Strive for the Narrow Door – Part 1 of 4

Narrow Door - pngIn the lead up to the parable of the Narrow Door, Jesus gets away with something I almost never do. He doesn’t answer the man’s question. You can read the account in Luke 13:22-30 (CLICK HERE to read it)

The man asks Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” What do you think was behind that question? I wonder if he is thinking about his odds of being saved.

Perhaps he is wondering if being saved is worth the effort. After all, if only 24 people are going to be saved, he might reason that it’s time to eat, drink and be merry because he isn’t going to be one of the 24 best people on earth.

Or perhaps he is wondering what he can get away with. If basically everyone is going to be saved, there is no point in making serious effort toward being saved. Relax!

But Jesus doesn’t answer his question. His responses goes to the man’s attitude:

“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. — Luke 13:24 (ESV)

Jesus doesn’t say, “yes,” or “no,” to the man’s questions. he says, “Listen. You look out for you. Strive to enter through the narrow door.” We should particularly note the word, “strive.” This word speaks to the direction of our lives rather than the accomplishments of our lives. Striving is a great word because it speaks to continual effort. We might miss an opportunity to accomplish something, but now is always the opportunity to strive toward something. Thinking in terms of striving means that each day is a new day, each morning is a fresh start. Each moment is a new chance to strive to enter through the narrow door. There is never an opening for despair or hopelessness for one whose concentration is striving father than finishing.

Then he tells a little story that illustrates a point he makes in many ways in many different places: If you are hearing this, you are not lost. But time is not infinite. Now is moment to decide what door your are going to go through.

Jesus also makes it clear that the way we live our lives matters, not just what we say we believe. It’s not having joined some “Jesus club” that matters. It’s not intellectually assenting to certain beliefs that makes the difference. It’s how you live your lives that matters because that is what shows what you relieve believe to be true. In the story, it is not people who believed incorrectly that are sent away, but the “workers of evil.”

But after Jesus makes it clear that not everyone will find redemption, he also makes it clear that many from across the world will find redemption. Not only that, but lots of people are going to be surprised by how everything turns out:

And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” — Luke 13:29–30 (ESV)

In the next three blog posts, we will explore three specific ways you can strive every day to enter through the narrow door:

  1. Respond to aggression/anger/criticism with love
  2. Respond to trespass with forgiveness
  3. Respond to difficulty with hope.

Jesus Says You Are Welcome to God’s Party Right Now without Qualification

banquethall---webAt a banquet where Jesus notice people social climbing, he told a story about how different the kingdom of God is from the way of the world. In this case, it is a kingdom he compares to a banquet with a wide open invitation for anyone who will come.

In this uplifting message Pastor John encourages us to rewrite our own stories of unworthiness to see ourselves as God’s people invited to his party without evaluation or distinction. Then he encourages us to live lives of open welcome toward others just as we have been openly welcomed.

Sermon Podcast: Jesus Says You Are Welcome to God’s Party Now without Qualification

Welcome to my little corner of the internet.

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Hi. My name is John Rallison. My space is all about observing, learning and sharing. I think nothing happens that cannot be learned from if you are willing to see it. So I keep my eyes open, look for connections, read a great deal and share my observations. I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. I think if people followed Jesus the world would be an awesome place.

3 Ways Pokemon GO Provides a Good Example for Christian Life

I will start this blog post with a confession: I have played Pokemon GO. I am not a hardcore hunter of Pokemon by any means, but I have a few in my Pokedex. I will also admit to you that my son and I have specifically gone out driving for no other reason than to hunt Pokemon.
Unless you completely ignore all popular culture and never go to a popular park in your city, you have undoubtedly encountered Pokemon players — people walking through often beautiful spaces such as parks or cities with their faces firmly directed at the screens of their smart phones. These people (the ones playing Pokemon GO, at least) are engaged in three main activities:
  1. Hunting PokemonGods-Work-Go---graphic
  2. Battling in Pokegyms
  3. Replenishing or gaining new supplies at Pokestops

I think there are some striking parallels between Pokemon GO play and the practice of the Christian faith.

1. Christians Look for Opportunities for Good Works

Real Pokemon GO players have their phones on all the time. Kelly and I were at Cooper’s Hawk doing a wine tasting. I looked at the counter in front of the couple next to us and what do I see? Then gentleman in his late 50s or early 60s has his Pokemon GO app running on his phone.
The scriptures tell us that we are re-created in Christ Jesus for to be a positive and redemptive presence in the world.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

I think that the way Pokemon GO players keep their phones on all the time can be a good model for Christians to go through each day with our feelers out, looking for opportunities to do good works.

2. Christians Are Prepared for Spiritual Battle

Part of Pokemon GO entails going into Pokegyms and battling other Pokemon. Part of the Christian life is battling evil, a battle that takes place both in the world and inside ourselves. But just as a Pokemon who is unprepared for battle will not do well, so a Christian who doesn’t develop the disciplines and attitudes to engage spiritual battle will likely not do well. Responding to hate with love is not easy!

Paul writes, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” — Ephesians 6:11 (ESV)

 

3. Christians Need to Stay Spiritually Charged

Pokestops are the places where Pokemon GO players can get more Pokeballs, along with a host of other things that help them play the game. Christians, too, have spiritual habits that feed the spirit. You could even call them “Godstops” in our lives.

We pray.

“Pray without ceasing,” — 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)

We study the scriptures.

“Rightly handling the word of truth.” — 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

We gather for worship and encouragement.

“Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other…” — Hebrews 10:25 (CEV)

Pokemon GO is just a game. But the structure and focus of some people’s Pokemon GO play offers a good example to those of us who practice the Christian faith. Imagine going for a walk or drive for no other reason that hoping to find a good work you could do!
What other games, video or otherwise, might offer good examples or parallels to the life of faith?

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Learning Faithful Living from Pokemon GO

Gods-Work-Go---graphicPeople who play Pokemon GO seriously are at it all the time doing at least three things: looking for Pokemon, battling, and replenishing at Pokestops. Imagine if Christians focused their lives the way Pokemon GO players do. Christians would be looking for opportunities to do good works, battling evil in and around them, and recharging through prayer, Bible study and worship.

 

Don’t Chase the Wind (sermon audio and video from Sunday, July 31, 2016)

In this message, Pastor John ties together lessons for life from Solomon, Jesus and Paul. Solomon, who achieved basically every earthly dream — money, sex, power, property, security, reputation — found it empty. Jesus warned us that life does not consist of possessions. And Paul points us the right way by reminding us to set our minds on heavenly things.

VIDEO – “Don’t Chase the Wind”