The End, or…

 

A final blog post by Pastor Vance Rains…

Congratulations!

You’ve made it to the end – DAY 40 – of the 40-day Summer Stretch!

No more daily devotions to do.  No more journaling.  You don’t have to keep reading Romans 12.  No more daily blogs to read.  No more challenges to try.  No more Facebook posts to read and comment on.  No more books to read.  No more challenging sermons.

It’s over.  You can now return to your normal, same-old, non-stretching, every-day life.

Or… instead of this being the end, could it be the beginning?  

Now that you are loose and limber, from all of this stretching, maybe you’re prepared for something new.  Now that you’re in the habit of doing daily devotions, there’s no reason to stop.  Now that it’s become normal to challenge yourself spiritually, maybe you’re ready to challenge yourself even more (maybe there are some challenges on the list you never got around to – do it now!)  Now that you’ve made some new spiritual friendships, maybe you could keep those relationships going and growing.  Now that your mind has been expanded with new spiritual thoughts and ideas, find some new ones to explore!

And, I promise, there are some more challenging sermons on the way!

What if day-40 isn’t the finish line?  What if day-40 is the starting line?  What if all of this stretching has been preparation for the race that is still in front of us?

On this 40th-day, allow me to offer some questions to reflect on…

  • What have you learned about God during these 40 days?
  • What have you learned about yourself during these 40 days?
  • How has your faith deepened and grown during these 40 days?
  • What, during these 40 days, has challenged or stimulated the most growth in you?
  • If you continued one practice from these 40 days, that would help you to continue to grow, what would it be?

I’m reminded of Philippians 3:13-15,

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Press on, my friends!  Don’t quit now!  This isn’t a spiritual finish line.  This is just the beginning of an amazing adventure of faith, that will continue for eternity.  If you can grow and learn this much in 40 days, just imagine what God can do in you in a year, in a decade, in a life-time!

In the words of the great Bob Marley…

I’m a rebel, soul rebel
I’m a capturer, soul adventurer…

These past 40 days are only the beginning a great, eternal soul adventure!

So, press on, my fellow soul rebels and adventurers!  Press on!  Let’s live by faith!  Let’s go capture it, together!

 

Dinner Parties for Scoundrels and Scalawags…

Today’s Scripture is Psalm 15:1-3 (NIV),

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others.

Or, the Message version,

God, who gets invited
    to dinner at your place?
How do we get on your guest list?

“Walk straight,
    act right,
        tell the truth.”

Today’s blog post is by Pastor Vance Rains…

I love that question, “God, who gets invited to dinner at your place?”

The Psalmist lists some pretty tough requirements for making the guest list – walk straight, act right, tell the truth, do what is right, speak the truth, don’t slander, don’t wrong your neighbors, cast no slurs.  

I’m out.  No dinner at God’s place for me.

I get where the Psalmist is coming from.  God is holy and God lives in holiness.  To stand in God’s presence requires holiness.  Over and over, the Bible tells us to be holy – to be perfect as God is perfect.  Few of us are.

I’m not.  I’m definitely not.

In recent years, Jesus’ Parable of the Banquet has been speaking to me,

“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.  At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14;16-24)

Jesus lowers the standards for dinner invitations significantly.  In Jesus’ story, the main focus is not requirements of holiness.  In Jesus story, the host just wants his house to be full of guests.  EVERYONE is invited; including the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, even people living in alleys or hiding in the bushes, bikers, pastors, scoundrels, scalawags, etc..  EVERYONE is invited.

I suppose, even Gators and Hurricanes might be allowed in.  Maybe…

I don’t mean to cast aspersions on Psalm 15.  I don’t mean to diminish the importance of pursuing holiness.  But, I’m going with Jesus’ parable, instead.  I’m a better fit for that crowd.

The Psalmist implies that in order to gain admittance to the dinner party, you need to have already achieved holiness.  Whereas, in Jesus’ parable, the only requirement for admittance is an invitation. And, EVERYONE is invited – even me.

Which makes me wonder – is it possible that, if I have any chance of achieving anything resembling holiness in this life, it will only come as a result of accepting the invitation to Jesus’ party?  Perhaps, Jesus’ point is that holiness is a result of dining with him, not a pre-requisite.

As it says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Who’s ready for dinner?