Sunday, March 31, 2013

Disciples & Servants.5

"The person who is diligent in small things will also be trusted with much; and the person who is dishonest with little will also be dishonest with a great deal. If you cannot be trusted with earthly riches, how shall you be trusted with spiritual treasures? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to others, how shall you be trusted with riches of your own?"

--Jesus

Trust. 

About two years ago I was standing in my dining room and I glanced over to my sister, Mazie.  She smiled the smile the innocent smile.  Happy. Trusting. Sweet. Mazie. Down's is not a handicap, it is a freedom.

In that instant, however, I experienced a flashback of sorts.  Back to the days of riding the school bus together, of protecting her from the cruelty of the ignorant.  Of the unfairness of being thrust into such responsibility, of growing up without a dad, the losing and finding and losing...

Along with the memories came overwhelming feelings of resentment.  

It was at that point, in my 55th time around the sun, I realized just how much the ugly attitude of resentment had been woven into the fabric of my being.  Little could I comprehend the damage done in eroding my ability to trust others.  Little could I feel how un-lovely my response to those I even thought would hurt or fail me.  Little could I measure the indifference or insulation from the affection of others.  Little could I understand the sense of loathing towards obligation. Little could I connect it and my struggles to finish things.

In the gentleness and wonder of His power, Jesus saved me that moment from the destructive, unloveliness of resentment.
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Watching again The Passion of the Christ, I was moved, again, at the visual, physical brutality Jesus' endured at the hands of men.  Hands He created for us to use for good, hearts He created that we might share in his love, will He created that we might choose righteousness, now turned against Him in unrestrained, murderous hostility.

We can only wince at the thought of the physical pain he endured for those few short
hours, but we truly can not comprehend the spiritual and emotional pain He endured in experiencing the utter rejection of and malevolent attempt to annihilate Goodness.  The treasures He died for are not the material things the world offers to entice us into certain behaviors.  They are the treasures of love, loyalty, truth, forgiveness, affection, honesty, compassion, generosity, simplicity, purity, kindness, devotion, faith, hope, oneness, fellowship, laughter, joy, bliss, wisdom and all that is worth becoming--eternally.  All that Jesus embodied on earth--and, praise God, now in heaven!  


All that He entrusts to us to treasure 
and live for while we await our entrance into His kingdom.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Disciples & Servants.4

"Consider that which you possess in this life, family, money, and earthly possessions. Unless you are willing to make a total commitment, even of what you cherish, you cannot truly follow me."
--Jesus

Many years ago as a student at Michigan State University while walking across campus I was attracted to the powerful sound of an itinerant preacher. A good crowd was gathered around and I soon learned that a new church was being organized that summer. As my wife and I began to meet more of the people associated with the group we learned their stories of sacrifice to come from around the country to help form this fledgling fellowship. Many were newlyweds like us, some even with small children. Others had given up jobs or school to help in the project. 

I had been a Christian for many years but had never experienced the kind of sacrificial obedience I saw in this group. Nor had I ever experienced the richness of love, faith & fellowship that I did that summer and for many years afterwards.

Years later as a pastor in another denomination, I was traveling with a companion to a conference out of state. Unable beforehand to contact some old friends from the former fellowship, I decided to drive to their home on the way to our destination. As I expected, they welcomed us with great joy and insisted we stay the night even though they had just arrived back home from their own travels out of state.

The next day as we resumed our journey, my friend remarked, "I don't know anyone I could just show up at their house and be embraced with such love like these friends of yours!" I said, "I know people all over the country who are just like these good folks and would have just as much confidence they'd welcome us at anytime day or night!"

How sad that my friend's experience with other Christians was so shallow. But it illustrates Jesus' insistence that in order to truly experience the richness of our relationship with Him we must willingly commit everything to Him. For He knows that the only way a human being can truly understand the value of anything, more importantly, to experience the depth of love and closeness we long for, is to sacrifice ourselves for that thing.

In fact, the Hebrew word for sacrifice, Korban, has at its root the idea of "close or related". The old testament requirement for sacrifices was not to placate a vengeful God, but to help people draw closer in heart to God. In our human experience, parents most often feel a deeper love for their children because of the daily sacrifices they make for their children's welfare, comfort and protection. Children who do not honor or reciprocate in any meaningful way are more likely than not to grow up resentful or ungrateful for their parent's sacrifices.*

As a follower of Jesus, if we want to experience the depth of relationship we long for with our Lord and His other followers, we must live a life that demonstrates the value we place on that relationship by giving the things we cherish up to him...daily! Why, because that is what He does for us...daily!

(* thoughts on Korban from Rabbi Daniel Lapin's book, Buried Treasure, which I highly recommend!)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Disciples & Servants.3

"A king who plans to wage war must first consult his military advisors to determine whether his army of ten thousand is capable of defeating the enemy's force of thirty thousand. If his advisors can find no hope of victory, he must send forth his ambassadors to meet the enemy, and negotiate peace before the battle begins."

--Jesus

"Is God bound to forgive sin -OR- to destroy sin?"

Make no mistake, He will have us free!  Free from the pestilence of pettiness, pride, pretension, poverty of soul,  powers, impurity, and imperfection.


I have a friend in one of our state's prisons.  It wasn't until about two years ago I found out he was there, for I had not heard anything from him since high school nearly forty years ago.  It was through Facebook I reconnected with his sister who told me some of the details of his troubled life.  More troubling was that he refused to acknowledge the evil that had brought him to the point where he sat exiled from family and friends. 

Shortly after making that connection we set up a prayer group on Facebook so that devoted followers of Jesus from all around the country could pray for Gary at an appointed time each week.  He had cut himself off from his family for years never acknowledging nor answering attempts to contact him.  


Here is a description of Gary:

He is Everyman who, left for dead by society, yields to the gentle wind of the Breath of Life blowing the dying ember of his humanity into a flame.

He is Legion who, plagued by forces willing his destruction, isolating him from humanity, and defying attempts to retrain or restrain him, finds true freedom in the Fearless Lord of Love.

He is Youth thrown into the hellish flames of ignorance, indifference, neglect, prejudice or abuse looking through the darkened eyes of fear into the understanding eyes of Light.

He is the Least of the Brethren sitting naked, hungry and in prison waiting for one of the Master's kind to visit, clothe and feed his needy soul.

That is Gary. He is all the Gary's of the world. That is why we pray. That is why we obey. That is why we love.

We, followers of Jesus, are the company of those whose work is to send sin out of the world, first, by sending it out of ourselves, by being done with it.  An army of the King arrayed against the destruction wrought by sin and self-will.

He will have every soul free!

For two years we prayed.  Today Gary is enjoying a new found freedom in repentance, in surrendering to the King of Hearts!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Disciples & Servants.2

"Which one of you, planning to build a tower, would not first carefully estimate the cost, making sure there was enough money to complete the construction? Otherwise, having laid the foundation, you may be forced to abandon the work.


Those looking on would laugh, and say: "You began to build, but now you are ruined.""

--Jesus

Following Christ is NOT 
for the FAINT OF HEART!

My son, Brenan, earned the chance to compete at last year's Big Ten Wrestling Championships.  His first match was against the reigning national champ from Iowa.  Brenan wrestled admirably, i.e., he didn't embarrass himself.  The next match was against a lesser opponent with whom Brenan should have been more competitively balanced. However, he wrestled terribly and lost.

Later on we went for a walk to talk about the match as we often did throughout his wrestling career.  Brenan is not an emotional kid, in fact, I really can't remember that many times in his life where I saw him cry.  But he did now, sobbing deeply in his frustration.  He said, "Dad, I just couldn't shake the thought that I can't win this match."

When the time was right I reminded him his greatest opponent in life would be himself: his own doubts and fears.  There comes a time in every man's life when he must confront and conquer them or face the terrible consequences of living with the internal scorn of being a quitter.

To the ones who 'overcome', Jesus promises, they will receive a white stone with a new name written on it.  The meaning of the name will be known only to the one who receives it.  But be assured that that moment will reveal the fact Jesus knew in those dark and terrible times, confronted by fear and doubt, you did not quit!