Many of us will be celebrating Independence Day in July with picnics, parades, running down Peachtree Street, or my personal favorite: fireworks! Fireworks have been around since the 7th century when they were invented in China and used for festivals. Since then fireworks have been used worldwide to celebrate very special events. For me, fireworks are one of the things that make celebrations on July 4th great.
There are two types of fireworks, ground and aerial. Ground fireworks are the type you get at Wal-mart or just over the boarder of Georgia at the big, red warehouse with the yellow sign in either the of the great states of South Carolina or Alabama. Aerial fireworks have their own propulsion or can be shot from the ground in a mortar. These fireworks are usually displayed at fireworks shows by professionals (although there are some mild forms of aerial fireworks at the big, yellow warehouse). No matter which type of firework you choose, if done so safely, you can have a really great celebration.
A wise friend once told me, "We are not called to Greatness we are called to be Faithful. And if we are Faithful we will always be Great in God's eyes." As easy as that may sound, the world makes this difficult for us. Success, in our culture, means having money. It means having money not only for food, shelter, and clothing but also for education, healthcare, transportation, communication devices, and most importantly - chocolate! But success in God's eyes has nothing to do with chocolate or iPhones.
Faith in God is the standard for greatness within the church. It is not a measured greatness per se, rather a profession of Jesus as Lord and Savior and then an ongoing relationship with God. Simply that will make you great in God's eyes.
Working with the youth has shown me it is the next step that sometimes gives us trouble. We know what we must do, but we have trouble sustaining it. We spend several lessons going through confirmation classes and praying for our students to make the right choice. And we celebrate when they do. But often we see them backslide because we fail to teach them what's next.
The Bible has two "Great" lessons from Jesus. The first is that Jesus taught us that The Greatest Commandment is to love. Love God and love your neighbor. The next is Jesus' parting words in The Great Commission - go and make disciples. In order for us to sustain the Greatness of Faith that we are called to, we must do these two things. God gives us the "what's next."
The first two Sundays in July I'll be preaching on the two "Great" things.I'll be sharing God's example of what loving your neighbor means and examples of how the early church made disciples. With these two "Great" things, we can have an amazing celebration. One worthy of a spectacular display of fireworks!