Archive for March, 2011

29
Mar
11

what do you think?

I was thinking about my Grandfather recently and, once again, assessing the huge impact he had on my life. If I were to summarize that impact into one single concept it would be that he helped in the process of teaching me how to think for myself. (My Dad also had a huge impact in this area of my life by reminding me regularly that there was no such thing as a dumb question and that I didn’t have to follow the crowd, I could be my own man.) Grandpa did this in direct and indirect ways. Perhaps the most frustrating of his devices though was to regularly answer my questions with a well crafted question of his own. I remember on regular occasions that I went to him seeking a “quick fix” to whatever issue I was confronted with and, instead of telling me what to do, he would guide me through a process of assessment and evaluation that would assist me in seeing the situation in its totality and then responding in such a way that, not only did I address the circumstance I was faced with in the immediate, but I also developed a plan of action that would keep me from repeating the behavior that caused the situation to begin with.

I was always amazed at how skillful my Grandfather was in using this method. He always seemed to know exactly the right question to ask to lead me down the path of self-evaluation and applied wisdom, and then I noticed something – Jesus did the same thing. When we read through the Gospels we find multiple instances when Jesus employed this same technique in dealing with both his disciples and the religious leaders. Someone would ask him a question (i.e., Matthew 17:25, 18:12, 21:28, 22:42, etc.) and his response would begin with, “What do you think?” Then he would tell some story that would help the listener to see themselves and their circumstances in a whole different way – the Kingdom way.

I’m convinced that Jesus is doing the same thing in our lives today. When Jesus says seven times in Revelation 2, 3, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”, I believe it serves as a reminder of Jesus’ promise in John 16:13: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” Jesus did not say that the Spirit would simply tell us the truth, but that he would “guide” us into the truth.

As with my Grandfather, this process can be very frustrating at times but, in the end, it produces a deeper level of intimacy with God, a greater level of spiritual maturity and a profound joy stemming from an increased awareness of the working of God’s Spirit in our lives!

22
Mar
11

walking by faith

Life is interesting, to say the least. We have moments of unexplained euphoria where everything seems to be going our way. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming and everyone loves us. Then there are the other times when it seems every moment presents us with a new challenge and our spiritual, mental and financial resources are taxed to their breaking point.

There is, however, one other category we need to consider and that is the no-man’s land somewhere between the two extreme areas previously mentioned. It is generally referred to as the mundane, the day-in-day-out, the same-old same-old. For me, it is well represented by that period of time immediately following the holidays. All the gifts have been opened, the big meal has been eaten, family has said goodbye and I have traveled home and settled back into the routine of day-to-day responsibility.

The same thing happens to us spiritually. We have those euphoric moments when we are making huge gains in our spirituality. We also have those very trying moments when our faith is tested to its very limit. However, the majority of our life is spent somewhere in the middle – the mundane. How do we deal with that?

Paul gives us the key in 2 Corinthians 5:7 when he reminds us that we “walk by faith, not by sight.” The Message version restates the verse this way: “It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going.” I like that because it reminds us that the key is to just keep going. Everything is not always going to go our way. Everything is not always going to be a party. Sometimes our only option is to endure, but the Word of God counsels us “not (to) allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10, The Message)

14
Mar
11

what in the world is going on?

The images and reports that are pouring in from Japan are utterly overwhelming. I just finished reading that Japanese police authorities have reported 1,000 bodies washing up on a beach in a coastal area. ONE THOUSAND! Absolutely overwhelming! The pictures tell the story more graphically. People who have enjoyed the common grace blessings of living in one of the richest nations the world has ever known, are now shown living in abject poverty – no water, no electricity, no food, no shelter. The dazed looks on their faces say it all. Over 2,800 already confirmed dead with estimates projecting a death toll of 10,000. Absolutely overwhelming!

The first question I have to ask is “What are you going to do to help?” Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35, 36) You can go to http://www.1networkforgood.org and pick a charity in which to donate. If you would prefer to give through Samaritan’s Purse, the link is http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/articles/pray_for_japan/.

The second question is “What in the world is going on? It seems like there is one natural disaster after another.” Paul answers that one for us in Romans 8:19-22: “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Just as God’s people are frustrated by the condition of the world, so is creation. Just as we are awaiting the resurrection, creation is awaiting the “new heaven and new earth” promised in 2 Peter 3:13. As Jesus advised, when you see all of this happening, don’t be fearful but, rather, “Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!” (Luke 21:28, The Message)

08
Mar
11

patience

The Apostle James gives this advice in 1:4: “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

I don’t know about you, but this is one of my least favorite verses in the Bible. Not because I don’t believe it but, in fact, just the opposite. I do believe it, and that’s where the problem lies. I am not patient by nature and I am part of a culture that craves instant gratification. Our attention spans are so short that if we have to wait for one minute we become, at the least, bored and, at worst, depressed because we didn’t get what we wanted when we wanted it. We have even come up with very impressive sounding clinical diagnoses for a simple lack of self-control and disciplined behavior. We blame it on our personality type calling it “Type A” or “High D” when, in the end, what it boils down to is simple self-absorbtion and selfish behavior. We feel as if our time is more valuable than that of others, our schedule is of greater importance and our goals have greater significance.

Now you understand my dilemma. James makes it clear that learning to control these tendencies is the path to completeness, at least as far as God is concerned. Peter offers the same advice in his writing and concludes by saying until we learn this principle, we will be “ineffective and unproductive” (2 Peter 1:8) in living for Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I want. I want my life to count. I want to live with significance. I want to bring honor to my Father by “bear(ing) much fruit… fruit that remains” (John 15:8, 16) and the key to that, as counterintuitive as it seems to the natural mind (Romans 8), is learning patience.

01
Mar
11

going deeper

While on vacation recently my wife and I went snorkeling on a very popular reef in Mexico. It was great! The water was crystal clear and the reef was alive with all types of sea life. We encountered colorful fish, sea turtles, sting rays and even a small shark. The one down side was we were in between 25 and 40 feet of water; if I saw something of interest down below I would have to hold my breath and free dive as far down as I could go and, of course, only stay as long as I could hold my breath.

After a few minutes we encountered another life form – scuba divers. As I was swimming along the top I saw them down on the reef, moving along slowly, examining the coral and observing the animal life at a very relaxed pace. They were checking out every hole and ledge on the reef – places I didn’t have a chance of getting to. I was very jealous I was not with them on the scuba excursion. I made up my mind right then and there I would get my P.A.D.I. certifications renewed.

I was thinking this morning how well this illustration mirrors spiritual growth and maturity. How often I have found myself functioning at, what I considered at the time, a wonderful and fulfilling level of spirituality only to be reminded by Scripture, or the observation of a more seasoned believer, that God is calling me to go deeper in my relationship with him. Paul described it this way in 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10: “‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’– but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” We are encouraged in places like Ephesians 3:18 to explore the “depth” of God’s love for us.

However, like the snorkeler who wants to go deeper and spend longer periods of time under the water, the spiritual seeker is required to learn new skills and dedicate themselves to a greater level of discipline so that they too might experience the joy and satisfaction of “going deeper” with the Lord.