantly illustrates the patience and love of God for His children.

All of us are “prodigals” to some degree. We spend our lives on selfish pursuits, seeking gratification in temporal pleasures like a 21st Century Esau. And though I do not wear the name as a form of identity, “prodigal” is still an apt description of who I am the moment I waiver in my affection for Christ, my Savior. The term serves to remind me of who I was, and who I would be still, were it not for a merciful heavenly Father who saved me and His Son who bore my sin and shame.

“Saints and Sinners” — that’s what we are. It’s an oxymoronic term that aptly describes the state of the yet to be glorified Christian; but I fear we sometimes bear it too proudly. While there is comfort found in the forgiveness that is mine in Christ, dare I be comfortable in my sin? I think it is possible to be too quick to claim Christ’s pardoning blood when it precedes confession and repentance. Not that pardon is contingent on these things, but absent a repentant heart can we really be confident in our calling and election? After all, Scripture says that the true Christian has been born again, is a new creation, and will be transformed more and more into the image of Christ. The unrepentant can find little comfort in the biblical description of God’s grace.

That is where the story of the prodigal becomes convicting, encouraging, and comforting. It is convicting because, to paraphrase Paul, “I am the chief of prodigals”. I let my eyes (and ultimately my heart) feast on the wares of the merchants of Vanity Fair. I am also guilty of finding pleasure in the gifts of God that does not flow out of my love for Him. To enjoy the gift without first enjoying, loving, and adoring the Giver is a prodigal act. But, like the prodigal son, I find the treasures of this world to be counterfeit, and my joy in them fleeting.  However, out of the destruction of our prodigal ways comes hope, as we come to our senses and repent of our sin. Luke tells us that the prodigal “came to his senses” (NASB vv. 17-19) and determined to return home; and he knew that even if his father took him in as a servant, it would be much better than what he had found in the world. When we see our sin, we must confess it and return to our Father with a repentant heart, knowing that He will run to us with outstretched arms, and mercy beyond measure. And we will discover that it is only in His presence that we find true satisfaction and lasting joy.