Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Jesus tells us, “Your eye is the lamp of your body.” When our eyes are good, Jesus says, our whole bodies are filled with light. I’ve always pondered what that meant. Theologians throughout history have reflected on this passage, suggesting that what Jesus was really getting at was simplicity of mind. When we are singularly focused on the good (or in this case the ultimate Good), God’s light can then pervade every part of our lives.
We can see this in Jesus’ statements about the kingdom: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you”(Mt 6:33, Lk 12:31). When our sole purpose is aligning ourselves to this kingdom, beckoning its coming, participating in its fulfillment through Christ Jesus, the rest is details. This insight allowed Teresa of Avila to exhort, “Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and that there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.”
There are majors, in other words, and there are minors. “Major in the majors,” Jim Rayburn would say. “Don’t ever let ‘em quit talking about Jesus.” Pope Francis, in his much-awaited apostolic exhortation released yesterday, declares, “I never tire of repeating the words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person [Jesus], which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” The ultimate “major,” upon which everything else rests, is a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ.
It’s not about getting people to believe a bunch of doctrines. Pope Francis insists it’s “not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines.” Rather, “the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing.” It's what Rayburn called "the strongest, grandest, most attractive personality ever to grace the earth."
And what/who is that?
In a word – Jesus. “In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ.” This is the underlying truth that sustains our lives. This is the essential message kids need to hear. This is the simple light that illumines the whole. If we get this one essential thing right, everything else follows. “Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus,” Francis says. The simple light is Christ.
Lord, give us the eyes to truly see you. Let your Light shine into every part of my life. And allow your Light shine through me into the lives of others.
 Lk 11:34.
 Symeon the New Theologian, 10th century monk and mystic, notes, “The simple light is Christ. He who has his light shining in his mind is said to have the mind of Christ. When your light is this simple, then the whole immaterial body of your soul will be full of light . . . So see to it, brothers, that while we seem to be in God and think that we have communion with him we should not be found excluded and separated from him, since we do not now see his light.” 1 Cor 2:16; 1 Jn 1:6; Discourses 33.2, SNTD 340-41.
 The Life of Teresa of Avila, ed. E. Allison Peers (Garden City, NY: Image, 1960).
 Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), 7.
 Ibid, 35.
 Ibid, 36.
 Ibid, 167.
Monday, November 18, 2013
God’s plan to save the world was to become flesh,
sending his Son to be among us and to give his life for us.
I did not grow up in a Christian home. When my father was transferred to Kansas City, God sent people to reach out to me. They loved me, encouraged me to go with them to church, and enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Finally after four years, I accepted the invitation to church and met a girl who invited me to Young life Camp in Colorado. I was shocked to find that it was a religious camp. Mid-week I confessed my sins and opened my life to Christ as my Savior and Lord, becoming a new person.
That year, 1967, I started at the university and became a member of the church. It was the wild 60’s and I was surrounded by temptation. Although I attended church regularly I was unsure about what next steps I should take in my relationship with Christ. Once again God provided for my needs thru a person, Richard Beach, our Youth Director. As Christ took the twelve under His wing, Richard was my spiritual guide, showing me that the Christian life is better caught than taught. Thru his life he taught me how to pray, study scripture, share my faith and lead others. After a 3-month discipleship training program, I started my first group with the commitment to train others. Several from that group went on to be full-time Christian workers.
Soon I began working as a volunteer leader with Young Life. I went to all the school activities at Shawnee Mission South High school, met and became friends with hundreds of students and manifested the sweet aroma of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. To my amazement hundreds started coming to our meetings. We sang, had skits and heard a talk about a relationship with Jesus Christ. Many were unchurched like me but most had gone to church never finding the answers to their questions about God. Many had a Catholic background and discovered Young Life as a refreshing addition to going to Mass. It was much the same for students from every denomination.
Although I went to the Presbyterian Church, our conversation was not about our small differences. We majored in talking about the main things that all denominations hold in common. Suddenly students who seemed disinterested in Christ were excited. Atheists claimed faith, hedonists changed their ways, and students were following Christ. Soon they were in small groups to be discipled. They were growing in their faith and reaching out to their friends. Before I knew it the high school students were starting Young Life clubs with the Jr. High kids. As they went off to college they started groups there as well.
It is time the church gave more attention to developing and discipling our youth. I was in awe recently when Pope Frances said much the same thing in calling the church to be less judgmental and stronger in sharing the good news of the Gospel. In our city we are part of the “What If The Church” movement. Once a year churches of different denominations exchange pulpits and serve the needy of the community. The results are wonderful.
When Pope Benedict XVI retired, I prayed for the Catholic Church as they sought a new leader. People wondered why I would pray for the Pope since I am a Presbyterian Minister. I said “I think the Pope is my brother in Christ and also the most influential Christian in the world”. What if the Christian leaders around the world would get together in small groups to plan projects and love one another? What would happen if the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian and the Baptist and Lutheran, Episcopal, and Pentecostal could be one? We all know this is just what Jesus asked us to do in John 17. I believe that Pope Francis could get the ball rolling. We don’t need to wait for him, we can start today. Let’s reach out to our brothers in Christ. I know God would bless those relationships and the world would respond to such a witness. We are all on the same team we need to start acting like it soon!
Bob Lehleitner is a pastor at Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, (Quivira Campus). He’s been on staff 42 years and has personally led over 100 discipleship groups. He’s participated in non-denominational youth ministry for 25 years, was a Young Life leader over 10 years. Bob was the chaplain for the Kansas City Chiefs for 9 seasons and has helped manage multiple college Icthus campus ministries. He is husband to Gwen and father to Margi and Trey.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Two weeks ago my wife and I bought a house. I can hardly describe the feeling of having a space of our own – awe, humility, delight, disbelief, thanksgiving. For our growing family, for the many guests we welcome into our home each month, for years of forming memories with friends and loved ones, this house is a real gift.
The gift of a home makes me mindful of so many other things for which I’m grateful – for an incredible wife with whom I can share life, for healthy children filled with innocence and wonder, for work that allows me to drop my nets and follow Jesus with everything I’ve got, for the many friends and generous benefactors that support this ministry of bridge-building and Christian mission for the sake of kids. Let me say THANK YOU for your encouragement, your prayers and your partnership in the gospel.
A few years ago, a friend introduced me to an artist who’s life changed in a little coastal town in northern California. Louie Schwartzberg recalled, “I didn’t have much money, but I had time and a sense of wonder.” So he started shooting time-lapsed photography of flowers, an art that so gripped his soul that he has been doing it non-stop, 24 hours a day, for the past 30 years. The images are stunningly brilliant, filled with all the playfulness, creativity and freedom of the God who created them. “To see them move is a dance I’ll never get tired of,” he noted.
In this month of Thanksgiving, I want to share with you a project Schwartzberg put together called “Happiness Revealed,” something that has always put my life in proper perspective before God. Take 10 minutes and lean into the glorious mystery of life that God has given us. I pray that it will fill your heart, as it has done mine, with a profound sense of gratitude.
 Thus the two-week hiatus in writing. I can honestly say I’ve never ripped out more carpet, pulled more staples, painted more walls, raked more leaves and spent more sleepless nights than I have over the last 14 days. And my body’s letting me know!