Tuesday, May 28, 2019

What if we wanted it all?

There are lots of songs on the 'all' spectrum.  There is Adele's song, "We Could Have Had It All."  But my favorite is John Legend's song, "All Of Me."  The lyrics go ... "All of me, loves all of you, all your curves and all your edges ... "  I like that line a lot!  Because Jesus has lot's of curves and edges!

John 21:15-19 describes one of these 'all of me' conversations.  Peter and the disciples meet Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  They have a fish breakfast (we had catfish at the monthly Fellowship Breakfast last week) and then Jesus starts up a conversation with Peter.  "Do you love me more than these?" Jesus asks Peter.  You remember the conversation.  Peter answers Jesus three times and then Jesus ends the dialogue with two words ... "Follow me!"  Follow Jesus through the difficulties.  Follow Jesus when you are caught up in the throes of life.  Follow Jesus through the curves life sends your way.  Follow Jesus when it takes you to the very edges of your faith.  Follow!

What if we truly wanted all of Jesus?  Not just Jesus the friend.  Not just Jesus our Savior.  But Jesus, the leader of the army that will storm the very gates of hell.  Or Jesus, our Lord!

It's easy to love and like Jesus the friend.  That's what Peter does when he answers Jesus with "Yes, I 'phileo' (friend, brother) you.  That Jesus fits snugly into our comfort zone.  That Jesus is the one we chum around with.  But that Jesus is only a small part of what/who Jesus should be.  Jesus wants us to have it all.  Jesus wants us to love all of Him!

It's hard to give up control to our true commander.  That Jesus sends us into the battle that causes us to sacrifice everything, even our lives.  "For what good would it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Matthew 16:26)."  Jesus has unpredictable curves and hard edges.  The edges are sharp ... "For the Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart! (Hebrews 4:12)."  Does that sound comfortable or painful?  But that is the devotion and dedication our commander asks.

And Jesus our Lord is demanding ... not docile.  I love the quote from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis as the girl Susan talks to Mr. Beaver ... "Is he quite safe?  I feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."  "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ... "Who said anything about safe?  'Course he isn't safe!  But he's good!"  If you want a safe ... tame ... docile lord, you are not seeking Jesus.  If you want an unsafe God who looks all the way into your soul, dividing 'joint from marrow ... soul and spirit' then you are in luck.  Because that God asks ... "Do you love me?"  and then commands ... "Follow me?"

What if we wanted it all?  Randy

Sunday, May 19, 2019

What if we remodel?

I love asking "what if" questions.  They make me reflect ... think ... grow ... look forward.  They also remind me that there is lots of work for God and me to do.

The question for this week might be "what if we remodel" or, more accurately, "What if we ask God to remodel us?"  If I remodel the work won't be lasting and it will lack attention to the things I really need to change.  If God remodels, it will be perfect for me and for all of the people in my life.  So ... what might God do?

I think God, in and to me, might focus on the three things I often see on those remodeling programs on TV (Property Brothers ... Fixer Upper ... you know the ones).  They buy a house with obvious issues because it is cheap.  They decide what work will make the house functional, livable, attractive and good for the new family that will move in. Here goes.

First, almost all of the houses on TV need electrical work.  Old wiring and new appliances, devices and electronics don't mix well.  Did you know that the human brain can also be rewired?  It is called 'brain plasticity' and it is the new thing in dealing with the mess our world has made out of our minds.  The Bible said we need to have our minds transformed (Romans 12:2).  God knew this is possible and is part of our design.  Counselors, psychiatrists and mental health practitioners have discovered the 'new' science of brain plasticity and are, through MRI technology, discovering some very interesting things.  I think God already knows these things, and we see them play out when people allow God to change them.  I, for one, submit myself to this rewiring ... I hope you will too.

Second, the desired thing, in many of these remodeling projects, is the 'open floor plan.'  This means less rooms and more open space.   Let's think about this from a 'mind-centric' point of view.  I grew up in a culture that sells the idea of lots of rooms with lots of compartments.  I heard my secular bosses say, more than once, "well that's just business" to justify bad behavior and a less-than-honest way to treat an employee, a competitor or someone you wanted to pass on the ladder of success.  I have heard many people say, "I keep my faith to Sunday and church."  We have been sold the idea that we, as Christians, should separate Church and State.  This is classic western thinking ... rooms, compartments, walls.  The Hebrew mindset (as prompted in Scripture) is vastly different.  There is a concept in Hebrew faith called 'one thing.'  It is generally summed-up like this ... life is one thing.  It is why Deuteronomy 6 says that God is 'one' and that we, as people of faith are to love God as a totality with all of life ... when we wake up ... when we walk along the road ... when we lie down at night.  Loving God is something we do with the totality of our lives ... we do not place God in His room to control Him like another one of our compartments.  You get the point!

One final thing ... on TV the houses are bought cheap because they are broken.  I love that image for us as broken vessels.  But God does something amazing ... He, because He loves and values us, pays top dollar for us.  And then He invests Jesus life and His Spirit into those broken vessels, making us beautiful, whole, useful and worthwhile.  That is the amazing message of the Gospel and of life with God.  I would love for God to take me on as a remodeling project, and, in fact, He has.  "Lord ... do Your good work ... make me whole ... make me beautiful to you ... make me who/what You will!"  AMEN ... Randy

Monday, May 13, 2019

What if WE are the plan?

One time I was given the task (at Vacation Bible School [VBS]) of constructing an igloo.  I know it sounds insane to even think of such a thing in the middle of summer in Florida, but there I was ... trying to figure it out.  Now while I can be creative, I am not the person you would pick to be 'crafty.'  Lee is far more crafty than I am.  But the task needed to be done, I was selected and I WAS the plan for the igloo.  I wanted to say, "Are you crazy?  I am the last person to be selected for this task."  I can think of 100 reasons why I was totally inadequate.  But ... there I was!

One of my youth and I began to think, ponder and plan.  We started to collect empty plastic gallon milk jugs.  We washed them out.  Then, we started gluing them together.  Before long a familiar shape began to appear ... an igloo in the middle of the summer in Florida!  Pretty cool!  Funny how we can be stretched, used, challenged and effective when we just give it up to/for God!

In Acts 1 Jesus is having a last conversation with the disciples.  It would have been (temporally) just after the resurrection and just before Pentecost (June 9 this year).  Jesus tells the disciples 2 things (Acts 4-8).

First, "wait for the gift (Holy Spirit) my Father promised!"  Jesus presents the Holy Spirit as God's gift to the disciples.  He knows that this 'gift' will enable the disciples to do the great things He is planning.

Second, Jesus says "you will be my witnesses!"  They are the plan.  They are the ones Jesus is sending to tell the world the Good News of the Gospel!

The breakdown of these verses is pretty simple.  Jesus gives the disciples the internal power to complete His mission ... His plan.  The Holy Spirit will come to specifically 'gift' those who are believers.  In the Greek this gift is the result of an unconditional promise ... a summons to act ... something that comes down from God and 'happens' verses something that we control.  The idea is much like creation in which God speaks everything into existence and it happens.  Don't ever say you are not gifted or that you are unable to do what God's plan leads you to do.  The power is there to either flow or be resisted.  YOU are called/gifted.

The second passage is the sending that comes from Jesus himself.  You (we) will be His witnesses.  We are Plan A to achieve the mission of telling the Good News.  There is no plan B.  YOU are sent.

As we prepare for VBS (for the first time in many years) the theme of VBS will be "Who We Are."  The VBS team talked about the Great Commission from Matthew 28 being our theme ("Go into all the world") but I wonder if Acts 1 might be more accurate ... ("You will be my witnesses ... 'everywhere'). 

In this passage God is speaking His witnesses ... His Church ... into existence.  It is a gifted Church.  It is a 'going' Church.  You and I can be empowered and sent.  Or ... we can decide that God's plan isn't so good.  Just remember ... ALL disciples are empowered and sent.  WE are a working Church.  It is who we are!

Do you buy into God's plan?  Then let Him gift you.  Let Him send you.  Let Him challenge you.  Let Him stretch you.  Let Him give you a life that you never thought possible!  AMEN

Monday, May 6, 2019

What If We Clean Out?

I think boxes full of saved stuff, women's purses and our mental boxes are very similar.  In my house I have too many boxes/drawers of things I have saved over the years.  Some is good and some is stuff I don't even remember.  Match books ... pictures ... old flashlights ... batteries ... even an old gift card that has expired.  These are some things in my box.  Yours may be different, but we all have those boxes.

I have noticed that sometimes women's purses end up like these boxes.  They have things that are needed immediately, things that are useful but 'on hold' and things that were thrown in at the spur of the moment and are unnecessary.  Hard to find the good stuff in there, isn't it?

My mental box is the same.  I throw stuff in there all the time.  Thoughts, memories, grudges, observations, events, people and all sorts of other things.  Some of these things are used often.  Some just sit there and are never used at all.  It becomes hard to find the good stuff among the bad.

I have decided I need to do some cleaning.  Why should my box be filled with stuff I never use?  Why should I carry around things that are useless (and sometimes harmful) to me and others?  Why should I expend useless energy, time and effort on things that just don't matter?  Good questions!  How do we clean out that box and get off to a new start?

First, dump all the stuff out.  Hebrews 12:27  says "all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain."  If God will take this action with all of creation, maybe I can wrap my mind around doing this with the mess I carry around.  Dump out all of that stuff and look at it.  If it is not beneficial ... if it hurts me or others ... if it takes me backwards ... then leave it behind and throw it into the trash.  This is the act of reflection, discernment and honesty with self.  John Wesley said ... "Do no harm ... do all the good that you can ... stay in love with God" (3 Methodist rules).  These are good criteria for the discernment process.  If it harms (me or others), if it isn't 'good' and if it doesn't love God and others ... don't put it back into the box. 

Second, walk away ... leave it behind!  Hebrews 12:1 says "let us strip off the weight that slows us down, especially sin that so easily trips us up."  We are on a journey/adventure called life.  These 'weights' rob us of of joy, excitement, challenge.  They make us lethargic, mentally, physically and spiritually.  How can we become Paul's new creations (2 Cor. 5:17) if we hold fast to these impediments to our journey and Christian walk!?

Finally, we forgive.  We don't wait for the other person or situation to deserve forgiveness.  We don't wait till we feel like forgiving.  I believe we (like the Nike logo) just do it!  Matthew 18:21-22 says we forgive "70 times 7" (a Hebrew way to say 'a lot').  There are so many literal and figurative ways to read this passage, but why complicate it?  Do it till it takes.  Don't stop till is is finished!

Here's where the box comes in.  Have you ever observed how, over time, the things we use from that box tend to stay on top and the older, unused things sift down to the bottom?  Why not apply this to the things we need to leave behind ... throw away ... get out of our lives?  Maybe, ever so often (maybe very often) we should just throw out everything in the bottom of the box.  Maybe we should resolve (with God's help) to never use grudges.  Maybe the bad thoughts about people who have wronged us should be allowed to go unused, sifting down to the bottom of the box.  Maybe hurts we wear as excuses aren't helping us.  Maybe we should inventory, walk away and forgive ... and never pick up that stuff again.  Maybe we are meant for better things!

Time to clean out ... move on ... grow up and live!  Randy