Thursday, May 26, 2016

QUIT BEING A BIG BABY

The admonition to refrain from being a big baby begins with me and then proceeds on toward you.  Not only do we all have this as a possibility, each of us has our moments when others see it of us; even if we don't.

Yes we know a few things.  Compared to all that is known and all that is yet to be known, that which we individually know is quite micro in proportion.  So I know three things or forty-eight things that you don't?  Three people or forty-eight know tons of facts and figures that I didn't even know existed.

Just because I know that Stan Musial's bat handle was 15/16ths of an inch in diameter and was the smallest bat handle in the Major Leagues during his career does not make me king of knowing stuff (although I do have moments where knowing this fact causes me to feel a bit cool).

My point is that we are all very small compared to the empowering and towering large world of knowledge.  So let us not have the big-head...ever.  We are not sharper than one other person.  Yes, we might know a detail here and there of which others around us know nothing.  To be reminded that these also have abundant awareness of definitions and attributions of matters that we are purely clueless should cause us to park the high-horse and dismount.

You are not smarter than another.  Maybe in a few things, yes, but when realizing that few is so key, we may also admit that every one who receives my criticism is much more informed in other zones.  Our expertise, as we call it, is to be valued; but never as defining us as above another.  We never are.

I believe we live in a 1/1,000,000 ratio.  If I know one thing that others don't (and I do know some things that some others don't), I can be assured that others combined know one million facts or truths that never occurred to me.  This escalates the joy of life; not the ego of it.

So yes, each of us has a significant grasp of information valuable to the populace around.  But never let it be thought that because we are in on a very few of these markings that we are smarter, better, or more significant than another.  Don't be a big baby acting like we above others.  We are not....ever.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT GOD

I'm one guilty of being deeply involved in the church setting while being negligent in relating to God.   Loaded with ministry assignments, proof texts, and doctrinal ammunition, I set out to make people into miniature me.  Believe as me.  Talk as me. Prove as me.  Even sound like me.

What a missing of the Jesus target.  How sinful.

I had all of these religious ideas I was trying to keep afloat.  I would even take a stab at beefing up my prayer life.  To take a stab at writing a book or increasing my giving...why not?  But there was a major glitch in every bit of the above.  I wasn't connecting with God.  It felt very much that I was on my own.

Do you have any idea what it's like to begrudge the time spent in prayer while not believing it made any difference anyway?  Yet, churchers watching me expected it...so I prayed.  The same with ministry in general; keep up the appearance.  But I wasn't catching something...something big...so personal puzzlement followed.

My problem was that I didn't know God as Father.  I knew Him as Boss.  I knew Him as Office Manager; but not as Friend.  It might help for me to tell you that for some reason as a new convert I understood by comments made in Bible classes, etc., that God was not on our side.  Now that's absurd, but it seemed that God was more of a Spy with a Fly-swatter than a Father with a Son.

What I like about God is that He out-thinks the sharpest of minds, out-works the hardest of laborers, and out-smarts the wisest of teachers.  Mankind has read about and experienced the brilliance of God and, yet, we have hardly scratched the surface of His talent, skill, and certainly His graceful love.  This doesn't bum me that I'm so far behind.  Rather, it frees me to imagine....Him.

What I really like about God is that He cares more about the rejects than anyone can grasp.  We study the Word.  We read of His sacrificial willingness to be tortured in order to save His creation.  And then guys like me come along implying that we have mastered God's trek.  Just.  Not.  So.  To follow in the steps of Jesus is simply one constant transference; our preferences shifting to His.

What I really, really like about God is that He will not be boxed in by man's understanding.  All through Scripture He broke the rules in order to communicate this very fact; He won't be told by any system order how He will work.  He can part a sea to save His people or close it up moments later to extract His enemies.  God can cause night to restrain for a fighting soldier or bring about food from a boy's meager lunch for an entire crowd of say 4000....or 5000.

What I like about God is that He is God....and I am not.  Therefore, it is my job to let go of my calculating, manipulating, extremely puny ways, and let Him run this show.  We will all be better off, don't you think?


Monday, May 23, 2016

OBSESSED WITH CERTAINTY OF WONDER

A man I never met turned my world around to the point I've never gotten over it.  God places people and/or their works in our paths along the way and such is the case for me.  E. Stanley Jones wrote a very small book which continues to provide quite large blessings.  I've never forgotten my being stricken with absolute possibility embedded within every negative situation.

The Divine Yes impacted me like no other book.  Everything is a Yes.  Jones based his work on the dynamic words of II Corinthians 1:20: For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

Having served decades in a foreign territory spreading the Word of God in a fantastic ministry, Jones suffered a paralyzing stroke while visiting America.  One half of his body no longer functioned.  His family pleaded that he retire at his age and stay home. But he refused.  And while his body was now a source of daily struggle, slurred speech and all, he returned to his beloved adopted country.

E. Stanley Jones drug his half-dead body for the next fourteen months until his death to show that everything is a yes regardless of interruption or interference.  The promises of God are a yes.  He wanted his colleagues to see that even drastic discouragement would not cause anyone to call it quits.  He would not let such an obstruction of body stop him from ministering to a people dearly loved by God.

This is the spirit of Jesus.  Love the people.  Care for the broken.  Stand by the public rejects.  Cover for the enemy.  And, count on Father to bring one back from the grave. We are called to do more than go to church.  We are called to be an obsessed kind of populace which lives in certainty of wonder; even when the circumstances prove to be less than ideal.

So here's the magic of it all.  Our depression, our rejection, our insults, and our failures are not signals of pulling out; but rather, of lighting up.  Even in the very center of loss and distress we are learning how others feel who are suffering loss and distress. Nothing is a waste.  Nothing.  This strong attitude of faith reverses most lives.

The Apostle Paul urged that even tribulation leads us to endurance.  Endurance leads to proven character.  And proven character?  Leads us to hope.  Romans 5:5 reveals that such a hope is not fake due to the Holy Spirit of God given to us.  We can count on wonder...even in the very center of those things/those people who threaten to shut us down.

This....is the wonder of being a regular person living on a regular road wishing to turn the world upside down!




Sunday, May 22, 2016

WHY WE GET TO LIKE LIFE!

Mankind is infected.  Adam and Eve thrust us into an unscheduled, unintended raging battle that leaves families and neighbors strewn from here to yonder.  Their failure has massive impact.  Life is broken; very broken.

The lesson we must remember is that this is a matter of we; not they.  We are in the mix.  We are to be blamed for injury to others; daily, weekly insulting and harmful injuries.  It is not that some can't seem to get a grip on life; we are in the mix.

Yet, there is a counter lesson of which we must not stop learning.  Just as each carries enough soreness and baggage, Jesus died to take the blame.  That's what he did on the Cross.  Why do you think it turned dark that day in mid-afternoon.  All of man's darkness--every hurtful word and deed--had been removed from man's worst behavior and dumped upon his head.  He paid for our stupid, selfish, injurious ways.

It is his righteousness that he handed to us.  We received not a grade card of earned approval; but a Pass.  He went to Hell for us.  We go to Heaven.  Get it?  We must not stop learning this lesson.  For as we do--when we remember--our hearts leap within us. Our eyes brighten.  Our hopes lift.  Our confidence soars.  Our interest in our enemies escalates.  Purpose takes form.  Meaning arises.

Life isn't good because we manage it well.  No, life is great because it was handed to us upon a rugged wooden platter.  Feast away!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

HOW TO OVERCOME INVISIBLE NAGGING DISCOURAGEMENT

Could I ask just how many hats Discouragement has?  This is incredible.  I mean, everywhere we turn and everyone we know battles what we call "staying up".  It's epidemic in persistence and substantial in proportion to the rest of our day. Discouragement isn't necessarily the same as depression; although it could be regarded as a close cousin.  Whatever....it bugs us....each of us....without exception.

I face this Mob Boss all of the time.  Of the hundreds of things that go right in my life, just let two things (well, okay, just one) go wrong and I'm tempted to curl up in despair. Frustration hits.  Aggravation seems to want to cuff me and jail me.  Yet, I have learned a thing from God that is mind-saving and heart-building.  I have learned to focus on the stuff of life that's going right.  He promised peace would come quickly.

Two things wear me down.  People.

The people of they and then the person of me.  Disappointingly I have turned out to be like them in identical ways that I was just hoping wouldn't be true.  We push, pull, shove, and neglect all in one big ball of selfish, injurious, wasteful living.  We get upset over how someone treats us and then turn around and treat another the very same way.  Romans 2;1-5 speaks a bit about this.  None of us are exempt from dishing out insult or neglect; but resent it--oh so very much--when it is dished out to us.

Two things wear me down.  People.

Just this morning I had to give myself a talking-to and tell myself to sit down and stop the inner dialog of being bummed.  I had to lecture me against brooding, pouting, and well...pouting that I was brooding.  But, just as promised, when I shifted my thoughts away from the discouraging and upon the wonders already in my world, on my path, what God said came upon me.  Peace, an unexplainable calm, rolled in as the sun peeking along a shoreline.

How shall we overcome invisible nagging discouragement?  I would offer the following advice:
  1. Quit courting it.
  2. Quit taking it out for a Coke.
  3. Quit playing its recordings in your mind.
  4. Quit giving it permission to stay overnight.
Two things wear me down.  People.  Two things build me up.  God and patient people.



Friday, May 20, 2016

HUMAN REASON AND FAITH ARE NOT TWINS

Dare I approach the sacred god of the land known as Reason?  Could it be that a hefty part of church struggle is due to the accepted terrain of believing that reason is wisdom?  Before you reason that I must be unaware that the Bible uses this word 129 times, I am quite aware.  Therefore, the word itself is not taboo.  The building a god from its timbers is.

Reason is a a double-edged sword.  It can accelerate progress or it can stifle it.  The beholder is the one on the bubble.  Faith or fear sit at opposing ends of the religious teeter-tooter.  I reference this matter because I believe we are stuck in some of the simplest matters because reason becomes the very excuse one needs to hedge on stepping out by faith.

The Father of faith (Abraham) went out toward God's call not knowing where he was going.  Human reason would have plenty to say about such an irresponsible move, wouldn't you think?  Jesus had a faith where he believed that even if he were to die that he would soon be back.  Do you really think the cautious side of reason wants any part of such an extreme presupposition?  I don't think so.  I believe controlling reason would balk just before it mocked.

It is this side of reason that I bring to your table.  And I bring it because it negatively chips and nips at our faith.  It pushes, it threatens, it bullies the tendency to try to walk by the unseen into the unknown.  I believe that in general the masses don't pray because reason explains to our interiors that there is no way it will make a difference. But, faith insists that it absolutely will.

Very bold arguers among churches bellow their controlling opinions about doctrinal matters.  Yet, when it comes to the matter of giving of their dollars, some of these hedge in the name of being reasonable; not faithful.  Bible study attendees who seldom read the Word in search of anything other than proof of what they already believe seem to major in reason while being steady in walking by a religious nervousness that they might get it wrong; a lack of trust that God can do well in both supply and provision.

We do want to participate in reason when it comes to determining whether to believe in the Invisible God or the vocal doubters.  We do use reason to sort the spiritual from the carnal.  It isn't that reason, therefore, is a villain but it very much can be if such is used as a wedge to barter against vibrant unexplainable faith.

Reason does not of itself provide a guide to truth, says Dr. David Hawkins.  It produces massive amounts of information and documentation, but lacks the capability to resolve discrepancies in data and conclusions.  Reason itself, paradoxically, is the major block to reaching higher levels of consciousness.  

While being reasonable can seem so....reasonable...it can, in fact, be used as a misguiding tool to distract one from concluding the very amazing activities of God.  Not only are human reason and faith not twins; they at times aren't even relatives.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

WHEN YOUR SOCKS DON'T MATCH

How is it that an average person goes through a day with the dynamic of confidence and insecurity?  Just the wording of the sentence is a challenge to me for I am one example of this apparent poles-far-apart conflict...that isn't.  It isn't conflict because the two seem to bond which, on the surface, would seem contradictory.

My firm convictions of good attitude and higher goals are not the solution.  Self-doubt, even frustration, sabotages those two in a heartbeat.  When I mention insecurity, I mean it!  The Solver to this dilemma is Jesus...in Spirit form.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God (II Corinthians 3:5).  Our confidence (previous verse) is found in Jesus pointing us toward God.

My problem is that I was studying, practicing, (and at least wishing) that I would become inwardly confident.  Yet, confidence in myself continued to be undermined by myself.  When I was a teen I bought a pair of socks at Goodells.  As I prepared to put them on, I noticed a wandering thread at the opening so I pulled it so as to remove this vagrant sleeper that was hitching a ride on my new sock.

When I pulled that villain of a thread the entire sock unraveled all of the way to the end of the toe.  It was like I had just done a most amazing magic trick.  Nothing was left but one long useless brown thread.  At this point I had a serious quandary.  Now my socks really didn't match!

When we make genuine effort to be self-aggressive and self-assertive there will always be someone or some thing which will pull our chains and we will unravel....often all of the way to our toes.  But life isn't up to us.  We don't have the knack to make it click. Life is up to Jesus within us.  He knows the directions and the dimensions because he personally knows the Creator of even our socks.

When Jesus teaches that the first shall be last and the last shall be first, a powerful secret is sneaking upon us from the front.  We are being hit with a validity which is truly community-disorienting; even earth-shaking.  The very place NO ONE WANTS TO BE is in last place.  No one brags about the team that finished last; nor the horse, nor the beauty contestant.

No, first is what we want.  In this zone are the bragging rights.  It's what we envision for our kids, for our efforts, for our dreams, and for ourselves.  God, in His wisdom, knows we want to be first.  Thrillingly, He wants us to experience being first.  He isn't against us; rather for us.  But to be authentic in finishing at the top we must strive for last place.

And this bugs us.  It feels like some sort of bad day like when our socks don't match....but much worse.  In our finishing last in accomplishment, in argument, in effectiveness, be not discouraged.  The fascinating work of God is at hand.  It was at the Cross...even when it didn't look like it.