Thursday, May 28, 2020

Get muddy!


5-year-old Jude had a hard day.  He'd managed to be in 3 timeouts by 2:00pm.  The usual pleasures offered him, he turned away with disdain:  no blow-up pool could substitute for the new pool at his house; the park was mundane and not worth the walk (even though I offered to drive us).  He had hoped for the company (distraction) of the neighbor kids, but they were gone for the day.

He decided the sprinkler felt good.  The bubble maker was a good choice:  he could have the bubbles all to himself.  Then, he was reminded of the place behind the garage where he could get dirtiest and engage his imagination unfettered:  the sand path lined with stones.

With a "digger" in hand and some sand toys, he could devise cities, individual lives of sea creatures or totems to an underground army.  So, he dug, buried stones, piled stones.  He and his grandfather, who leisurely accompanied Jude, discussed whatever possibilities existed in the day. I half-listened from a bench nearby.

Suddenly, I pay attention to a question Jude asks:  "Is gravity everywhere?"
"Yes," I answer.
"Well, not here," he says.  I look up to see him lightly skip-dancing down the path.

He found his happy place.

He was wet and sandy. Holes were dug in the path.  Rocks were half-buried in the path.  Muddy handprints on the garage.  It might be not be pretty, but it was beautiful.

He had found his happy place.

Where might we find our happy place in a day of discontent?  Do we need the discourse of our Father?  To dig deep into the usual well-kept parts of our lives?  Make a mess? Get dirty?  Find your happy place.  Be sure to get a good hosing afterwards.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Welcome!

"Look, you scoffers! Be shocked to death!
For in your days I am doing a work,
a work you will never believe, 
even if someone tells you plainly!" (from Habakkuk)

Paul and Barnabas prepared to leave the synagogue, but the people wanted to hear more and urged them to return the following Sabbath. As the people dispersed after the meeting, many Jews and converts to Judaism follow Paul and Barnabas.  Paul and Barnabas continued teaching them privately and urged them to remain steadfast in the grace of God.  The next Sabbath, it seemed the whole city had gathered to hear the message of the Lord.  But some of the Jewish leaders were jealous when they saw these huge crowds.  They argued with Paul and Barnabas about their teaching.

Paul and Barnabas responded with great confidence:  It was only right that we should bring God's message to you Jewish people first.  But now, since you are rejecting our message and, by doing so, identifying yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to outsiders (Gentiles).  Remember the Lord's words:

I have appointed you a light to the nations beyond Israel,
so you can bring redemption to every corner of the earth...."

Acts 13: 41-52

Paul asserts that the good news is for all.  Jesus came to complete the work of the Jewish nation: salvation for all.  They failed; He prevailed.

I am sometimes like the Jews, presuming the message is personal, when it is also universal. This causes me to question myself.

Do I take for granted that the salvation message is for me and mine, for getting the universality of God's intention?

Do I keep others out with my exclusivity?  Let it not be so!  

Do I look on certain groups as outside the circle of "privilege" of being a member of God's household?  

Help me to provide comfort where ever it is needed!  Let my life be an example of Christ's offer to come into the family!

Welcome!

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Abound



2 Peter 1:3-8


God’s divine power gives us everything we need…
What!?!?  How did I miss this?  Everything?  I need?  I need to understand the fullness of the fact that God is working toward my good and knows what I need most.


to reflect God’s true nature and to experience the holy life, a godly life
Ain't  that a caution!  I have been trying to do it all along by following rules, doing all the religious things, but God’s power connects me to life in him, the kind of life I have been trying to achieve all along.  


we have received all of this by knowing him, who has called to us by his glory and virtue…
I love this.  I love him.  That is to be my pursuit: knowing him.  When I see him and see his glory and virtue, I am drawn into the relationship circle of God, Father and Spirit and enveloped into his true nature. (Jesus says this in John 17)


and this is a great and precious promise that enables you to share in his divine nature…
Divine nature.  That holy and righteous life that, with exposure, becomes who I am.  Becomes my nature, too.  I think of it like having a mentor or coach.  The more I go to practice, the more I get in on the planning and practice, I become part of the team.  In this case, part of a team which overcomes sin, overcomes corruption.


so make every effort to respond to God’s promises
So, I grasp the promises.  I make the promises part of my mantra, my purpose, my being.  I bring myself as close to these promises as possible.  It’s like winning the lottery:  I have to go to the store and claim the promises.  And with fervor:  with haste and with due diligence.  

Then Peter gives very specific instructions about the steps for claiming this victory:
…To achieve this, you will need to add virtue to your faith and then knowledge to your virtue.  Then add discipline and to discipline add endurance.  To endurance add godliness, and to godliness add affection for your brothers and sisters in faith.  Finally add love.

If you possess these traits (in your nature) and multiply them, you will never be ineffective or unproductive in your relationship with Jesus Christ… 

The NIV says, The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of, your relationship with Jesus Christ.

You will ABOUND in your relationship with Jesus.  It will be full and plentiful.  You will relish and grow these traits because they are the vehicles towards a full relationship with the God of the universe.  You will be rich in the resources of the relationship with Jesus for a holy, godly life.
I never thought I lacked perseverance, but these markers of progress really give me a measure of life in Christ.  As I keep my emotions balanced through these disciplines, I remember God and his intent for me.  In the end…in the end…these become evidence of my life with Jesus to the end.

Anonymous


Holy One,
there is something I wanted to tell you,
but there have been errands to run,
bills to pay,
arrangements to make,
meetings to attend,
friends to entertain,
washing to do...
and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you,
and mostly I forget what I'm about,
or why.
O God,
don't forget me, please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Eternal One,
there is something I wanted to tell you,
but my mind races with worrying and watching,
with weighing and planning,
with rutted slights and pothole grievances,
with leaky dreams I keep trying to plug up;
and my attention is preoccupied
with loneliness,
with doubt,
and with things I covet;
and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you,
and how to say it honestly
or how to do much of anything.
O God,
don't forget me please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Almighty One,
there is something I wanted to tell you
but I stumble along the edge of a nameless rage,
haunted by a hundred floating fears and...
I forget the real question is that I wanted to ask,
and I forget to listen anyway
because you seem unreal and far away,
and I forget what it is I have forgotten.
O God,
don't forget me please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ.

O Father in heaven,
perhaps you've already heard what I wanted to tell you.
What I wanted to ask is
forgive me,
heal me,
increase my courage, please.
Renew in me a little of love and faith,
and a sense of confidence,
and a vision of what it might mean
to live as though you were real,
and I mattered,
and everyone was sister and brother.
What I wanted to ask in my blundering way is
don't give up on me,
don't become too sad about me,
but laugh with me
and try again with me,
and I will with you, too.
What I wanted to ask is
for peace enough to want and work for more,
for joy enough to share,
and for awareness that is keen enough
to sense your presence,
here,
now,
there,
then,
always. 

Amen


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Enlightened

The crowds increased around Jesus, looking for a sign.  Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation.  It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah...The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here."  
Luke 11:29-32



Jesus often drew a crowd.  The people could see that Jesus held power, and maybe some even saw the good or could see God in what He did, but they wanted to use that power for their own definition of "good."  The crowd's interest was often less about relationship with him and more about getting what they wanted.  Those crowds wanted their own "sign," their own evidence for truth.  They often wanted a miracle that would satisfy them. 


 Jesus warned that any sign they received would not be what they expected.  How many times have you asked for something from God and didn't quite get what you wanted?  Maybe you found it lacking because it didn't fulfill your definition of "good."  



I have found that we like to dictate our requests to God to include the answer, as if he didn't know what we needed.  The truth is that we are the ones who don't always know what we need.  We go for relief, plenty or comfort, but what if "good" does not include ease?  What if God knows our requests are often limited to the present, the immediate? Imagine:  what if He knew better!    I think God is often saying to us, "Wait." "No." or "Better than this."



Jesus makes it clear that the "better" is repentance because that is what brings us the most of what we need - God himself.  Thus, He says the only "sign" would be one that compelled repentance, like what happened to the Ninevites.  Our sights are set low; we don't see the truth of what we need them most, so he adds,

"No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.  Your eye is the lamp of your body.  When you eyes are healthy, your whole body is also full of light.  But when they are unhealthy, you body is also full of darkness.

See to it then, that the light within you is not darkness.  Then, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you."

Could the crowds see it?  Could their "eyes" allow for light or would they stay darkened to the truth of what they needed most?  And us, can we be enlightened about our need for repentance, and thus to be righteous, or darkened to sin and its consequences in our lives?  When we go to request something from God, do approach with our own pretentions or do we desire God?  

Repentance is our greatest chance to finally be as we were intended:  holy and present to God.



Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Witness Protection

So it comes down to this:  since you have been raised with Jesus, the liberating King, set your mind on heaven above.  The Anointed Jesus is there, seated at God’s right hand.  Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things, because your old life is dead and gone.  You new life is now hidden, enmeshed with Jesus who is in God.  On that day when Jesus, who is our very life, is revealed, you will be revealed with Him in glory! 
Colossians 3:1-4

Anyone who is looking for the ways to follow Christ need not look any farther than Colossians 3.  Other places in the New Testament can help us see the divinity of Christ, the development of theology and evidence of the kingdom of heaven.  But here in the third chapter of Colossians is the key strategy for following Jesus in companionship with others.  Paul gives us directives and the source for living out those directives.

Paul is clear that my old life is gone and my new life is now hidden and enmeshed in Jesus.  Sounds like I am in a witness protection program, with Christ as the director, to the point that I have a new identity and new manner of living.  This make-over should make me completely separated from and unrecognizable to my previous life of sin (verses 5-10).  I no longer inhabit any previous spaces, nor engage in any former behaviors and be so far removed from that previous life that I am no longer identified by it.

The entire escapade of new life begins with an identity change:  You have sloughed away your old skin along with its evil practices for a fresh new you, which is continually renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created you.  (Colossians 3:9b-10 )  The make-over begins and is continual and puts my new design in direct correspondence to the image of Jesus.  I will now look like him and look like nothing of my former self.

Then, Paul makes it clear that I need to walk away from my former life.  Do I yet visit the neighborhood to keep my connections?  Do I hide somewhere in my being some part of my former life?  Or am I willing to chuck that whole past so as to be completely renewed?  Paul goes on to tell what that new person looks like:

Since you are all set apart by God, make holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life:  compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  (Col 3:12) These internal qualities, reflecting my new identity, then should translate into new set of relationship behavior:  Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, just as the Lord pardoned you.  And above all things, put on love!  Love is the perfect tie to bind these together.  It generates peace.  And be thankful. (Col 3:16)

Paul goes on to list several worship/wisdom efforts:  teach, counsel and instruct one another.  Sing songs and psalms inspired by the Spirit.  Be thankful.  And no matter what you do, it will be all for Jesus.  Belief is not enough for Paul:  it must produce right living.

I like to say it this way.  Belief is more than a good idea.  Lots of people think Jesus had some good ideas.  Belief is depending on his life and ideas as models.  Belief is valuing and trusting the Lord of the Universe, as he displayed himself in the life of Jesus, as the source for the life I should be living.  I need to get out of the ‘hood and walk in the palace, where I belong.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Pompous Piety



Don’t let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  They are just a shadow of the things to come.  The reality of life is found in Christ, not these rites. 
Don’t let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you.  Such a person…is puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.  They have lost connection with the head (who is Christ) from the whole body... All these regulations have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:16-23

We know the world has nothing to offer us in righteousness and spirituality.  To the Colossians, Paul makes it clear that religious ritual is no better.  It is a vague representation of what can be in a person’s life.  While the community of believers is important, too much of a structural façade removes us from relationship with Jesus, the Christ, and each other.  Learning and engaging with the advancing kingdom, all under the rule of Christ, usually requires we look outside of rules and into relationship with a needy world.   False worship is concocted by people, but we are called to only worship Christ and serve his purposes.

God doesn’t require fancy, complicated and fabricated religious practices.  His plan is simple:  focus on knowing Jesus and advancing His Kingdom His way.  No other is needed.  No other system of religiosity satisfies.  All the rules, the rites, the requirements do nothing to bring a life to bear into life in the Kingdom.  

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life.  Finding ways to engage the truths Jesus purports requires more than just showing up, more than passive acquiescence to another’s design for worship and a life well-lived.  Determine to be in hot pursuit of the living Christ.  Following Jesus wholeheartedly will clarify life and the choices you may face. All else will fall away. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Kingdom


To the church at Philadelphia: 

I know your deeds.  See, I have placed before you an open door, which no one can shut.  I have done this despite your limited strength, yet you obeyed my word and have not denied my name…Because you have obeyed my instructions to endure and be patient, I will protect you from the time of trial which will come upon the whole earth and put everyone in it to the test.  I will soon return.  Hold tight to what you have so that no one can take away your victor’s wreath.  Anyone who conquers through faithfulness, I will plant as a pillar in the temple of God and that person will never have to leave the presence of God. Revelation 8, 10-12


This passage is addressed to a faithful body of believers and I want it to be true for me!  Faithfulness will conquer!  This faithfulness involves being true to Jesus and His Kingdom, where my citizenship is housed.  It is my belonging place. When all else crumbles, when the façade falls around me, I will be standing on the surety of God-in-me and the evidence of His Kingdom.  

During my time on earth so far, the presence of Jesus’ Kingdom seems so clear and as I have entered into his realm (his way and his path), it’s amazing in what He has allowed me to participate.  I didn’t always see it so clearly when I was younger and the world’s siren call still held some (false) truth, but now I see that my allegiance can only be to one Kingdom.  Even the kingdom I built for myself, my small realm where I thought my will ruled, has now been subjected to the rule of the living Lord.  His rule is so much better and better for me!

I am grateful for this citizenship which will carry me into eternity.  No other passport exists for that trip other than that of the Kingdom of God.