Summary: The fullness of living in the love of Christ requires faith AND action in his name.

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Love in Action

I John 3:16-24

May 7, 2006

There was this girl who called her boyfriend one day and asked him to come over to her house because she needed some help. She had started to put together a jigsaw puzzle and she just couldn’t get it. She had been working on it all afternoon and hadn’t gotten even two pieces to fit.

So the boyfriend came over and saw the pieces all over the table. “What’s it supposed to be when it’s finished,” he asked. She replied, “A tiger, but I just can’t get it to look like the picture on the box.”

The boyfriend studied the pieces for a moment and then looked at the box. He turned to her and said, “Listen, you are never going to be able to get these pieces assembled to look anything like the tiger on the box.” He smiled, put his arm around her shoulder, and told her just to relax. After a minute, he said, “OK, let’s put all these Frosted Flakes back in the box.”

Over the past few years, I have come to know quite a few artists through my son Matt. I have come to the conclusion that artists are just different than most other people. Artists see things that most of us don’t see. They imagine possibilities that most of us think are impossible. We may see the same colors, shapes, and landscapes that they do, but they see them in ways that we would never see. Most artists, and indeed the really good artists, think outside the box.

Thinking outside the box is generally a good thing, I think. We like business managers who can see outside the box in order to generate new products, new services, and new profits. I know a teacher in northern Indiana who is constantly thinking outside the box for his students. He applied for some funds for the purchase of laptop computers for the school. Now, the kids in his class, who are mostly children of Old Order Amish families, can take a laptop home with them in the evening and work on the computer with its battery power. This is the same class that communicated with Space Station astronauts in real time using the instant messaging feature on their classroom computer. Such “outside the box” thinking is rewarded and praised.

The Gen X’ers who are out there appreciate churches that think outside the box and are able to see new spiritualities, new possibilities, and new ways of experiencing worship. Ask our tattooed and pierced children and grandchildren (and you have them, you know) or ask the tattooed and pierced friends of our children and grandchildren…and they will tell you that they are not attracted to traditional church at all. They seek out religious groups which think outside the box and look for the presence of God in new ways.

Now, I appreciate “outside the box” thinking, I really do. I guess it’s because my 1960’s rebelliousness still hasn’t worn off. I’m attracted to the different, the peculiar; to new ways of thinking and seeing reality. But sometimes, I have a feeling that we can get too far outside the box. Sometimes we can get so distanced from our roots, that we become - what does Paul call it – noisy gongs and clanging cymbals?

It’s sort of like a football team going into the Super Bowl. Say for example, that this particular team’s season has been characterized by its withering defense. Coaches and commentators all say that “ya gotta go with what brung ya’.” In other words, for the biggest game of the season, don’t go fiddling around with new plans or new strategies or an overconfidence in your offense for the big game. Do what you do best.

There are instances when the church probably ought to spend some time thinking “inside the box.” Being inside the box helps us remember what brought us here to this place. It helps us remember exactly who we are. It helps us remember exactly why we exist and for whom we exist. It helps us remember our purpose and place.

I talk a lot about a book I read last year. Jim Collins wrote this book titled, “Good to Great” (2001. New York: HarperCollins). It is a business book, but I have found that it has a load of stuff to say to churches as well. In the book, he says that good enough is not good enough anymore.

We have been able, for awhile, to get by with just being good enough. But good enough organizations and good enough churches no longer last. It is only the excellent organizations that stand the test of time. Excellent organizations are ones who are able to define their core values and mission and then do them very well.

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