Monday, January 21, 2013

Ambassadors For Christ

A Labor Foreign Secretary (1966-68) named George Brown got this response from another guest at a diplomatic reception“I shall not dance with you for three reasons. First, because you are drunk, second, because this is not a waltz but the Peruvian national anthem and third, because I am not a beautiful lady in red; I am the Cardinal Bishop of Lima.” 
Barbara Bush once attended a lunch with Emperor Hirohito at Tokyo's Imperial Palace. In spite of her best efforts to start a conversation, the Emperor would only smile and give very short answers. She finally complimented Hirohito on his official residence.
"Thank you," he said.
"Is it new?" pressed Mrs. Bush.
"Yes."
"Was the palace just so old that it was falling down?"
“No, I'm afraid that you bombed it."
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It’s embarrassing when a leader or an ambassador makes a fool of themselves, especially when they represent something of which we are a part. Politicians are not the only ones who do this. It could be someone who is trying to convince people all over the world to take up bicycling….or to root for Notre Dame football

The Apostle Paul wrote to the first followers of Christ:
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20
We are His ambassadors to a world that is not our home. We represent another King and another Kingdom. We are going to the Kingdom of the Earth on behalf of the Kingdom of Heaven, and things of eternal import are at stake.

We represent Jesus whether we like it or not. We don’t stop representing Christ … ever. We will be an ambassador – for better or worse. People can’t see God, but they can see us. They can be drawn to or pushed away from the One we represent based on how we, as ambassadors, represent God.  Here is the broader context for Paul's message about ambassadorship:
“ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17- 21)
I am indebted to Grek Koukl at Stand To Reason for a lot of teaching on three characteristics of a good Christian ambassador (and I am slightly paraphrasing): KNOWLEDGE, TACT, and CHARACTER.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Church as a Hospital

   After we visit our local hospital or doctor for a particular ailment (see Part One in this series on the Great Physician), we can sometimes be completely healed of the problem. We can get a new start.  But we also discuss with the doctor or nurse about a plan so our new health will continue to flourish. This is called compliance:
 “Accepting life-saving treatment. The extent to which a person’s behavior coincides with medical advice. Adaptation or adherence to medical advice.” (d3jonline.tripod.com)
On the other hand, we can undermine our new-found health. In medical terms, this is called non-compliance. 
“It is estimated that 125,000 people with treatable ailments die each year simply because they do not take prescribed medications properly or they skip them altogether.” (“Why You Need To Follow Doctor’s Orders,” health.heraldtribune.com) 
“Most patients believe…that the less medicine they take the less sick they are. That is precisely why although we know than penicillin will cure a strep throat in 7 days we prescribe a 10 day course of the antibiotic. Many patients will stop as soon as they feel better.” (“Medicine: Facts and Fictions at ghthomas.blogspot.com) 
“We eat foods that kill us, we don't stick to our exercise regimens, and we don't follow our doctors' orders, even when we remember what they tell us. If you ask people whether it's smart to get a colonoscopy if the doctor says you need one, no one's going to say no… but no one wakes up and says, 'Yes, today is a good day for a colonoscopy.'" (“Mind Your Body: Doctor’s Orders – Without Distress.” www.psychologytoday.com)
     In other words, preventative medicine and follow-up plans trip a lot of people up. Those in the health profession agree: non-compliance is a huge problem.  Why?

 Because it’s hard!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In Need of A Doctor


 “Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?' On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'  (Mark 2: 13-17)
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     The Pharisees were angry because Jesus was more focused on the “sinners,” or the “sick” than he was on them. Being a tax collector was bad enough, but the “sinners” here were non-covenant Gentiles, the  blatant sinners who were “wide of the mark." These were the people the Pharisees had been taught to despise, and Jesus had the audacity to spend a lot of time with them.
    If I may paraphrase what was really behind the Pharisees' question to the disciples:“Look how cleaned up we are! Wouldn’t Jesus rather hang out with us? We have a great lineage, we actually know the law, and our sins are much, much closer to hitting the mark than theirs!”
     And Jesus said (and once again I paraphrase), “Oh, wow! You really are amazing! If you’re that fine without me, carry on.  I'll find those who see themselves honestly – they are the ones who are ready for me.”
     Jesus is often called the Great Physician because of this claim.  He used a common experience (doctors help the physically ill) to describe a spiritual reality (Jesus saves the spiritually sick).  It's an analogy that hits close to home in a broken world.