Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fight Little Fighter! Fight!

I’ve been pondering 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 concept of reconciliation in a whole new way.

Nineteen days ago our third grandson arrived. He was six weeks early, and four ounces shy of four pounds.  You could say he sinned – since the word sin means to miss the mark.  And miss the mark he did! Does that mean he is a moral outcast? NO! It means he needs a lot of help getting to where he needs to be.

A lot has changed in neonatal intensive care since my own little guy was born.  One added feature, unheard of 36 years ago, is a 24/7 video feed of the tiny patient.  I login numerous times throughout the day (and night), and watch helplessly, while marveling at his victories and crying at his setbacks, knowing how powerless I am in his struggle to live.

Fight Little Fighter! Fight!

6,000 years ago (give or take a century or two), something similar happened on a cosmic scale.  Humanity’s spiritual umbilical chord was severed. We missed the mark.  We sinned; causing us to struggle in an existence of separation from the Source of Life.  The isolation humanity experienced wasn’t beneficial. Humans found themselves existing in an environment that was physically adequate but spiritually dead.  And, like my little grandson, who needs help to do what he cannot do for himself, humanity’s greatest efforts are powerless to change the circumstances of our existence. 

That NICU camera occasionally shows skilled, able, compassionate hands doing what they know to do so he can do what only he can and must.

Humanity needed a flesh and blood: skilled, able, and compassionate Savior to do for us what we were powerless to do for ourselves. Jesus reconnected mankind to the Source of Life: Our Father, the God of Love.  He ushered in an atmosphere so foreign to what we were accustomed to that here we are 2,000 years later still trying to convince ourselves and others that love, joy, peace, mercy, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience and goodness is – in fact – the stuff we are made of. The stuff we can thrive in.  The stuff we can give away knowing we are connected to The Unlimited Supplier.  He’s done what we could not so we can do what only we can and must. 

Our fight is to know the love of God’s kingdom on earth, as it is known in Heaven.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Don't let beliefs get in the way of your learning

Becoming a person of wisdom—one who understands God’s ways - is a goal that every member of the Body of Christ can attain.

The great news is that becoming a person of wisdom is exactly what God desires for us. It is His will! There are four steps involved in becoming a person of Godly wisdom.

Step one: embracing an attitude of reverential awe and respect concerning the word and wisdom of God. Proverbs 9:10 tells us that:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (NKJ)

The definition for the word fear found in this verse actually means morally reverential.

This is a heart attitude that fully appreciates the magnificence of God from a place of revere and awe.

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get  understanding.

It's from that attitude which recognizes that God is God and I am not and that maybe, just maybe I could learn a thing or two from creations Creator leads to step two: knowledge.

This type of knowledge is much more than an accumulation of information. This is a knowledge that I've trusted enough to apply my life to it. This kind of applied knowledge can and must force me to look at things differently than I have previously which causes me to gain a greater perspective. This greater - from God's perspective - perspective is what brings step three: understanding.

Understanding is a function of the heart that puts the pieces together and settles things that were previously unknown and confusing with God’s grace and peace.

And finally, this greater understanding—a willingness to see things from God's point of view— is what ultimately produces wisdom in my life. Wisdom it is the principle thing a prize worth going for.

When our lives graciously reflect God's ways and promote the attributes of His Kingdom we are truly wise indeed.

Monday, February 13, 2017

That’s A Lot Of Flesh

What is written in the law and how do you read it?  This question was Jesus’ response when asked what was necessary to inherit eternal life.  Most of us would have given a canned answer but The Master showed us, in Luke 10:26, that even straight-forward questions have potential for misunderstanding. Avoid this by clarifying definitions. 

Let’s look at Biblical definitions of ‘flesh’.

If your go-to definition of ‘flesh’ is the human body, that works the majority of time. But there are times that definition doesn’t quite fit and all sorts of mental adjustments begin to take place. Our minds begin juggling the things we are uncertain about to fall in line with the things we are confident of in our understanding. Common words like flesh are overlooked and remain unexamined.

Many Christians have added a second definition for flesh. One that is synonymous with physical desires.  That works…sometimes, but not nearly as often as some would have us believe. It’s time to add another definition for flesh that is well worth considering.    It’s the one Paul associates with eternal ramifications and salvation.  The one Peter and Jude associate with Cain and the writer of Hebrews associates with Old Covenant Law and New Covenant Grace. 

Flesh: any attempt to earn salvation and approval from God through human effort based on human understanding. 

It’s the most deadly work of the flesh we humans are capable of producing.  Why?  Because it feels noble, right, and true.  But all we have to do is read the story of Cain and Abel to see this manifestation of human flesh in all its deceptive glory.  Cain was determined to impress God with his hard work, noble effort and impressive results. God was not impressed and didn’t appreciate being relegated to a god created in the image of man, and He told Cain as much.  The man was infuriated, offended, and indignant which he expressed by killing his brother and walking away from the One True Living God. All this because his flesh-based ideas of worship and salvation were not honored in the way his flesh- focused heart desired. 

So, the next time you come across the word ‘flesh’ when reading your Bible, see if this insidious, deadly definition doesn’t lift the scripture’s meaning to a level that exalts the Cross of Christ while diminishing human effort.  Remember, the Cross changed everything! 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Outside Looking In

Who hasn’t, at some point, found themselves feeling left out and wondering what happened? It’s a fascinating study-the dictates and nuance that fuels social order.  Some are clearly defined and easy to recognize.  Athletic team sports, for instance. My 4’11”, non-athletic, female self has never wasted a single second wondering why the boys’ basketball coach didn’t invite me to try-out for the team. 

Then there are those other social orders dictated by a complicated set of intangible rules that elude our comprehension.  Having found ourselves wishing for and being denied a seat at these tables, can fuel all sorts of heart problems.  We can find ourselves questioning our worth, value, contribution, looks, abilities, upbringing, means, intelligence, beliefs, dreams, hopes, and aspirations.  This exercise is an inescapable part of our human experience; but like any other powerful implement, it can be as destructive as it is beneficial. 

When used to refine and define, this self-evaluation can bring focus and clarity to a life.  However, if used to condemn and shame without truth and resolve, it is a destructive power capable of fueling self-doubt, insecurity, hopelessness, discouragement, bitterness, hate and judgment (against self and others). 

Sadly, many folks have relegated themselves to the scrap-pile after turning this power loose on themselves and others.  The conclusions reached have led them to believe the worst.  Defense becomes the name of the game. But humans are hard-wired for companionship and defensiveness does not promote healthy compatibility.  Loneliness results, giving the illusion that false assumptions are true; they become the reality through which life is lived. Right or wrong, true or false.

The casualties of this internal warfare are everywhere. But today, only concern yourself with the one in the mirror. Realize that the most devastating battle is the one trying to convince you that you have no place in God’s Kingdom.  That is an out-right lie.  God’s phenomenal plan and Jesus’ perfect execution of that plan has insured your place in that Kingdom.  This is truth, whether your heart chooses to believe it or not.  Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, then you will know the truth and that truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.  It is His truth, not the distorted conclusions reached by wounded hearts or defensive realities that bring freedom.  Let His Truth and Freedom ring true in you beginning today.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Future History

Found this while cleaning up old files.

The Hebrew word for ‘forward’ is built from a root meaning to ‘look back’. The idea being that to move ahead you must clearly see where you have been. Imagine rowing a boat, facing the rear while moving forward. This concept appeals to me.

I have a friend who works for a company dedicated to bringing technological advances to the corporate and educational worlds. Sometime I travel with her. I am on one of those trips now, and it’s proving to be a “walk about” of sorts for me. While she is scheduled in one meeting after another I’ve had time to explore and wonder.

The other day we were each working and while she researched the latest and greatest in technological applications for educational advancement, I found myself buried up to my eyeballs in archeological discoveries from the ancient cities of Ephesus, Sardis, and Hierapolis. Oh the irony!

Yesterday I had some time to wander from one art museum to another and although able to appreciate effort and technique I found myself at a complete loss when it came to connecting with the artist’s message. The meanings of the dots and hash-marks of the super ancient Australian Aboriginal language proved just as impossible for me to grasp as were the exhibits of modern art. Maybe I was trying too hard. Maybe I lack imagination. Maybe my heart doesn’t struggle to communicate the questions those particular artists were addressing. Or maybe the message was in the exercise itself. Maybe I am overdue for a looking-back-to-move-forward type of experience. Maybe you are too.
When God instructed humans to take a day to rest, it’s important to remember that those people had been enslaved for over 400 years. Rest, I imagine, was a concept so foreign in their minds that it must certainly have felt wrong, bad or even dangerous. But to get the clear picture of God’s desire for their future moving forward, all they had to do was look back and let His wisdom redefine their purpose.

As you move ahead, take some time to look back. What worked? What didn’t work? What has been forgotten that deserves to be resurrected? What needs to be set aside so something else might flourish? It’s not wise to set up camp back there but maybe the key to your future can be found by consciously reflecting and carefully negotiating your past.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Does Truth Set You Free?

 As human beings we give a great deal of credence to what we call ‘fact’.  Reality comes in a close second.  Truth, well, most often our idea of truth is rooted in fact and reality.  But because both facts and realities are subjective, truth can’t be found in them, and therein lays the problem.   Fact, reality and truth are not the same things and in many instances are mutually exclusive.

Example #1 The facts say that person should not have survived the accident.  The reality may tell a different story.  So truth weighs in on the side of reality and has to disregard facts.

Example #2 The fact may be that a loved one has passed away.  The reality may be the appearance that a person is communicating with one who is no longer among the living.  The truth is followers of Christ are forbidden to engage in this activity (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).  Mutually exclusive.

So, how then can a person enjoy the promise made by Jesus insuring a freedom that comes from truth?  “The truth will set you free.”

Let’s look at that often quoted verse.  John 8:32 “Then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”   Oh, wait a minute.  What’s the ‘then’ there for?  Let’s back up the bus and read verse 31.  ‘To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”’  That is a completely different message.  Holding to the teaching of Jesus and being his disciple (one who wants to live the way He lived) is how you come to know truth.  And it’s that truth that holds the promise of freedom. 

The reality:  He was despised, rejected, and killed.  The facts: Jesus did nothing to warrant the death He died.  The truth: His sacrificial life purchased humanity’s redemption from the law of sin and death. 

The teaching we must hold to in the face of contrary fact and reality is that Truth is not a combination of circumstances that line up with reality and fact.  Truth is found in God’s definition of it.  John 14:6  “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”  Truth is a person. Truth is Jesus.   Thank you Lord for being The Truth that is true, for making The Way a fact, and bringing The Life into our reality.