Friday, May 22, 2015

FAITH. WHAT IS IT?

I love faith.  Really.

Faith changes things.

It gives hope when there isn't any.  It assures we are safe in the midst of destructive experiences. Faith is that invisible game-changer for everything in life.

The flesh has it's common rules.  It feels comfortable in setting the stage for our day. And, then we hear flesh's clear bossy inner voice; do it my way.  Our flesh fights with our spirit.  That's why we have ongoing discussions in our head.  The spirit and the flesh don't see things alike at times.

But faith....faith has this knack of betraying the rules.  Water has been walked upon as if it were a mere neighborhood sidewalk.  Promises of impossibility become true. Death oughta get nervous because it's about to die so that life can arise.

Faith isn't a Sunday morning ritual.  Rather it is a Monday morning assurance which will last all week long.  Sure life hiccups with hic at times; but faith is our spiritual sergeant beckoning us to never give up.

Faith is that invisible inner conviction that what isn't, yet, can be.  We are to believe that God participates in what we might determine to be our routine lifestyle.  People with faith have just as many things go wrong as those who have none.  The difference is that the faith factor sheds new light on possibility and hope.

Faith doesn't just call us to be the church on Sunday mornings.  It nudges us to believe value is in the midst of our bad moments.  It calls us to trust what we can't see (God and His working Kingdom) over what we can see (injury and frustration).

So how does it work?  He gave us no formula.  It is a developed combination of assurance and conviction.  This may seem simple, but one either believes it or he doesn't.  Each person is free to choose.  The one with faith, regardless of pressures and disappointments, will live in perpetual hope.

The one without it?  This one will act only with attitudes of hope if the day has gone well.  Their days of joy are dependent upon what happens or doesn't happen to them.

The Spirit of God is available to assist every person when we hit those rugged times of setback.  Faith isn't about sitting in rows for an hour.  It is about standing on promises from above when the harshness of routine life wants to convince us otherwise.

Faith?  It's that strange element of the heart which insists that nothing shall separate us from the love of God.

Romans 5:1-5.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

WE DON'T SEEM TO GET IT

How can the feelings of inferiority dampen our hearts so strongly when we, simultaneously, feel we are a bit sharper than most others?  It almost seems like an ego-down, ego-up scenario of sorts.

One day I can be pouting because I alone live in this shell of mine.  And the reviews that I give to myself about myself aren't very favorable.  In the very same day irritation can arise because of how stupid I think others are.  Of course I keep my misaligned ego quiet so that I can sit in steep judgment without any of my comments tipping my hand.

I don't seem to get it.  We don't seem to get it.  We are somebodies made by God.  Yet, we forget that His created somebodies were not created to judge others.  When we judge we either put ourselves down or build ourselves up.  These conclusions can only come about by comparison.; how we are doing against another's performance.

For we are not bold, states the insightful apostle, to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.  This is why we don't seem to get it.  Our value, up or down, is not legitimately gauged by placing one against another.

A breakthrough for me was when I finally quit comparing myself to any others.  When I did I was usually coming up short.  But in the maze of inferiority, I seemed to carry a perpetual snubbing toward some who seemed to me to be ridiculous; as if I weren't. Obviously, I am also one who didn't seem to get it.

So what is it we want to get?

II Corinthians 3:4-5 defines what wimpy egoists like me need to consider to sort through this quagmire of brainwave interference.  We are all inadequate in the sight of God.  Yet, these same inadequate ones fortunately find adequacy in the Spirit.  And such confidence we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves as considering anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.  The next verse informs us that it is the Spirit in this equation who gives life.

Hang with me on this.  When we don't seem to get it, we are on the right track.  How God can use us when we are useless and dumb seems "ungettable".  It is believable. This takes trust....of Him.  Personal inventory insists "we can't".  Personal faith argues, "He does...through us."


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

THREATENING WORDS TO THE CHRISTIAN; DYNAMIC TO THE KINGDOM

For those engaged in life's stream who feel deeply attentive, we must ever be on guard against letting a molecule of God's brilliance slip by.  Yet, how shall we not do anything but fail?  He is so beyond description.  His works are as well.

I direct your attention to two very valuable words; words which one can easily dismiss, yet deserve sober consideration.  Flexible and vulnerable have an ability to offer serious threat.  Flexible betrays at times our clarion call to take a stand.  And few that I know are thrilled about being vulnerable.

The first calls for ready adjustment.  The latter calls for risk.  Both betray comfort.  I personally would rather not find myself, especially in front of others, uncomfortable.

Flexible and vulnerable are heavy duty words needed in every church leader and every Jesus follower.  John 3:8 insists upon flexibility and the Cross commands vulnerability.  If we are failing in the church, these two culprits need to be evaluated.

Flexibility keeps us young in the System of God's hand.  We are able to make adjustments, admit some of our doctrines have been wrong, and reframe our practice of discipleship.  Age seems to deter flexibility unless intentional effort is made to stay loose.  Community churches know this; they see our age.  And most likely these congregations will find themselves aging unless they really focus on the flexibility of the Spirit.

Vulnerability is where we draw the line.  Yes, we regard ourselves devoted.  Too, we have so much to cover we don't need the nonsense of serving in areas that make us targets for weakness or even failure.  Oh, this is a grand mistake.

Vulnerability finds self no longer in control.  The church, very mistakenly and very costly, has trained her members to hold tight to the power.  Egos expand when control is issued and fulfilled.  We like being in the say and in the know.  Vulnerability sets us on edge where our emotions and inadequacies are poised for scrutiny.

Jesus was both of these.  So was Peter.  So was Paul.  So was anyone who followed God.

There is no escaping the great need in our day.  Scholars are valued.  Missionaries are brave.  Attributes of praise can and do go so many appropriate directions.  Yet, without flexibility and vulnerability being exercised, the church cannot win against this lack.

The kingdom of God will always call us to adjust as well as risk....regardless of our pet druthers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

THE COWARDLY ART OF SCAPEGOATING

Who hasn't heard of the world-wide game called BLAME?  Oh surely you've played the Blame game or know of others who are so addicted they can hardly put it aside.

The game is played using real people as pawns.  When a person fails others in some way, the guilty party is to quickly point at a game colleague and place the blame on them; he didn't tell me, she didn't remind me, or they changed the plans.  The goal is to escape personal shame.

Society is like this.  We are like this.  Okay...I am like this; always on the hunt for a legitimate sounding excuse hoping our self-defense takes the fault-monkey off of our backs.  And, this is a despicable cowardly act.

It went on in Jesus' time.  The gospel narratives make it clear that Jesus filled the role of scapegoat.  The innocent lamb was slain.  His blood shed.  He took the blame.  He bore the sins.  Our sins seemed to translate Jesus from lamb to goat...scapegoat.

Brian Zahnd penned, On the cross Jesus took the blame.  All the blame.  Our sinful addiction to blaming others--Jesus took upon himself.  He was innocent, but he took the blame away.  Caiaphas blamed Jesus; Pilate blamed Jesus, Herod blamed Jesus; the crowd blamed Jesus---and Jesus took the blame.

The art of scapegoating continues to break out in passing the buck here and there.

  • Our day is bad because of others.  
  • My health is bad because of another.  
  • I would have made it farther; but someone interfered.  It's their fault.
  • I woulda/coulda/shoulda if it weren't for the neglect of insert name(s) here.
Instead, may we find that expressing words of hope, potential, and possibility ring from our conversations.  May we no longer imaginarily hide behind others by transferring our inadequacy over to another in the name of assumed ill-intent.  Let us burrow in with determination to be strong and courageous....and not be afraid.





Saturday, May 16, 2015

PATIENCE: HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO WAIT FOR IT?

One of the great fruits of the Holy Spirit is patience.  Recalling that the fruit of the Spirit is available because we can't pull it off from the flesh will-power, we will do well to be disciplined to step back and wait.  Let God run this show.

Impatience is not the fruit of the Spirit.  It is the fruit of those of us who wish to be in control.  Keep the schedule.  Hold up the agreement.  Function on all eight.  In other words, suck it up and get going.

Action is assumed to be verification of our commitment even if it is rough, awkward, and oft times questionable.  Waiting is seldom regarded as action; but oh it is very much so.

The very lack of patience is why some devoted Christians don't reach to their neighbors.  They want to see action now; quick response to an invitation or a Bible study.  These want to see results; otherwise, not to bother.  And it's here, this moment of hurry-because-I'm-impatient that our efforts fail.

The work of God does sometimes develop quickly.  Many times, though, it takes years if not decades to evolve into the productivity we had hoped.

Impatience says that if things don't change, I'm outta here.  Patience says I'm not leaving for God will work.  Impatience says others are ignorant.  Patience says I, too, was lacking and as God has helped me He will surely be faithful to others.  Impatience snaps fingers of law.  Patience willingly waits for the God-sized produce to be seen.

In this age of instant--and it didn't start with Instagram but with instant oatmeal--we have become a society of the quick.  Quick bows its neck against wait.

I see this in grocery stores.  Long lines cause some to break out in a rash.  I was once one.  But I've learned to like right now; even in long lines.

Look at the wonder of right now.  I get to stand in line; not sending my kids because I can't stand on my own.  I'm looking at the long line; not blind because I lost my eyesight a few years back.  And I've got money to pay for these items; where so many others wish they had the money and the eyesight and the stamina to wait in long lines.

There isn't much that ails us that Holy Spirit patience wouldn't cure.  Upset with another?  Patience will help.  Discouraged with plans?  Patience will prove your friend. Distracted by interference and interruption?  Patience is our fruitful born-out-of-the-holy colleague.

There seems to be a steady flow of items which run past my mind; uncertainty, stress, personal violation, disappointment in others...or self.  Precisely at these valuable moments we can be confident that patience is one of the holy factors that will make our day!

How long do we have to wait for patience?  It is here now in Holy Spirit form.  Our problem is that we thought we were to control our patience.  Rather we are expected to yield to His....Gal. 5:22-23.




Friday, May 15, 2015

THE MAGNIFICENT RIDDLE

There are things we should know; but don't know how to know.  Too, there are those things we should see; yet can't while looking straight at them.  Of all of the truths that seem to hide in plain sight; I write today of the two (what I believe) biggest riddles.

1) The immeasurable and wonderful size of God and (2) the lowly state of man.  When these two can be openly and honestly evaluated, one's faith is enhanced.

We as people are not a god.  Life isn't about me.  Life is about God providing authentic life in me...and in you.  Self is to be sidelined as glory/credit is to be given to God. When self is sidelined and God is the star on the playing field, self is never in better position to experience awe and wonder.

What a riddle!

What has caused this magnificent riddle to go unnoticed?

First, man has a constant inclination, however innocent, to reduce God to our level of thinking.  We believe He thinks like we think.  We inadvertently bring Him down to being just a hair above our equal.  The result is that we think very little of our trimmed-down God for He must be nearly as limited as we.

When this occurs we tend to avoid studying the Bible and prayer for we lack confidence in Him being able to make a difference.

Second, we have a mistaken view of our own sin.  We have an immediate knack of comparison which is selfishly designed to alleviate our own guilt.  We can think we know how despicable we are.  Yet, when we can judge another as worse, this superficially soothes our consciences.

The truth is that we are so naturally deplete of goodness that the Son of God was crushed upon the Cross taking on our sins.  They were so deep and heavy that the lights went out in mid-day.  Darkness hovered to signal to the whole world forevermore that Jesus had become the kitty-litter of man's sin.  He absorbed each of our violations against God.

What a magnificent riddle.  God is more than we can imagine.  We are far more lousy that we can imagine.  Yet, He through His Son traded places and He became sin-ravaged and we got to turn over a new leaf.

Incredible.  Immeasurable.  Delightful.  Realistic.  Needed.  Necessary.  All of this for each of us.

Jesus solves the riddle.  He went to hell in our stead that we could go to heaven.  Learn of Him.




Thursday, May 14, 2015

MAXIMIZING YOUR LIFE

As usual, I sit facing this blank screen with deep desire to be a tool of encouragement to your day.  So I think about you--not a specific person mind you--but in generalization; each of you.

What do you need?  What could I say?  What would offer strength, hope, delight? What?

So I ponder what I needed to hear somewhere along the way.  When I tie my past with your presence, I seem to find the wording that I desperately yearn to pass your way.

Today I believe you yearn to be loved, noticed, and needed.  Me, too.  And I know how to satisfy this appetite.  It is one of the great kingdom secrets of God.  What you want you plant.  If you want tomatoes, of course that's what one would plant.  No cucumber plants are inserted into the ground hoping these would arise as tomatoes.

If you sow weeds you get weeds.  Far too many have sown weeds of self-centeredness. We want. We need.  We expect...without doing any of this for others.  Life is minimized whenever it is clearly all about satisfying self.

We plant.  Yet what we plant is not for self.  It is simply a rule of the King that we reap what we sow.  I plant encouragement.  I have rows and rows of garden encouragement growing all over the world.  I have fields full for I've planted such.  Why?  I love people; especially the strugglers.

If you want to get the most out of your life, give it away (another kingdom secret...that works).  If you need to sense your importance, tell others why they are important.  If you crave knowing that you are doing a good job, find someone whom you could share with them how you see their efficiency.  If you continually watch for others to notice you, correct this by noticing others.

What we sow comes back.  It's God's nature.  If you sow to others disingenuous interest, then that what you will reap.  So do not be fake just to get attention.  Give attention.  Before long this will be coming your way; but you will not be thinking of it because you will have become enamored with the personal joy of making someone else's day!

To maximize life we have to enter into the zone of a stringent request from God.  Give ourselves to others.  The reverse approach is too often the case.  One will want, want, want.  Someone talk to me.  Someone notice me.  Someone like me.

And God wants us to have all of these; but we do not acquire them by pouting and whining.  We receive what we diligently give away.  That, my friend, is our call.  It is 100% consistent.  We reap what we sow.

Maximizing one's life is experienced through giving generous attention to others.  God will supply for you and me in greater proportion than if we draw attention to ourselves...of which the latter pushes people away.