Monday, July 27, 2009

The Jesus Way

I originally delivered this as a sermon at Anchorage City Church on July 26, 2009. You can listen to this and other messages at the Anchorage City Church website.

Life can be lived in many ways. There is one way that is above every other, in my opinion. I have observed that it works better........and it ends better than any other way. It has been called “The Jesus Way" and that's what I'm calling it here.

Let me make an analogy. Popular culture offers a way of life that looks like a full banquet table, but often turns out to be more like white bread and water. The Jesus Way offers a life that many people outside the Church seem to think is just bread and water, but once we start down the way, it turns out to be a stacked high banquet table with food that provides real nourishment. And it ends well.

Jesus talked about this way of life. Let's take a look at two passages of scripture where Jesus talked about this, starting with John 8:12:
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
If we walk in a dark place, we're likely to trip over something, fall in a hole, or bang our heads. Jesus is saying we can avoid all those things by following him, because He will provide the light. The obstacles become clear and we can avoid them.

There's a interesting deeper shade of meaning to the Greek word we translate as "follows." We think first of "follow" as meaning to travel behind, or to come after. But the shade of meaning in this passage is "to be in the same way with, that is, to accompany, as a disciple". So Jesus was saying, “whoever walks along with me along the road of life like a disciple will never walk in darkness.” It’s not a one time event; it’s a process.

Now let's dig deeper into “following” and "being in the same way with." This is also in the Gospel of John, starting in chapter 13 verse 33. Here is the setting for this passage: Jesus is spending his last night with His disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. It's their last night together, but the disciples don't know this yet. Jesus is packing a lot of information in their last few hours together.

Let's listen to the conversation:
"My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
Now THAT must have riveted their attention. They have been almost everywhere with Jesus for the past three years. He is their leader, their friend, and probably most of them are thinking that any day now He is going to kick out the Roman occupation forces and restore the glory of Israel. What does he mean that he is going somewhere and they can't come???

Let’s skip ahead a few verses to 14:4
You know the way to the place where I am going."
Thomas said to him,"Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Let's stop here and focus on the last part of what Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

First of all Jesus is talking about the Way to an Eternal life with the Father. He said so just a few words earlier: "You know the way to the place where I am going." Jesus knew He was going to the Father. He knew the disciples would eventually understand that He was on the way to Heaven, even if they didn't get it right then.

Jesus said what He did about being "the way" in an interesting and revealing manner. First He tells us what the Way is…..then He tells us what the Way isn't:
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
These two readings from John make it crystal clear. Jesus is saying to us:
  • I am the light (I will keep you from stumbling)
  • I am the truth (my way is the true way)
  • I am the life (the best way to live)
  • Through me, and only through me, can you gain Eternal Life
Jesus is saying to you and me that it isn't possible to get to God the Father through Buddah. We can't get to God through Islam. As good as it is to be a Jew, God’s chosen people, that alone will not get us there either. Along with every other religion, Jesus statement also rules out Baha’i, Jainism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Shinto, Hinduism, American Indian religions, nature worship, Sikhism, ancestor worship, Confucianism, the old Norse religions, and an old American favorite, "being good.”

Wait a minute: Isn’t being good what most Americans believe will get them to Heaven? Actually, about 7 of 10 Americans believe it may be possible to “earn your wings” according to one statistic I read. Even some born again believers are not clear on this.

But let's hear again what Jesus said: "No one comes to the Father except through me." The New Testament is consistent on this subject: belief in Jesus is the one and only route to Heaven. Good deeds demonstrate our faith, but you and I can get to Heaven only through believing in Jesus with all that believing implies.

OK. Jesus is the only way to Heaven. But not only is The Jesus Way the only road to Heaven, it’s also the best and smoothest road getting there.

We’ll look more at the road getting there in part two of this series on The Jesus Way.

The Jesus Way: A contrast with “The Ordinary Way”

In the first installment of this series I demonstrated from scripture that Jesus is the light, the truth, the way to live and the only road to eternal life.

Let's go back to something that Jesus said earlier. It's in John 10:7-10
Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Take a look at that last part again: "whoever enters through me will be saved". That’s the eternal life part. But notice this also: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Jesus is contrasting The Ordinary Way of life alongside the way of life He is offering, that is, The Jesus Way. The Ordinary Way is to be stolen from or to be destroyed. The Jesus Way is to have life and that life to the full. The King James version and several other English versions translates that last sentence using the word "abundant." In other words, Jesus is saying that His Way is the abundant life.

Who are the thieves and robbers that Jesus is talking about here?

First of all, I suspect that Jesus was talking in this parable about the religious leaders of His day. They had abandoned faith in the God of Israel for religious practice. They had become hypocrites. Jesus said in Matthew 23 “So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

But I believe in a larger sense, Jesus is warning us about “the thief”, Satan. The devil has always offered a way of life apart from God. While the details are always being updated century after century to fit the times, there seems to always be a satanic strategy to lure people away from God with an appealing way of life that seems to work.

Now as you read what follows, please understand that there is no condemnation here from me. If you see your own past or present sin in what I am about to say, understand that I'm am no less guilty of sin in the eyes of God. Every sin separates you and me from our Holy God.

We all sin. We all fall short of God's glory but The Jesus Way offers a fresh start on the right road.

So…..what is The Ordinary Way? The Ordinary Way is to live according to the culture that surrounds us. In Churchspeak it’s “the way of the World.”

The Apostle Paul was blunt about The Ordinary Way in a letter to a church in what is now present day Turkey. This is in Galatians 5:19-21:
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Here are some of the features of The Ordinary Way of life.
  1. The Ordinary Way is doing what feels good regardless of the costs to self or others
  2. It's a life running hard after material wealth, a life that measures success by possessions
  3. It's a life of using people to get where we're going
  4. It's a life that puts negotiable value on children in the womb or the elderly
  5. It's a life of disposable relationships
  6. It’s a life filled with drama
Maybe you have been on The Ordinary Way. I have. Before I came to Christ I lived The Ordinary Way. As I look over these points, I see my old self in several places….even `tho I tried pretty hard to live a good life.

The reality is that some of my behavior was evil in God’s eyes. That’s the problem with The Ordinary Way.

There is a better way. It is the High Way of the King and I describe it and how to take this high way in the final part of this three part series.

The Jesus Way: The King’s High Way - A More Excellent Way

In the first and second installments of this series I demonstrated from scripture that Jesus is the only way to heaven and the best route through life. I contrasted it with The Ordinary Way of life offered by popular culture.

Let me introduce you to a much better way. It is the King’s High Way. It is the Jesus Way. For people who do not yet know Jesus, it might look pretty dull….like bread and water. But as we mature in faith in Christ, we find that it is a banquet table like no other.

After he listed the acts of the sinful nature…The Ordinary Way….Paul went on to talk about this excellent way, The Jesus Way. Here’s what he wrote in Galatians 5:22 & 23:
…. the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
You might be interested to know that the early Church was called “The Way” by some. There are several references in the Book of Acts where Luke refers to Christianity as “The Way”.

Let’s take a look at some characteristics of The Jesus Way:
1. The Jesus Way is, first of all, a life of love. Jesus gave us a new command in John 13: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Loving others as Jesus loved us changes how we treat other people.
2. The Jesus Way is a life of joy. Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness depends on circumstances. Joy is a heart attitude; a deposit of the Holy Spirit. Happiness is like a thermometer; joy is like a thermostat.
3. The Jesus Way is a life of peace. It is a life of peace with God, and peace with one another; it is a life of comfort in times of trouble.
4. The Jesus Way is a life of patience. If ever there was a model of patience, it must be Jesus. Today I am embarrassed with memories as a younger man of my lack of patience with our children and my wife. It gained nothing but hard feelings.
5. The Jesus Way is a life of kindness. Niceness is not the same as kindness. Nice is on our faces and on our tongue. Kindness is in our hearts. Niceness makes people feel good about us. Kindness does good for others.
6. The Jesus Way is a life of goodness. It is a life of doing good. Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action is dead, it says in the Book of James.
7. The Jesus Way is a life of faithfulness. It is a life of reliance on Christ for salvation, a life of assurance, belief and fidelity.
8. The Jesus Way is a life of gentleness. Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. The Greek word means also mildness.
9. The Jesus Way is a life of self-control. When we unite ourselves with Christ we can rise above our lusts and passions to live a life that is good for ourselves and good for others, and glorifies God.
I will mention two others that I have observed.

10. The Jesus Way is a life of service. We have been given the opportunity to co-labor with Christ the King to extend His Kingdom on Earth. Christians in all ages have given sacrificially of their time and treasure to to extend God's kingdom. It was Christians who founded the first hospitals, the first universities, the first orphanages, and even today run countless charities and ministries around the world. There are plenty of opportunities to serve God right here in Anchorage City Church and in ministries started by individuals and groups from this church. You can help build the Kingdom of God by teaching children in our Kid’s Church, driving the Church van, leading or helping with one of our small groups or classes, working in the kitchen, helping keep track of our family data, taking care of part of the church grounds, ushering, working in the New City CafĂ©, teaching in the New Direction Resource Center….and the list goes on.

11. The Jesus Way is a life of community. Jesus himself lived in community with His 12 disciples for three years, and that should be a sign to us that we can best live The Jesus Way when we are in community. We started small groups at City Church last fall to deepen community within our family. Our small group leaders Rich and Aaron talked about this earlier today. I hope you will join a group or class that fits you this fall.
More could be added to the list, but I think we get the idea.

Notice that nowhere here did I list that The Jesus Way is a life of material possessions. I also did not say The Jesus Way is a life without pain. Wealth may come, but troubles will come. The Jesus Way is the way of not being owned by what we own and the way to rise above the troubles of life.

Notice also that I have not suggested a list of rules to follow The Jesus Way. The Jesus Way is a life of relationship with Christ and listening to the Holy Spirit. "Come near to God and he will come near to you," the Bible says in James 4.

In my own life, I have found The Jesus Way more satisfying than I could ever have imagined as an young man 30 years ago with no time for God. My life is full of adventure and meaning and a peace that continues to grow in me. Like the rest of us, my life has been painful at times but I have an enduring hope and a peace that continues to grow in me.

So, what do we do with this?

Maybe your life situation is so difficult that it seems impossible that you could ever get on The Jesus Way. If the Lord is speaking to your heart to follow The Jesus Way, the steps are simple:
  1. Repent of your sins and ask Jesus to come into your heart if you have not done so already. You can do that here today either right where you are sitting or with one of our prayer team.
  2. Pray. Talk with the Lord about this. Start a life-long conversation with the God of the Universe. He’s listening.
  3. Read God's word. Start with the Gospel of John.
  4. Join regularly with other Christians for encouragement and support. Join a small group or class.
  5. Remember that The Jesus Way starts with an event….the decision to follow The Jesus Way……but it is a Way of Life.
If you have already accepted Jesus, but don’t see all the Fruit of the Spirit that Paul wrote about, just repent and ask the Lord to show you how you can take the first step toward seeing that fruit manifested in your life. Talk to Christ followers who you have observed that do have these fruits.

It isn't necessary to go to a church to take these steps. The Lord is already near you. Talk to Him now about these things. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Cooling a Hot Alaska House With Only a Fan

For years when we lived in the Interior of Alaska, we suffered with a hot house on summer evenings. I can remember lying on my back on top of the covers too hot to sleep. The temperature in the house was in the 80's or 90's.....but on the other side of the wall, only a few inches away, the temperature was ten or twenty degrees cooler. Alaska houses are designed to retain heat, so cooling them down on long hot summer evenings can be a problem.

About 15 years ago we learned a trick, and since then we have never suffered from an overly hot house in Alaska. Anchorage set a new official temperature record today (81F, 2 degrees above the previous record), but the house has not been uncomfortable.

The trick is a box fan in the window. We open two windows on opposite sides of the house. We press the box fan up against the screen and keep it in place (in our present house) with a cord secured on either side of the window with screw eyes. The fan takes air from the cool side of the house and exhausts warm inside air out another window.

It seems to be important that the fan is pressed up against the screen. We have tried placing a fan near the window and the effectiveness is markedly reduced. We also cover those parts of the window not covered by fan. The point seems to be to create enough pressure from the fan that the air has to exhaust out another window...which in turn draws in more cool outside air.

If we don't want the noise of the fan, we draw air through a window in the room we want to cool (like where we are sleeping, for example) and exhaust warm air elsewhere in the house. Since warm air rises, we use the fan trick upstairs.