Switch to music

radio-dial_00273392On a radio show offering advice about money management, a caller asked the host why he so often warns about inevitable recession while the economy is robust.

“Because if all I ever offered was good news, you listeners would switch to music,” he replied.

Thus reminded that a primary purpose for advertising and talk radio is to elevate listener discontent for the “solutions” and products being promoted, I decided to skip a step and switch right to music.

The lyrics to Matt Maher’s worship song “Your Grace is Enough” came to mind.

“You wrestle with the sinner’s restless heart. You lead us by still waters into mercy…You use the weak to lead the strong…(When) Your grace is enough, heaven reaches out to us.”

Still waters as a remedy for restlessness.  Hit pause and switch to music.

Rublevs Christ

Christ as Savior by Andrei Rublev, 1410

In her 2002 memoir book, “Girl Meets God,” author Lauren Winner recounts a day when she was feeling generally upset.  Picking up a favorite icon card adorned with Rublev’s Christ, she recounts her thoughts.

“You are supposed to be enough,” she tells the icon…”Even if I never again …. feel happy for one more minute, that you came to earth is supposed to be enough.”

She writes how she glared at the icon for a while before an assurance rose in her that Christ really was enough.  Then in the next moment she added, “But I really hope (that realization) doesn’t have to sustain me.”

I bolded Winner’s But to draw your attention to the premise that our troubles begin with our Buts.  While both Winner and I are Christians, we suffer discontent because we harbor Buts – desiring something other than Christ.  Instead of switching to music, we keep listening to all the reasons we should be discontented.

The country’s radio hosts are ranting this week about recent violence in Orlando, Florida where  50 people were murdered in two incidents.  A popular outcry has been,  “Make love, not hate.”

“What kind of love?” I want to ask.

“…to love somebody is to be committed to helping them obey God,”  offered Miles McPherson in his book, “I don’t want your sex for now.”  Love’s opposite is lust, not hate.

“Lust desires to please self at the expense of others because lust wants to get. On the other hand, love desires to please others at the expense of self.  Love wants to give.”

As much as I appreciate McPherson contrasting love with lust, his guidance about being committed to helping someone obey God is particularly potent.  Whereas the lust and love quotient invites debate about what is best or most pleasing for self or others, obedience keeps God at the center. We have to start with knowing what obedience to God looks like.

“…godliness with contentment is great gain.”  (1 Timothy 6:6, NIV)

How about starting with what is meant by godliness?


Image source: http://www.wikiart.org/en/andrei-rublev/christ-as-saviour

Book sources:

“Girl Meets God” by Lauren Winner

“I don’t want your sex for now” by Miles McPherson

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PERSONAL recommendation!

Photo credit: see notes

Photo credit: see notes

How fortunate we are to live in such a prosperous nation offering so many options for goods and services.  But how to pick and choose from such bounty?

When I need something important, especially if it’s costly, I ask people I know and trust for recommendations.  That approach has worked pretty well for me over the years.  If I then become a satisfied customer, I willingly become a referral for someone else.

I can readily recommend a plumber, auto repair shop, tree-cutting service, roofer, hardware store and a drain cleaner that no clog can stand up to. I know first hand that several of my recommendations have in turn resulted in additional satisfied customers.

Frankly, what makes any product or service I recommend worthy of your consideration is that it worked for me.  Recommendations are more about belief in the recommender than the recommended.

The potency of a referral gets a little fuzzier when parties have no history with each other. Short of any special credentials or expertise I may have about a product or service, my personal experience with it probably won’t carry much weight.  Still, my experience may be all I have to offer.

That was the dilemma Moses found himself in the first time he met with Pharaoh to carry out his assignment from God to gain Israel’s release from Egyptian bondage.  Moses had no credibility with Pharaoh and not much more knowledge or experience with God.  When Pharaoh demanded to know who this God was making all these demands, Moses could only offer his own experience with God.

“And who is the Lord? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.” But Aaron and Moses persisted. “The God of the Hebrews has met with us,” they declared.’’’ (Exodus 5: 2-3a, NLT)

Moses easily could have said, “Pharaoh, “I feel your pain.”  Recall Moses asking essentially the same question at the burning bush when God demanded he return to Egypt to share the rescue plan with the Israeli elders.

…Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

God replied to Moses, “I am who i am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3: 13-14, NLT)

Here’s how I imagine responding – “Really, God?  That’s all you’re going to give me?  ‘I am who I am’ sent me?”

Remember the rest of the story?  Moses returned again and again to Pharaoh to demand he let Israel go. Each demand came with a promise from God of a penalty if Pharaoh refused.

Turns out Pharaoh had the best seat of anyone in history to God’s power over nature, disease and pests.  Seems that Moses’ “recommendations” should have held a little more weight with Pharaoh three or four “penalties (plagues)-made-good” later.  But that was not the case.

While God’s rescue succeeded, Pharaoh never did get God. His mindless determination to take God on coupled with his refusal to honor God cost him his life and probably his salvation.  (see Exodus 15: 26-28)

Don’t you find it more than a little amazing to find stories like Pharaoh’s in the Bible? That essentially say God’s existence can’t be proven?  Didn’t Jesus make this same point sixteen hundred years after the Exodus account?  (See Luke 16:31)

So if God can’t be proven, how do we share about the Lord with people we encounter?  Answer – same way Moses did – by referring to his own personal experience with God.

The God of the Hebrews has met with (me),” (Moses) declared.’’’ (Exodus 5:5a, NLT)

God only asks we share how he showed up in our life and then to leave the rest to Him. A personal recommendation as simple as sharing your favorite hardware store, auto repair facility, drain cleaner brand or tree-cutting service….

with one rather notable exception – God speaks for himself whereas a drain cleaner cannot.


Notes:

Photo credit: http://revpeep.blogspot.com/2014/02/recommended-reading-2-23-14.html

 

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Forgiveness NOT forgotten. Pass it on.

olive_branch_doveCreate in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51: 10-12, NIV)

The expression, “Forgive and forget” hearkens to the Bible, right? How God removes “our sins as far from us as the east is from the west?” (Psalm 103:12, NLT).

Forgiven and forgotten!  Sounds great, doesn’t it?

But what’s this in Psalm 51? While forgiving and forgetting is what God does, perhaps forgetting isn’t best for us.  Rather, some remembering is more in order, remembering God’s forgiveness.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. (Psalm 51: 13, NIV)

In this case, King David is our stand-in, us.  Here is a remorseful and repentant David after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his adultery with Bathsheba and arranging for her husband Uriah’s death.  (see 2 Samuel 11-12:15). The stage is set: Confessed sinner vs. Holy God.

Imagine you are Uriah’s mother.  You’ve got the murderer David right where you want him – in God’s cross-hairs.  Grab a chair for a front row seat to watch the fireworks.

Except there are no fireworks.  God doesn’t don his “Holier than Himself” persona. Rather, repentance does something odd to God. There he goes pulling out his mercy mask, the same one Jonah got all ticked off about!  (see Jonah 4: 1-3). Why does he keep doing that?

We don’t even need to read between the lines.  Clearly, God is more about relationship than judgment.  Even judgment turns out to be much more the obvious end of the judged than the default choice of God because he not only offers sinners ways back to him, he so often suspends judgment  way more than most of us would.

Admit it.  Most times, we would much rather pull the retribution trigger sooner than later.  How often have you prayed for God’s judgment to come down to blast all we see as evil and unjust in this world while God stays his hand – interminably?

In retrospect, his patience is best for those of us that want to do right by God but instead keep falling and falling down so that, it seems, God can restore us again and again.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.  (Psalm 51: 14-17, NIV)

As much as doing the right thing in the first place is good, something about recognizing my brokenness and having God love me back into his fold is so wonderfully sweet.  And memorable.

Not only do we remember forgiveness, we cherish it.  After all, we can’t pass on what we’ve forgotten.


Photo source: http://www.cherrychapman.com/2013/03/15/forgiveness-is-always-a-gift-to-you/

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“Talking” the next step

2 peopleI recently convened a few people to meet individually with a financial advisor we have in common.  As my friend Devin* and I waited our turns, we talked about how our respective financial plans have had to flex to fit the contours our life journeys.  And how!

Devin spoke about how much better he’d be financially had he not decided to change employers during the worst of the big economic downturn of 2008-09.  Instead, he left a stable position, relocated, and then endured a series to roller-coaster developments with both work and family.  Two years ago, he finally managed to return back home to Michigan even as some of those challenges linger still .

So why did he pull up stakes in the first place?  “Well,” he said, “I don’t share this with many people but, the truth is, I was following the Lord’s leading.  Having done so, I admit I’ve been distressed at times about how rough the road has been since answering that call but, here’s my take on that.  I guess God wanted me to depend on Him more than on myself.  Having done that, my relationship with, and trust in Him is really solid right now.”

As someone more familiar that most of some of the nuances of Devin’s situation, I admit I found his testimony both astounding and inspiring.  Astounded how he felt steady in the Lord as others saw his situation as anything but steady.  Inspired for my own times of questioning God’s leading as  following him encounters rough waters.

Bolstered by my conversation with Devin, I need to be more intentional in conversations with fellow Christians. Nuggets like what I gained with Devin are rarely found accidentally.

I was able to share with Devin one of our pastor’s “Set Free” messages from an Exodus series he’s taking us through. Exodus 4: 18-31 finds Moses finally on his way back to Egypt to do God’s bidding – release the Israelites from bondage and lead them to the Promised Land.

As Moses starts out, God reveals some fine print that he neglected to mention when pitching Moses the assignment back at the burning bush – like how Pharaoh will resist letting go of his Israelite slaves due to a “heart hardening” condition caused by none other than GOD HIMSELF! (v. 21). Then at one of the first rest stops, Moses narrowly avoids God mysteriously killing him for an undisclosed reason. (v. 24-26 ).

So let’s review: (1) God stages a burning bush to get Moses’ attention (Exodus 3:2); then (2) pitches an audacious assignment to Moses including three miraculous “signs” for Moses to use in carrying it out Exodus 4: 1-8). After much coaxing, Moses (3) reluctantly agrees and starts off as God directed (Exodus 4: 19).  He doesn’t get very far before (4) God throws two big huge curve balls to greatly complicate Moses’ assignment.

Did I miss anything?  Does that sound like a game plan destined to succeed?  How similar is Moses’ program to a call from God on YOUR life?  I’m pretty sure Devin recognizes the pattern.

One of our pastor’s points was: God will always be God.  He does things his way and not ours.  When his way seems to impede more than facilitate the assignment he’s given, keep this other God principle in mind – that everything God does is for both our good and his glory.  (see Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:16-21 and 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).

One of the ways we Christians can help each other stay the course is to share what God is doing in our lives every time we are together – like Devin and I did.  You’d think Christians would routinely do that but too often the topics of our conversations are the same as everyone else’s – work, weather, news, politics, sports, a favorite eatery, our hobby, our finances, investments, celebrities, gossip. the stock market, our lawn, our cars, books, movies, TV shows, fill in the blank…

“Trust God and you won’t need a sign because you’ll be seeing them everywhere,” said our pastor earlier in the Exodus series.

Had Devin and I not shared as we did, I would have missed a great lesson about how trusting in God works that has already fortified my faith resolve and, hopefully now yours.


* Not his real name

Image source: http://healthypsych.com/supporting-others-support-findings-social-psychology/

Rediscovering the Golden Rule

Golden Rule funnyFor the last 15 or so months, our pastor and elders have been doing a study together called Gospel Transformation by Neil Williams and Jack Miller. The lesson entitled “Incarnation” is the thirty-third of the 36-lesson study.

Incarnation is a religious term for God becoming human in the person of Jesus Christ. Over time, the word has taken on a related meaning – to enter into the world of others, bringing help and grace through words and deeds.

The lesson opens with, “Jesus sums up the law and the prophets in one sentence: Do to others what you would have them do to you.”  (Matthew 7:12).

The Golden Rule, right?  The version I grew up with was “Do unto others and you would have others do unto you.”

One illustration the study poses is Mark 10: 35-52 where Jesus steps into the Golden Rule with this question posed in verses 36 and 51, “What do you want me to do for you?”

In the first situation (v. 36), the apostles James and John want Jesus to promote them to essentially a near-God status. In so many words, Jesus gently explains why he is unable to grant their desire  that, by the way, is way out of their league.

The second situation (v. 51) regards a blind man who asks to have his sight restored. Here’s how that went:

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10: 51b, 52, NIV)

I appreciate how Jesus handled this same question regarding two very different desires. The first permits me to be discerning when asking someone, “What do you want me to do for you?”  I’m not required to always give what is asked.Golen rule pottery

I confess I hold back from offering that question because I fear what might be asked of me. An exercise lists some of those objections that run through our mind:

  • That the problem will overwhelm me
  • That I won’t be prepared to do what is asked
  • That I won’t know what to say or how to respond
  • That I’ll have to keep offering again and again and again
  • That I’ll lose control of the situation

Perhaps having such objections ready means I’ve missed the point altogether?  To truly enter into another person’s situation is to take on their view and not my own. Incarnation is more about being than doing.

While I’ve messed up many opportunities to practice the Golden Rule, God has this way of giving me repeated chances to do right, like when Millie* called the other night.  Seeing her name flash on my caller I.D., a short list of those objections came immediately to mind and I let her call go to voicemail.  Guiltily, I called her back a little while later but missed connecting with her.  Seeing her in church Sunday, I apologized for missing her call.

“No problem,” she replied graciously.  “I just wanted someone to pray with me.”

“Ouch,” I thought as I encouraged her to try me again next time she felt the need. I said that knowing that next time, her need may be different but I resolved to trust the Lord to help me be responsive nevertheless.

As the story in Mark illustrates, the first step to practicing the Golden Rule is to ask the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Unless we ask, we never know how able we are to very easily meet someone’s need.

More often than not, discernment may determine that the most loving response is not even close to what is being asked.


‘* Not her real name

Golden Rule pottery: http://www.mountainemeadows.com/catalog/piece/the_golden_rule/

 

Set, and setting yourself, adrift

Set Adrift by Melissa Jacie (see notes)

Set Adrift by Melissa Jacie (see notes)

Recently, I wrote a note to a friend who found herself suddenly adrift after a long relationship.  “I know I can say this to you – lean into your faith.”

I knew I could say that to her because over years of casually conversing in gatherings we frequented together as members of the same group, we often talked about faith.

She made a commitment several years ago to become a Catholic.  I was impressed a young woman not raised in church would do that – to decide to pursue card-carrying inclusion in a church and then actually take all the prescribed steps.  Furthermore, how she reflected about the experience provided an easy basis for our discussions at these gatherings. I was sure she would be receptive to my invitation to lean into her faith and she was.

Next time I offer that “lean into faith” message, I hope not to let the word “faith” stand alone as much.  Faith has different meanings to different people.  The faith I wanted her to lean into is synonymous with Jesus Christ. “Lean on Jesus” would have been more what I meant to say to her – more along this verse from the book of Hebrews in the Bible.

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, NASB).

Of course, talking about faith is much easier than actually living faith out, at least without regular practice.

Since I only know her casually, I don’t really know how her conversion has shaped her life, day to day, beyond what she shared with me.  I recall my own conversion not to a particular church but to belief in Jesus.  I was profoundly changed by all-of-a-sudden coming to know Jesus in a personal manner.

I was also adrift then and Jesus sort of plucked me from the waves of vague belief and dropped me onto ground more solid.  A relationship with Jesus is that ground who we followers stand with and on.  That’s what I mean by faith that can be leaned into.

Come to think of it, being adrift, alone, lost, crippled, abandoned, persecuted, defeated, crushed, etc.  is an amazingly ideal “place” to connect and reconnect with Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.  If life has not cast you adrift, perhaps consider casting yourself adrift?

Think of it as an intentionally contrived setting to invite Jesus into.  Especially in today’s busy, hyper-connected world, creating an adrift-type setting and then “drifting” regularly to it involves no small effort.  If on the other hand, you’ve been set adrift unwillingly or reluctantly, try seeing it as an opportunity to trust more in the Lord.

I know this sounds crazy and unreasonable.  Furthermore, it’s hard.  But practice can transform difficult into habitual, even if not easy.

I contrived such a setting the other day to think and pray about my friend.  I prayed she is able to embrace this time to grow her faith and trust in Christ. Solid faith is great for standing on when the life’s footing gets wavy.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)


Image source site: http://melissajacie.com/set-adrift-no-worries-thoughts-thinkings/


Rescue THEN everything else

Foregiven - see link in notes for the story behind this picture

Foregiven – see link in notes for the story behind this picture

My wife and I are participating with our church in a week-long service trip in northeast Kentucky this summer. Looks like she will work on the “Project Worth” team leading a children’s program at a community center while I will be on one of several teams restoring homes in various levels of disrepair.

If you asked me why I am going, I would like to respond without hesitation that my heart moves when I encounter people in need and dropping everything to help them is as natural as breathing.

But that would not be true. Actually, I’m most inclined to be more cautious than responsive. Not a very noble picture but I’ve been thinking about it. Here’s where I am now.

It’s because I am loved and I guess love leaks out, even from the most cautious and self-centered people.  My parents were my first recollection of being loved.  No stretch to say their love was sort of bred into me and my siblings.

I know mom and dad would readily attribute their own loving natures to their faith in Christ. When I later became a disciple of Christ, I discovered that source for myself.  His love for me drew me into relationship with him.

Too bad being loved by God doesn’t automatically translate into participating in the transformative aspects of sharing God’s love.  Most Christians are familiar with the statement, “We love because he first loved us” in 1 John 4:19 (NIV). Or … “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8, NLT)

Note how God leads with love.  He loved us BEFORE he asked us to love others.  He died for us while we were STILL sinners.

Think about it this way – God rescued us THEN, … everything else.

Same goes for God’s commandments. He gave away Eden BEFORE issuing the certain fruit prohibition.  The Ten Commandments came AFTER the rescue from Egypt. And again, Jesus offered himself for us WHILE we were still sinners.

We don’t earn our way to God by any of our doing, even love.  Rather, we do BECAUSE God loved us first and BECAUSE he died for us while we were still essentially his enemy.

That’s why he can ask us without apology to love OUR enemies – because he loved us while we were still HIS enemy.  God never asks of us what he hasn’t already done.

So if God’s rescue rules everything – love, religion, rules, laws, than why aren’t Christians less known for love and more for doctrines, what they are against and who they don’t hang around with?

Good question.  Fortunately, God’s manner has not changed.  He still loves us first so we can eventually get it and be loving towards others.  And even though we profess belief in Jesus, we still sin so Jesus’ death for us while we still sin continues to apply.

And here’s an even more wonderful thought. While God’s love is how we are drawn TO him, exercising that love is also our way OUT of our own self-centeredness.  That’s why we’re going to Appalachia this summer.

I need to be loving even more than the people I may help there need anything I will do for them. Maybe I’ll help repair a leaky roof but eventually that roof will leak again.

Love is great on its own but it’s best when faith leads it.  Here’s why, as put by John the apostle. “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16, NIV)

To realize that God is love requires knowing God.  If you don’t know God, you won’t know where love comes from even if you practice love and benefit from it.

Now you know why the most loving, charitable, generous, patient people you who are NOT believers in Christ or God are that way.  We can’t give what we don’t already have.

While people who discount Christ may be the last to admit that how they are is due to God, imagine how cool it will be when they finally know God and understand that he is the source of the love they know.

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About the “Forgiven” painting: http://www.blackartdepot.com/products/forgiven-canvas-wall-hanging-by-thomas-blackshear?variant=935611517

 

From the Master’s Loom

Master Weaver

Master Weaver at work in my life and yours

A couple years ago, I joined a few friends meeting Saturday mornings at our church to pray.  For a quick hour (and a half?), we share the latest of our lives, situations encountered that week and then we pray about those things and for our church, the Sunday service and whatever else comes to mind.

This kind of prayer-based sharing and fellowship has anchored my walk with Christ.  In fact, I first encountered the Lord in just such a gathering of men over 33 years ago.

At last Saturday’s meeting, one of the guys (Mike) depicted the manner that God weaves our lives together as a “Tapestry,” integrating all of our circumstances and faith experiences, good, bad and ugly into a beautiful tapestry that reflects Him to others we encounter along the way.

Reminded me of a poem I wrote in 1985 that was originally entitled “Canopy.”  Last week I renamed it because, well, the new title fits the poem’s message so much better.  I share it now in honor of all the people the Master has woven into my life.

He works his craft because I matter to Him and so do you.  I see the tapestry of you and have even had a hand in it as allowed or lead by the Father.  I pray you see the same in me as well.

TAPESTRY

I prize you beyond measure

We are yarns in unison

You are a course upon the fabric

Of this tapestry, I am

 

You are such a vein within me

Less you, I’m not the same

And should life’s wear tear you from me

Some threads of you remain

 

I’m a product of who you are to me

Whether we’re sewn by blood or choice

You are woven in my sight and touch

And how I give my being voice

 

I believe that you were in the plan

When God sketched my pattern out

You are another way He shows me

What His love for me is about

 

Just think how pleased He must have been

When finally we met

In the awesome scope of what He’s made

Friendship is God’s vignette

 

How lovingly selected

Each thread, each friend, how sewn

One for accent, one for hue

One for contrast, one for tone

 

Interwoven, threads cascade

From His loom, the Master weaves

We are the products of the blending

Of what friends His love achieves

 

grt

4/1/85

(Initially written to friends and family who attended my 30th birthday surprise party on March 30, 1985. However, it has since been shared with many others along the roads of life – LIKE YOU! Originally titled “Canopy,” I renamed it “Tapestry” on 5/1/2016.)


Image source: https://textilesocietyofamerica.org/tsa_events/master-weaver-from-kutch-india-workshop/

A Vision of Home…

family_drawingThe easy part is behind you

the more delicate,

still ahead.

From the getting of the house

to the making of a home…

 

I suppose we bring the ingredients

with us

to transform this house

into home.

Over time, we carefully mix and mold

and shape

to cast ourselves into all

the spaces and nooks and crannies

until the character of our place

is synonymous

with us.

 

The best kind of home, I think,

is a haven

for its inhabitants,

a laboratory

for sifting and sorting through discoveries found outside.

From such searching,

we discover and mull over new truths.

 

A select “some” or one

of these

we work into messages

and give back again

to a world in the hope of bettering it

 

Sadly, the world is way too

twisted a place

to believe

that homes are like this for even most

of its occupants.

 

But I long for such kinds of homes

which make possible

meaningful transitions

that allow the molding and nurturing

that’s necessary

for people to live up to their design

and purpose.

 

This is a vision for home –

a place of refuge

where transitions occur,

 

from chilling to warming,

from shocking to emerging,

from hurting to healing,

from noise to quiet,

from crowding to unfurling,

from deception to honesty,

from bursting to maturing,

from forcing to choosing,

from isolating to accepting,

from stripping to discovering,

from alienating to accepting,

from pacing to resting,

from dying to living…

From “out there” to “in here”…

 

Home…

a refuge, a haven,

for transitions…

 

g.r.t.  10/15/99

Life: Not later, NOW! (Re-post)

benchedLast week, my wife and I attended a Mercy Me concert. Most of the songs and messaging between songs regarded their latest CD, “Welcome to the New” released in 2014. 

Do you think it odd for a premier band like Mercy Me to devote a two-month tour to feature a 2-year old record?  While not exactly an album-release, the between songs comments  by lead singer Bart Millard emphasized the importance they held for  the record’s main message – that no matter how we feel about ourselves, our conduct or standing as Christians, we are in fact redeemed and acceptable to God.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”(Revelations 21:5, ESV)

Is that crazy or what?  Welcome to the New!  I for one am so glad Mercy Me decided to come to our town to share this great message once again.

Which got me thinking about resurrecting an older message of my own. First posted in June, 2013, I offer a message that will never get old.

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“I have come that they (read: you) may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b, NIV).

 I’ll bet this statement by Jesus is one of my pastor’s favorites.  It certainly enjoys a prominent place in his messages and life.  He “walks the talk.”

 “Practical discipleship” is another form of walking the talk – tracking with God through all life’s ups and downs. While I aspire to live this way, I tend to get into a funk now and then. I look in the mirror and see someone preoccupied with setbacks.  It’s like I’m stalled at Part A of Jesus’ declaration…. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;…” (John 10:10a, NIV).

Jesus’ entire statement, parts A and B are:  “(A) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; (B) I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV).

 Life to the full.  Part B.  Sounds inspiring, doesn’t it?  Hear what Jesus is saying here.  “I have come that they may have….”  Jesus attributes “life to the full” as something he brings, as associated with his arrival.

Conversely, my tendency is to replace Jesus with myself like I have much to do with causing “life to the full” to happen.  That way, “life to the full” is tied to me attaining certain milestones like overcoming a sin habit, securing a new “calling-type” job, being a better husband and father, responding to needs around me….. I could to on and on and on.

 When I live this way, I rarely see a man living life to the full when I look in the mirror.  Too often I see a man not quite good enough, who perennially rides the bench, a man who practices with the team but sees real action only sparingly.

 I forget that “Life to the full” here, today, now, was what attracted me to Jesus 30 years ago. Jesus’ way and manner dawned on me as a whole new revelation, one I’ve held to ever since – even when I fail to live it out.

 Having been raised in a churched home, I already knew that faith in Jesus offered rescue from sin and eternal life in heaven after death.  But what sealed the deal for me was the LIFE NOW part – what Jesus simply called The Kingdom.

 “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Jesus, Matthew 10:7, ESV)

 Proclaiming the Kingdom, the realm of God as near, present, having come, at hand, is a dominant theme of Jesus’ message captured in the Bible. Wrote Dallas Willard in his superb book, The Divine Conspiracy, “To be sure, that kingdom has been here as long as we humans have been here, and longer. But it has been available to us through simple confidence in Jesus, the Anointed, only from the time he became a public figure.”

Simple confidence in Jesus requires taking myself out of the center to make room for Jesus to occupy that and all my spaces.  It sounds so simple and it truly is.  But I tend to heap layers of  complexity to it.  The result is the same as benching myself.

 But Jesus is running the show and he’s very clear that he not only wants me in the game, he’s got a place just for me.

How cool is that?


Notes:

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