Thursday, September 21, 2017

An Unexpected Discipline - NOW

Ephesians 5:1-20

Live in love, as a fragrant offering to God…

What if NOW is the greatest moment of your life: being able to gift God with the thing he wants most – Love? A life lived in love. Love which drives you to see God in the moment and all aspects of life, whether pleasant or not. This moment is the only moment you hold and which holds the possibility of offering to God that which pleases him most. Yesterday is gone; tomorrow may not arrive in the same condition in which you hold today.

To remove all known sin from your life and to replace it with a love for God and his people is a worthwhile effort because every moment counts. Every moment is recorded in history, in your memory, impacting the lives of others. What you do NOW reverberates into your relationship with God!

Make proper use of your words, offer words thankfully in praise…

Capture this moment with a different perspective. Whether it is a moment in traffic, at your worksite, sitting in a doctor’s office, or in a quiet place at home, see God in it and see what he is doing in it.  Formulate your words so as to express the presence of God and the work of God into the life he has given. Your mouth will reveal what the heart holds. Be thankful, even in the difficulty, that he is still at work in you!

Once you were the personification of darkness but now you are the light of the Lord, a beacon. This can be seen in fruit (that which is good, right & true). Make it your aim to learn what pleases the Lord. Expose deeds of darkness.

The great purpose of this moment is to expose God! Let his light, which is in you and shines through you, become the means by which evil is revealed and maybe changed. Let no opportunity pass that could be filled with the light (good, right & true deeds) of God. This means I cannot look the other way, minimize another’s suffering, or fail in justice at any time. For it pleases God when we are vessels of his light.

Be careful how you live, be mindful of your steps. Walk as wise!

Next to pursuing God, wisdom is one of the greatest pursuits available to people. Anyone can participate in folly; fools are everywhere. But a person of wisdom is a rare gem. Now is the time to raise your attention and differentiate between the foolish and the wise and to walk as such. Every step counts; every choice matters, now more than ever!

Make the most of every moment…understand and be confident in God’s will and don’t live thoughtlessly…

The Christian life is not a hobby, confined to Sunday morning, Wednesday nights or even daily devotions. It is life, new life, ongoing life, the whole of life, your life. The greatest question we often ask of God is “What do you want of me?” It is a worthwhile effort to discern and disseminate God’s will such that you can live today in the confidence of God-led purpose. It is the difference between whether life seems to matter or not. And what you do does matter.

Let God fill you with his Holy Spirit, then you will be empowered to speak to each other with songs, spiritual hymns and make music with your hearts tuned to God.

The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams and you will only experience this to the extent you can see with your eyes of faith. Can you discover God in the ordinary as well as the great and awe-inspiring, the painful as well as the pleasant? To be able is to possess a rare and rich faith. 

Realize you are standing on holy ground, not because of the where you are, but because of the Who in you. Take a moment to capture the sacrament of the present moment. Something is a sacrament if it is a means of grace which transmits truth, revelation or the love of God. That makes NOW a vessel of the divine.

Who could foresee this day full of God?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Cloisters of Iona Abbey - North

Marguerite                        Nightfall:  time of dreams and passions,
                                         Full moon's eye stares into our soul.

Ivyleaf Toadflax                Now that each step is lit by stars
                                         Echoes of memories, held on to, fade

Thistle                              But pricked, we do recall a time
                                         When those attacked were timely saved

Scottish Rose                   To drink sweet liquor here distilled
                                         From fruits of one year's blazing sun.

Dandelion                         Roar as you eat, and count the time
                                         Spent seeking; hoping soon to find

Navelwort                         Connections back to your beginnings,
                                         Remember dark times in the womb

Foxglove                          Where heartbeats lulled us all to sleep;
                                         Life's rhythm-keeper soothed our soul.

Iris                                    And feeding from the Earth's life-fluid
                                        These flags fly high then quickly fade,

Harebell                           Like distant sounds of ringing bells;
                                        Chimed harmonies blown in the air.

Tormentil                          Stand tall in torment and in pain
                                         Surrounded by your dying fears. 

Sea Campion                   Once around your journey starts to end, 
                                         Where once it flowed it tries to ebb.

Saxifrage                          But by the power of this Stone-breaker
                                         We can turn the corner once again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

An Unexpected Discipline - Revelation from God

All Christians want a word from God.  We know that the Bible supplies us with His most clear Word, yet in the nuances of life, we want specific revelation.  “Just tell me what to do, Lord, “ we pray.  We want something of God’s truth that is suddenly clear, revelatory, new, or strong as it applies to our situation. We look for it; we wait for it.  The discipline to seek, find and apply is traumatic sometimes.  Yet, the staggering potential for a person to live in conscious awareness and interaction with God requires a discipline to have the “ears” to hear and the heart to honor and act on a revelation from God is the only way to live.  And to be able to hear the voice of God and distinguish it from all other voices, especially our own, is the heartfelt desire of those truly seeking.

The Bible is our first and foremost helper in this task.  We can learn to recognize and interact with the concrete presentation of a word from God, enlivened and empowered by His Spirit.   To lay hold of Biblical truths and apply them is the place to begin to see the validity and availability of the movement of God, whether we deal with ourselves or the world.  

The Bible also gives then gives us extra-biblical clues as to other places to access God’s revelation. 

Romans 1:20 says that nature/creation reveals the great, general truths of God.  To sit in creation's presence, to contemplate nature’s point to the Creator is a basic even the untrained scientist can appreciate.  Then to look for nature's metaphor as an application to our own lives requires a student’s hunt for truth.  I remember when I was in the middle of decision-making in a life change, that I retreated to a summer hill, buried in the foothills of central Ohio.  There the trees and the fields provided more than just an assurance, but also a representation of what it meant to move on to the next level.  That decision could be guided not just by the path I left behind, but the unknown path ahead.  As I was assured of my destination, I realized the path to it could be managed because it was just trees, hills and fields.

John 3:26-36 points to the teaching of valuable teachers, which can contain revelation from God.  This is John the Baptist’s discourse confirming Jesus as the Messiah.  Essentially, John tells his disciples how to recognize, as he does, that Jesus is the coming One: that Jesus’ teaching and baptizing is the sign that he is from God and to believe what he says.  This great teacher, John the Baptist, diminishes his role and increases Jesus’.  It is the sign of a Spirit-led teacher, to give credit where credit is due by giving honor to Jesus as the Son, then their word becomes merited as revelation.

Then Paul gives us one of the most revolutionary chapters in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16.  He teaches how our spirit interacts with God’s Spirit for knowledge of the great things of God (verse 10), even to the point that he declares, “for we have the mind of Christ!” (verse 16) It’s a daunting truth. It’s an unexpected discipline to let ourselves in on this truth:  to trust God with our mind.  Yet, I think most seeking Christians have had truths revealed in mind and spirit - that place of knowing - and then their testimony lived out becomes an affirmation of God's truth. 

Think for a minute about the truths God has assured you of, whether through trial, test, enlightenment, teaching or fellowship.  Here are mine:

  • I cannot sin and expect blessing from God.
  • ·God is quick to forgive.
  • ·The Holy Spirit is alive and available to me.
  • ·Jesus is enough for me.
  • ·The community of God is life-giving.
  • ·Being led by God requires trust and going into the unknown.
  • ·God is right. (duh!)
  • ·God will fight battles for me and with me.
  • ·The Bible contains all the truth I need.
  • ·The Psalms contain all the wisdom I need.
  • ·God’s people are everywhere!
  • ·Marriage is sacred and wonderful!
  • ·Work’s success defined by God may not look anything like worldly success.
  • ·God is generous with the generous.
  • ·God is the best Daddy I ever had!!
  •  Today only makes sense in light of heaven tomorrow.

These seem obvious, but their deep trueness is embedded in my heart as God let them be lived out in me.  It’s an unexpected discipline to allow those Truths to penetrate my life such that I can be helped, healed and led. 

There is another way God reveals Himself and His truth:  through silence.  I know people often just want something from God – even if it is “no.”  It is a discipline to understand and recognize God’s silence for what it is.  It is a heavy discipline as the silence can cause us to scream in anguish or retreat into our own silence, but I think it is a way for God to draw us close so that we can really hear what He has to say.

We may need to grapple with the truths He has already presented (Ps 46:10).  Silence may also be the chance for us to willingly submit (Ps 4:4). (Ps 37:7)  It may be the quiet which allows us to be brought “safely into harbor.” (Ps 107:30)  It may be the place where the firestorm of other voices are finally quieted so we can discern the still, small voice of God.  Through this, we will know His voice and be able to distinguish it from all other “strange” voices, even our own.  

Sometimes, too, when encountering a great Truth from God, we may find our shallow peacefulness disturbed.  The noise we create around us can dull our sense to the greater need in ourselves.  How often have I, in such moments, cried out loud some inner truth I did not know was hiding there!  

Thus, silence is not absence, but “room” for God to accomplish what he is doing in us. 

It’s an unexpected discipline to stay present for all places of revelation from God.  I can do it, though, because of Jesus’ great assurance in Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you always…” which is just as true today as when he first said it.  I love the discipline of releasing myself into that truth.

Monday, September 04, 2017

An Unexpected Discipline - Humility

I believe that humility is the root of every virtue and its opposite - any arrogance, pridefulness or pretentiousness -  is the root of every evil, every failure of faith.  We could probably agree that a humble spirit is one which serves God and others and that, as Christians, we are to follow Jesus' example as servant and sacrifice.

But do we act that way?
Do we embrace humility?

I've been to many a Christian conference and, in America, a Christian conference is a capitalist's dream!  There is always a bookstore or book sales room (not to mention other vendors) with product piled high.  I was once at a conference on spiritual formation and the main lobby was filled with tables that the vendors could hardly keep filled with books, they were selling so fast.  I stood there watching the buying and selling and I noticed that at one table there was a tall pile of books that no one was touching. I couldn't imagine what Christian author might not sell at an event where people came, determined to get insight from the best writers available.  

I went over to check it out.  The book was Humility, by Andrew Murray.  No one wanted that.

The demands of humility by any definition do not sit well with the citizens from the land of the free, which essentially means "No one can tell me what to do."   To resist the cultural call and move towards a humble life is an unexpected discipline because the depth of my arrogance, pride, and pretentiousness runs deep.  Yet, without humility, it is clear that I will make no gains in the faith, for humility gives room for God to be all in my life.

The weight of the significance of my worship of Jesus Christ now bares down.  Do I allow for His example of life to actually impact mine?  If so, the study of the humility of Christ is the only example I need to follow.

Jesus told his listeners how to engage humility first and foremost through his dependence upon his Father.  He recognized that he was sent by God and was only doing the work God was doing already.  He was doing God's will.  In fact, he could do nothing by himself, not even teach.  His doctrine even came from the Father; his authority came from God.  (John 5:19; John 8:42; John 5:17; John 5:30; John 7:16; John 14:10)

Jesus sure looked powerful, healing the sick, teaching with authority, rebuking whoever needed it, but he was humble enough to know where it came from.  He knew how to give credit to his Father who empowered him.

Am I cognizant of my own power source?  Maybe I once thought I held personal power, something from deep within me, but I have failed myself too many times to believe that anymore. In crisis, I am berefet of even direction and sense sometimes; I can end up in an emotional puddle. Left to myself, no good comes from me.  But with God in me, that all changes.   Humility does not say that I don't hold power, but that I know from where it comes.  

As Jesus knew to give credit to the Father, he demonstrated the nature of worship - to give credit where credit is due. That meant he did it for the glory of God and not himself.  He didn't want to receive honor from men.  This self-renunciation was not about ducking his head, but putting God first and foremost, gladly.

I wonder if humility is not about making ourselves less, but making God more.  That if any any good comes from us, if any rightness comes from us, if anyone gets served, then the greatness of those acts are not to be diminished by a false humility but instead glory should be given to the One who made it possible.

Yet, Jesus was meek and lowly.  It meant he yielded.  He yielded to the Father and left heaven for earth.  He served those around him.  He yielded to the cross so that we could be saved.  So, we yield - on the street it means we only proceed when others have passed, then we proceed cautiously.  Jesus' model says that good should come and God should be thanked and glorified. 

I like this metaphor for humility:  we are not the water, only the vessel.  When someone is thirsty, they aren't grateful for the glass, but to the water which slakes their thirst.  Be a worthy water jar!  It's a discipline to know our place.