"Men... we are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God" Acts 14:15a, NIV
It is not politically correct to refer to someone else's religion as "worthless", is it? In today's American culture that kind of language is a major communication error. As I see it, the whole point of individual spirituality or organized religion is to move God and man closer to each other. Some greater connection with a higher power or some lesser connection with ourselves seems to be a common thread in most religions.
Most world religions often make people better citizens, more peaceful individuals, and create positive influence in their communities. Perhaps all world religions have some positive aspects and goals. I am asking, though, whether or not any religion or religious practice moves me into closer communion with God. Ultimately, I want to know whether I will forever be with God in Heaven.
Paul's opinion is certain that we must rely upon the grace of God in Christ Jesus to take us home to Heaven. Jesus's death on the cross made it possible for me to approach God with confidence. I can "know" God by coming near to worship Jesus Christ. Paul didn't like being called Hermes, the Greek mythological messenger God with winged sandals. And Barnabas didn't like being called Zeus, king of the Greek gods with lightning bolt in hand. But it wasn't the names of these Greek gods that caused them to tear their clothes, but when these people began to worship them that Paul and Barnabas could not stand it any longer. No man, no matter how good, deserves our worship and praise. It is upon such good men that many world religions are based. paul knew the difference! Only the One true God deserves our worship. He alone is worth our praise. All others are worth ...less.
I am blessed to have many friends, some old, and some new. My old friends continue to provide aq connection for me to different places and times of my past. My childhood friends connect me to the memories and feelings of my youth, and friends from each congregation we have served continue to reaquaint me with the people and ministries in each place. My college friends sometimes remind me of wayward moments and rash decisions. I enjoy friendships even with my family members. Though I communicate with some friends more regularly than others, I value every friendship I have.
But these days I am making many new friends. New friendships are like the taste of some food you have never before tasted, or the smell of some new aroma. New friend dn't bring back old memories or previous connections. Instead, they are the formation of new connections and new memories that will one day be themselves charished. A new friends is a whole new experience just waiting to happen. The newness of these relationships allows us to show our new friends who we really are, while at the same time giving us an opportunity to demonstrate that we have learned from the miistakes of previous relationships, sort of like a fresh art of a new beginning.
God is interested in our friendships. Our many relationships need to bring honor and glory to His name. Old friendships sometimes become strained and weakened by lack of forgiveness and bitterness grows. But when we forgive each other we model God's grace toward us and mimic his restorative power. God is interested in our newfriendships, too. He desires that we would invest in the friendships we have with others, ad then leverage that friendship so that our new friends can become aquainted with and truly come to know Christ. The scripture tell us that we have a friends that sticks closer than a brother. I believe that Jesus is such a friend.
As I write this blog Timmy is outside playing with some neighborhood children that he met only two weeks ago, and Tammy is on "A Grand Adventure" (shopping) with one of her new neighborhood lady friends. Last night I spend nearly an hour talking with a friend I've known less than 1 month. Is God honored in my new friendships? Is His name mentioned in praise, or at all? Do my new friends know that i have a friend called Jesus?
I guess I would consider Jesus one of my "Old" friends. I hope to build connections between Jesus and my new friends so that Jesus can become their "new" friend, too.