Archive for September, 2008

Being A Man

September 30, 2008

This my simple thought for the day:

A man is never more like a man than when they imitate Jesus.

Nothing Mind-Blowing, But…

September 28, 2008

I’m just grateful to be alive, a follower of Jesus and able to serve others in His name.  I love His message, His life and the story surrounding Him.  I like the fact that He chose every day people to be His closest friends and confidantes.

I serve Him because I want to, ache to, long to and love to…I’ve made His passion my life’s purpose and I believe He pulled in to this through love so magnanimous and other-worldly I can’t begin to express my gratitude effectively enough.

Profoundly Saved

September 27, 2008

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:23, 24.

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all you diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us acccording to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.  Psalm 103:2-5, 8-14.

I don’t usually like to quote such a big amount of the passage I’m working from, preferring rather to let others read the context to get the complete picture.  Today, however, I want to celebrate the profound love, compassion, mercy and grace of my God.

I believe we need to keep in mind how slow to anger and eager to forgive our God is, instead most focus on His judgment (probably out of guilt).  What I like about these quotes is that every last one of them come from the OT, which is, as most of us believe, full of “judgment, punishment and condemnation” and not very encouraging.  That’s where most get it wrong, I believe.

If the Scripture is one, then it is so because all throughout history we see God’s efforts to save mankind from themselves.  The amount of times God actually destroyed nations are rare–like four or five times throughout the entire history of the world!  Out of six to ten thousand years of recorded history, the percentage of punishments versus patience is startlingly contrasted.  There are definitely individuals who died for their sin, but no one ever died who, after receiving the rebuke, confessed and repented.  David, who wrote both psalms above, sinned not only once with Bathsheeba, but several times throughout his life, yet look how God treated him.  He always humbled himself, took the discipline of God and kept on moving forward in His grace and forgiveness.

I am a sinner saved by grace.  This means that I have sin that trips me up either daily or occasionally, so I need God’s love and compassion.  I’m not excusing my sin, denying how evil it is nor trying to focus on it or ignore it, rather I want to show the contrast of who we are as sinners with the a God who demands righteousness, but longs to be merciful and compassionate (see Isaiah 30:18).

We are never more aware of who our God is than when we have sinned, fallen on our knees and confessed, repented and received His forgiveness.  This doesn’t mean we go out and sin so that we can experience this again and again, I don’t think we need to work at sinning to get the “high” of forgiveness.  No, what I means is that we know God’s heart towards us when we see how willingly He holds us to it (His heart).

In Ezekiel 18, 33, 36 we see God’s clarification to us what’s in His heart for us.  Those who refuse right living will be condemned, those who turn to Him and acknowledge He is supreme as well as the first and last word will find life.  As far as I know from Scripture, it’s actually harder to be lost than it is to be saved.  Eternity waits for anyone who will but believe in Jesus.  Even the bare minimum of making Him our foundation will be rewarded with life (see 1 Corinthians 3), though it will be like escaping through the flames.

Those who believe in Jesus are wonderfully, thankfully and profoundly saved from the fear of death and loss.  It is said in Scripture that the joy of the LORD is our strength so we know from where our ability to thrive grows.

Jesus claimed His mission wasn’t to condemn the world but to save it (see John 3:17), which to me says more than all the rhetoric of those who would teach otherwise.  It took me a long time before I read this verse, once I did, however, I stopped being afraid of God’s judgment and looked forward to His salvtion.

The Longing

September 26, 2008

All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him.

I held him and would not let him go till I had brought him to my mother’s house, to the room of the one who conceived me.  Song of Songs 3: 1, 4b.

Ever been alone at night, unmarried and wishing into the darkness that someone lay next to you?  Once you’ve had that company it’s very hard to go back to sleeping alone.  I still sleep on mainly one side of the bed and it’s been nearly four years since my wife left.  Ever wished you could share that movie with someone who appreciated as much as you do?

When we find the person we are interested in living with the rest of our lives, we are given the choice to make them our partner in all things.  I like the thought of sharing myself with someone, though I don’t think I have all that much that will benefit anyone.  But the sheer weight of giving oneself to another can’t be taken nor given lightly.  Love grows out of a sincere desire to benefit the other person while receiving.  I find it frustrating that people try to bull their way through relationships knowing deep down they won’t work–I’ve done it, so I’m just as bugged with me as with anyone.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11:  Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

You see how this works, of course, it takes no great insight to agree that we need others to not only suvive, but live well.  Attempting to live outside the way we are designed leads to all sorts of foolish ideas, lifestyles and potentially isolating attitudes.

As fall approaches, I feel the need to get cozy again.  Remembering in the late night hours what it was like when a woman snuggled up to stay warm brings back that longing.  Now someone might say,  “Just don’t think about it, let it go!”  That’s easy to say in the daylight, but a lot harder to accomplish once one’s defenses are down and weariness makes the mind wander along formerly resisted paths.

To my point of view, however, there is nothing more important than belonging.  The Bible creates a place of community, in fact, if I summed up the entire message of the gospel and OT it would tell us that God’s biggest concern is that we grow into a community again, becoming family and concerned for one another’s needs and wants.  That’s why divorce is such an appalling issue with Him for it breaks community.  Yet abuse is right up their with it and is one fo the reasons for Israel’s exile in the end, which is one of the reasons for divorce…

Husbands, love your wives; wives, love your husbands.  In the end what else equals it?

The Greatest Danger

September 25, 2008

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.  Galatians 6:1-5.

We forget how easily we all can fall into sin.  Yet at times, our very confessions become an excuse to do so.  We confess how weak we are towards a matter or sinful habit in our lives then go about proving it to both ourselves and others just how bad the hold it has on us is.  I would say it is our greatest danger for this attitude grows out of self-deception and pride.

To quote Martin Luther again (at least I was told it was his statement),  “Some are so humble they become proud of it.”

Paul’s warning to the spiritually strong suggests that none of us are above suspicion, failure in purity or godliness.  This very fact should give all of us pause as to what our motives are when we say things about our sin, confess our weaknesses and discuss our faults–are we excusing them?  Are we finding a way to place them in a permanent place so that we don’t have to deal with them honestly or directly?

Since I’ve used smokescreens before, I can say I’m a bit of an authority on them.  I used and use living on the outside of my skin to smokescreen my habits and fallen nature.  How is that possible?

It’s a matter of expectations, I believe.  If no one expects me to be better than I confess myself to be, then I can fail without impunity or rebuke.  At this point in my life it isn’t really as possible as it used to be because the people who surround me get in my soup.  But where there is a will there is a way.  Sin is one of those things which subtracts God from His place of supremacy in our lives, as I’ve mentioned before, which means we set up our own wants, desires or methods as little gods in His place.

Paul warns the spiritually strong to help those who have fallen that they are not above temptation.  To me this means one thing:  Pride goes before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction.  If we think we are above falling, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  1 John 1: 8-10 says,  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.

At the same time we can judge another person harshly, without mercy, understanding or grace.  A man could look at his wife’s infidelity and condemn her for it, sure, but what would that accomplish?  She’s fallen, as is he; she must stand before God as will he; she must get down on her knees and repent as must he.  Instead of being a pigheaded fool and beating her up about it, he should restore her gently and not let bitterness or anger rule his choices.  Jesus told us in the Beattitudes,  “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”  And in another place,  “If you do not forgive other men’s sins against you, neither will your heavenly Father forgive yours.”  (See Matthew 5:7; 6:15.)

I have beat my breast telling myself I’m too weak toward one thing or another and fallen down in the mud.  In so doing I set myself up for failure many times, refusing the gift of spiritual wisdom, strength and protection the strong tower of the Lord’s name offered.  No, I didn’t think I was refusing it, rather I lied to myself and told only a half-truth:  i.e. “I’m too weak to resist this temptation…”  The possibility that I’m too weak on my own to resist is absolutely true, yet the other side of the coin is that through the power of Christ I can resist sin.  I actually think it’s not so much a matter of resistance but more of a complete disinterest.

James does a word play which strikes to the heart of this truth.  James 4:6-8:  But He gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says:  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit yourelves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  come near to God and He will come near to you.

James makes it clear that the only way to resist the devil–or temptation–is to submit to God.  Fighting sin on our own never works and almost always means we are self-deceived about our ability to do so–or not to do so.  Submission means “coming under the mission of” as I learned in marriage counseling.  It doesn’t mean being squashed under someone’s thumb but being brought under the mission of the one to whom we give ourselves–and that submission goes both ways.  But notice another point here as well that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  The proud see no reason to submit or put themselves under any mission but their own.

To claim none of us have done this would be self-deception; to excuse our sin by thinking we are too weak is a half-truth.  The answer lies where it always has and does in the presence of God and Him as boss.  No where else is there deliverance, safety or freedom.

The Highest Mountain

September 23, 2008

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,  “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.”  The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.  They will beat their swords into  plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.  Isaiah 2:2-5.

Saying something like “In the last days…” puts us in a context of thinking about which “last days” God was speaking to here.  This could simply mean when Judah and Jerusalem become a nation again, which happened in the sixth century BC, or it could actually be pointing to the time when God comes to establish His own kingdom as supreme again and make all things new.  I believe it to be referring to the latter.

Why I buy this POV is because it speaks of the mountain of the LORD’s temple as being established as a worship center for all nations.  Plus, God will send out His law to the world from Zion (another name for Jerusalem), judge the nations and settle disputes.  It’s the thought of Him judging the nations and settling all their disputes that snags my interest and bias at this point.

The study of eschatology is rife with opinions and subject to personal interpretation even by the wisest and most educated.  The arguments among the academia on the subject of prophetic books and passages leaves the worldwide church divided as to what is to come.  As far as I’m concerned, it shouldn’t because I just don’t think we have enough info to draw clear conclusions on some of the issues and the sheer fact that we have so much disagreement should give every student of the Bible pause about being headstrong or adamant about their opinions on the subject.

A word of caution:  When Jesus came the first time, they rejected Him outright.  Not because He didn’t perform miracles and give them plenty of signs that He was someone special but for the simple reason they preferred their bias over His demonstrated reality.  How God chose to fulfill the Messianic passages in Scripture through Jesus left the academia frustrated, kept them aloof and once they knew He was sent of God, ultimately offended them.  If nothing else, Jesus was more than equal to the prophet Elisha just based on the miracles He performed. 

This is important to note that the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day rejected Him because He didn’t meet their expectations or follow their interpretations of the messianic predictions.

If the Word of God tells us there will be nations to judge and settle disputes with, then we need to heed such statements while not getting bogged down by them.  It means to me that somehow after all the catalclysmic events predicted in Daniel and Revelation, God is going to let the nations survive somehow.  I don’t know why or in what form and I can only guess as to the reason.

People complain that God doesn’t make His Word clear and if He’s so true, why doesn’t He come down here and show us all how it’s done?  First humans had eons of freedom to show their form of life after Eden.  They got so bad that God destroyed them.  I don’t begin to know whether the story of Noah and the flood is myth or fact nor will I dispute it either way.  Whatever the truth about it may be, God rescued only a handful of people through this guy.  God then gave the law since mankind could complain that He wasn’t giving them what He required clearly enough.  This didn’t work either so that method had to be trumped.  He punished Israel’s disobedience with exile.  Then they turned legalistic about the law. 

We humans just don’t seem to get it.

God sent Jesus to show the simplicity of what He wanted from them.  They killed Him–and not only just the Jewish leaders but the Pagan rulers.  So that method didn’t do anything to turn mankind back to living without the danger of violence, greed or theft.  We’ve had two thousand years since Jesus and the message of the gospel hasn’t really improved things much, for the nature of mankind is still stuck in the same old ruts with new toys to accomplish the same old goals–domination and acquisition.

So where does God go from here?

I believe the next method of convincing humans of His rightness will be to rule earth for a thousand years.  Revelation speaks of a thousand years without Satan’s interference, so I believe this thousand years will be another of God’s attempts to convince the world of His character, the rightness of His way and the justice of His cause.

It won’t work, however, for Revelation 20 predicts that after the thousand years, Satan will be loosed for a time to tempt the nations again.  This time, with all the evidence to the contrary, mankind will rise up and try to take the New Jerusalem.  The fact that Satan could convince anyone after he’d just been imprisoned for such long time testifies to the fact that not even ample evidence of God’s supremacy will work to convince the world.  At this point, I believe God is justified in destroying those who refuse Him.

God is for life, justice, mercy and love.  Those who oppose Him demonstrate their unwillingness to let peace be the norm and love the rule.  With the history of the world staring this generation in the face, we still have not learned the lessons.  Mankind’s nature subtracts God from their equation so they die.  O, most believe in a god but few really want Him/Her to be involved or change them.  The Judeo/Christian God especially draws this fire since He demands change of heart over political, familial or social affiliation.

If Isaiah is correct, God will put His throne on earth and take all the warring factions in hand to create peace.  His mountain will be the highest mountain of all, to be seen from anywhere on earth.

Refuge

September 19, 2008

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way.  In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me.  Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me.  I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.  Psalm 142: 3, 4.

Some days I feel like no one gets me at all; like I’m an alien in the room with everyone else staring at my tentacles or something.  The other attitude that sneaks up and grabs hold is that feeling of utter worthlessness–like “how can anyone love me?” or “I’m just not important enough for anyone to care about my life”.

So it’s really nice to know that the God who created me loves me no matter what.  How do I know this is true?  Because He says it in so many places in the Bible that I can’t even begin to quote them all.  My favorite and the one which comes to mind the easiest is Isaiah 30: 18:

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.  For the LORD is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for Him!

The other is Jeremiah 31: 3:  The LORD apppeared to us in the past, saying:  “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

Wondering whether we are worth something to other people is only natural for all of us need the affirmation of others to do better than just survive.  But knowing that the One who designed and made us as we are–our shape, size, look, thought patterns, personality sans-sin, and a host of other traits that make us unique and identifiable–gives us a shot of value right out of the starting gate.  If we see ourselves as valuable, we can’t help but see others in the same light, because Jesus died for the whole world and loves them all equally.

Knowing this fact gives us an advantage when it comes to relating to other people then.  It becomes only commonsense that once I know my value to God I will become valuable to myself and live a different life than before with a different outlook, which then sets up a different outcome.  How we see ourselves will dictate our attitude towards the rest of humanity.  If we feel worthless, we won’t value anyone else more either.  O, we might think they are better but our ability to be loving, caring and truly selfless dies with our self-esteem.  Instead of looking at others with a servant’s heart, we will look at them for value; every motive we have will be focused on being valued not serving or caring about the other’s needs.  This means that we will use our good deeds to gain value instead of meeting other people’s needs out of selflessness.

I know it sounds convoluted but that’s the deceptiveness of devaluation.  If our essential sense of value is not instilled from the very beginning, we will struggle the rest of our lives to feel worth anything.  But here’s another problem that arises from it:  The pride that God condemns is the attitude of comparison with others (see Galatians 6:4).  In other words if I am comparing myself with other people instead looking to a gracious, merciful and loving God’s promises, I am committing the sin of pride.

Feeling we are too low to be helped or reached is a form of pride.  Martin Luther once said,  “Some people become so ‘humble’ they are proud of it.”  I believe this is what happens in us when we think we are beyond the reach of love or compassion.  We grow proud of our “unreachable” state, of our utter worthlessness, and of our lost condition to the point that we reject God’s desire to rescue us from all of these things. 

The sin of thinking we are the best at anything by comparison is the sin of pride.  Therefore believing ourselves to be the most worthless or worst sinners beyond the help or reach of God is to think of ourselves as the best sinners or best worthless people in the race.  In other words we are winning at being worthless, winning at being sinful.  This is just plain messed up.

There is no place God cannot reach us for David exclaimed,  Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Where can I flee from Your presence?   Psalm 139:7.  He went on to list every place he could think of to escape God’s presence and realized there just wasn’t anywhere to go or hide from Him.  If this is true, then our worst characteristics are open before Jesus, we are known and our motives are like a displayed painting in a museum.  Nothing about us surprises Him so why should we feel worthless when every effort God has put forth in the last three thousand years has been to show us the opposite?

Why we don’t believe it is because we don’t trust Him, plain and simple.  If we trusted in God, our self-image would change, when that changes, our view of the world takes on a new slant.  If we catch the POV Jesus has of us, our worry about value goes out the window.  Those negative voices take on a dark, sinister tone and we realize how foolish it is to listen to them.

One last quote from Jesus,  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”  John 3:16, 17.

Save us from what?  Every negative, death dealing and lost condition known to human kind.  If God didn’t send Jesus to condemn the world, why do we as His followers think we have anymore right than our Master?  And if He isn’t out to condemn the world but save, it what does that say His attitude towards us is then?

It’s an Issue of Value

September 17, 2008

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not form the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.  1 John 2:15-17.

It sounds like John’s saying we are not to love the people in the world, doesn’t it?  Yet doesn’t the Bible tell us to love our neighbor as ourselves?  Isn’t this contradictory?

The problem with people who read the Bible casually is they don’t capture the context of what is being said half the time.  Even those who study struggle to grasp some things–and believe me there are plenty of arguments over who has the right interpretation of certain passages.  What is being said here, however, is not outside of the teachings of Jesus.  He contrasted how He looked at the people in the world with the habits of it as whole.  The attitudes of the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and pagans were denounced all together because none of them matched up to the attitude or practice of God.  Spiritual pride whether it be of accuracy or practice is an attitude of the world.  Worshiping any other god besides the one who sent Jesus is an attitude of the world.

Since this can be confusing, John went ahead and told us what he meant.  It would be easy to say he’s instructing believers to check out of society, head for the hills and build exclusive communes, but that’s not his point at all.  What we value the most we keep with us no matter where we take ourselves.  If we decide a monastic life is our calling, we take our attitudes of today into our “calling” of tomorrow.  A change of heart has to be done no matter the circumstances.  Those who escape the rest of the world by isolation don’t become better people for God’s kingdom, rather they actually lose whatever effectiveness they might have had to begin with as well as any authority to speak into other people’s lives.

What I have always understood about this passage is that we are not to lust after the world’s values or fall in love with their goals or values–those things which go against all God represents–for they have no lasting worth.  Our’s is a higher calling, which is not to say we are better than the rest of the world by dent of our choosing to submit to Jesus.  This calling will make us better than the world in one sense by recreation, but our outlook won’t be about comparison.  In other words we won’t be lifted up in pride, neither condescending nor scornful for we know that we too were once outside of God’s grace as a part of the very world we now reject.

I know it’s a tough balance to strike.  How do we live effectively, abundantly and wholeheartedly in a world that we are not to mirror or imitate?

Growing in Christ. 

It is that simple.  We don’t have to worry about our salvation once we accept Jesus.  Yet once we accept Him we begin the work of sanctification with Him.  Our work is to submit, His work is to clean up, heal and change/overhaul.  Philippians 2:12, 13:  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.  Our work is then?  To submit to God’s work in us.  Which is?  He gives us the will and ability to act out His purpose in our daily lives.

In other words, Jesus does the changing, while our job is to open up and stay out of the way long enough for us to be recreated in spirit in order to reflect Him fully.  If we do it this way, we won’t have to worry about loving the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, or boasting about what he has or does for we will be like our Master in all things.

Counting on the Unseen

September 16, 2008

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

C. S. Lewis once wrote that the spiritual was the true reality and we were just the dream.  (See “The Great Divorce”.)  Most of what we know, according to his argument, is a figment of our imaginations come to life.  The horrors we perpetrate, our governments, relationships, inventions, etc. all grow out of our imaginations.  In his book the ghosts were those who came to heaven’s but receiving station but didn’t belong there and were unable to walk around the closer they went toward the center because the grass cut into their feet.

The point I take away from all this is that God’s reality is the only one which truly exists and matters, the rest is perishable.  In other words everything that exists He made possible–yes, even our decision to reject Him.  That makes Him the most secure being in the entire universe because no one on earth creates something with rejection in mind, even parents.  Marriages exist, in most people’s minds, for the sole purpose of validating both partners, though the divorce rate tells the real story.  Our dreams of what marriage might mean don’t equal our reality do they? 

So what does that tell us about our expectations? 

What does it say about our perception of reality?

Lewis had it right, this is the dream, God’s world is the reality; we are the ghosts, the spiritual realm is the solid dimension.  The only reason we see it as a misty, intangible and wholly ghost-like world is because we are the walking dead not Him.  Jesus told the leaders of Israel in His time,  “Stop judging by appearances and make a right judgment!”  John 7:24.  We get it all turned around because this is all we know.  Judging reality through ignorance leads to false assumption about what we see, touch and hear.  A false assumption led to the “truth” that the earth was flat; a false assumption led the Vatican to condemn Galileo for his research about the relationship of the earth and sun–they burned him at the stake for being a sorcerer.

In Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus He said something quite profound,  “The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing.”  (See John 3)  So when Christ tells us emphatically not to worry about what we will eat, drink or if we’ll have clothes, He means exactly what He says.  By no means is Jesus telling us not to raise our own food, make our clothes or work, just the opposite.  No, what He wants us to do is in the midst of our work for these things to refuse to worry about them.  God promised that if we put the kingdom of heaven first, all these things would be added to us as well.

Counting on the unseen in this context sounds to me like a more sure bet than what we see.  I think the recent stock market plunge proves that point quite well…

Surrender

September 13, 2008

What we usually think of when we see the word “surrender” is someone with a white flag coming over to give up fighting.  In most cases where it concerns our relationship with God I would say it’s quite true.  We surrender every time we let Him be the last word on a subject.  I don’t think anybody’s really good at this except for a very select few–I know I’m not.

I read what Christ says about “giving up all” one has and think,  “How do I do this without being a fanatic off in the desert or mountains living off locusts and scrounging in the ground?”  Then I look at the way Jesus lived while on earth.  1 John 2: 6,  Whoever claims to  live in Him must walk as Jesus did.  We complicate the meaning way too much when Jesus is our prime example of what it means to give all.  Yes, He died on the cross, yes, some of us might have to literally follow in those footsteps as well, but His prime example while here on earth demonstrated how to live not just how to die.

Dying to self is about living for God, that’s quite established as precident in Christian doctrine.  For those confused by what this means, however, we have the example Jesus’ story written to illustrate what God expects of us.  Does giving up all mean we stop living?  Do we sell our businesses, house and material goods to wander around preaching the gospel?

Some might be called to this but I would suggest that most are not.  It’s not this hyper-focused lifestyle that Jesus calls all of us to but the daily walk in the mundane.  We get confused by the three years of singular mission where Christ healed, taught, died then rose again.  I hate to rain on some people’s parade but this mission was His alone to go through, our mission is to represent Him not be Him.  This means that in the midst of our business dealings we live out honesty, compassion, moral obligation, safe boundaries, wise money skills and a carefree attitude about the results, since God takes care of us.

Surrender to God means returning to our original purpose, that for which He made this world in the first place.  Mankind was innocently naked, completely exposed in all their “private” acts yet not ashamed, why?  Because they had nothing to hide, no bad motivation, selfish ambitions or coveteous attitudes for which to be ashamed.  This meant that our private acts of toilet, sex and eating were done within site of the community without any need for privacy.  Why?  No one lusted after anyone else since everyone shared everything but those relationships which were exclusive.

God wants us to return now to that innocence.  When Jesus told us not to look for Him in special places, He proceeded to tell us where we could find Him:  among His followers.  The kingdom of heaven is among us!  (See Luke 17:21.)  This surrender is to God’s design, His goal for our make up.  Our current resistence to it is understandable in one way because we have never known a competely beneficial despot. 

But Jesus is.

Though He is ruler of all, He became one of us to show us by illustration how to live for God.  He showed us what it meant to live a surrendered life, one which let nothing else be god in our lives and found joy.  His first miracle, after all, was at a wedding, changing water into wine for the purpose of celebrating, which should educate us to how He saw things.  He let His own mother push Him into creating the best wine.  Jesus loved, celebrated, ate and drank with His followers and still knew when to get down and serious.

He is our example, it why we are called “Christians”–Christ’s men and women–because we follow Him.