Thursday, September 3, 2015

Blast From the Past: "Come To Me, and I Will Give You..."

This was first posted on June 14, 2011.

Rest? I know that's what Jesus said, but how many of us really live like he has given us rest? How many of us have learned "the unforced rhythms of grace," as The Message puts it. For many of us, the first thing we learned when we became a Christian was that there were certain expectations that we were to live up to in order for God to bless us, or at least in order to stay in the good graces of the group. Some still live that way, and are burdened by a load as heavy as the one the Pharisees put on the Jews of Jesus' day. Others have broken away from that bondage but taken on another heavy burden, the burden of "proving" how free they are in Christ. Even if we are not burdened by Pharisaical rules or by a need to prove our Christian liberty, we may have a hard time simply resting in God's grace and mercy.

One of the things that the Father is teaching me is that he loves me, my family, and my friends dearly, and that his heart is good toward them. He takes care of his children. Even though I have seen the hand of God numerous times as he takes care of us, I am having to constantly be reminded by my Father that we are all in his arms, and that it is not my job to do what only he can do. I can only do what God has called me to do as a husband, father, and friend. I cannot change anyone's heart. I cannot make them do what I think they should do. I can't heal anyone. I can't provide jobs. Only the Creator of the universe can do that.

I am learning that the only thing I can do is love them, pray for them, and give them any help that I can. As I do those things, I have to rest in Abba's love and grace and trust him to do what is good. When I am able to do that, it brings a peace and contentment that is not there when I try to do God's job or worry about how he is carrying it out. As many times as I've seen that played out, you'd think I would have learned that lesson well. I am learning it, but I still have a ways to go.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Weekend Wanderings

This week, a large load was removed from my life as we closed on my father-in-law's house. While he is still alive in an assisted living facility, not having to be concerned with the house is a big relief. Now, all I have to do is find a job. Piece of cake, right? Elsewhere, the 10th anniversary of hurricane Katrina happened. It seems that, while a large part of the city of New Orleans has recovered, there is still a bit of that city, and other areas, that have not. Another storm is heading for Florida, after causing damage and loss of life in the Caribbean. With just a little over a month left in the hurricane season, I wonder how many storms we'll end up with.

Anyway, here are the links for the week:

Cell phone rules.
Blizzard baby boom.
This could be a problem.
This is interesting.
So, the Bible is Donald Trump's favorite book?

When potato salad is outlawed, only outlaws will have potato salad.
A man just can't get away these days!
A parable from Keith Giles.
Steve Brown on love.
Thought provoking post from Zach Hoag.

Don't be boring.
Moving on.
Are you having a moment?
Where the wild things are.
Random thoughts of foodie cookie monster.

Can the way you eat pizza show your personality?
Good post from Sarah Condon.
Wisdom and "God-talk."
Good post from Daniel Jepsen.
Since I'm currently unemployed, maybe I should try this.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Inside Out

A little while ago, Jan and I went to the movie theater to see Inside Out. The reviews were pretty good and a few people that I know had seen it and liked it, so we decided to give it a try. We both really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it. I thought the film had a good message that is relevant to those of us who follow Jesus.

In the movie, Joy was the leader of the emotions rolling around in the lead character's head. The other emotions were Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. As the main character, a girl named Riley, went through different experiences in her life, the emotions all had a part to play. The only emotion that was sometimes shut out was Sadness. Joy was so dominant that she wouldn't let Sadness do much of anything. As the film progressed, the girl and her family moved to a new town. Somehow, in spite of the best efforts of Joy, Sadness touched some memories and things began to rapidly deteriorate. At one point Joy and Sadness were sucked out of Riley and Anger was left to run things. Things went from bad to worse, until Riley decided the only thing to do was to run away and return to her former hometown.

As Joy and Sadness desperately searched for a way to save Riley, they went through a wide range of memories and things that had happened in her life. Finally, Joy realized that the only way to save Riley was to let Sadness play her part. That caused Riley to become sad and, in that sadness, return to her parents. As happens in most movies, everyone lived happily ever after. Joy realized that Sadness had an important part to play in Riley's life.

I think that lesson is something that many Christians need to learn. We tend to want joy all the time. Our worship songs speak of how wonderful it is to be a Christian. "There is joy in serving Jesus." We are told that the world out there needs to see us happy and "joyful" so they will want what we have. Some of us are told that bad things happen only because satan is attacking us, and we need to believe and rise above it, in effect pretending that we are not hurting. It is implied (and sometimes stated outright) that if we are sad, there is something wrong with our faith.

That way of thinking is contrary to so much of what we see in Scripture, and has not been the experience of God's people through the ages. Even a quick reading through the Psalms shows a range of emotions, from joy and gladness to sadness and despair. A number of Psalms are songs of lament, asking God why evil happens to good people or why the wicked prosper. Most of those do end in confidence that God will act and that justice will be done. There is always a sense of trust in God even in the midst of deep despair, but the psalmists are always honest about their feelings. God's people have always faced trouble. Jesus told us that we will have trouble in this world. We live in a broken world with broken people. The difference is the knowledge that our Father is in control, even when tragedy strikes.

By denying any of our emotions, we deny our humanity. We also deny our own brokenness and our own need of a Savior. By denying grief, we deny the opportunity to experience the deep comfort of our loving Father, and the chance to comfort others who may go through the same things. Life is not all sweetness and light. Evil still is active in the world. Sin is still around in us. There will be plenty of opportunities in life to experience sadness and grow from it, just as there will be plenty of opportunities to experience joy and happiness. We are citizens of a kingdom that is now, but not yet. Now we still must deal with grief. Someday all our tears will be wiped away and all sadness will be gone.

Until then, grieve when it's time to grieve. Grieve well, as those who have hope. Rejoice when it's time to rejoice. Rejoice well, as those who have hope. Don't put on a happy mask and deny the sadness. Give space for the Spirit to do his work through everything that comes into life. Be a whole person.        

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Weekend Wanderings

It is actually beginning to cool down here a bit in the sunny South, while triple digit temperatures continue out west. I'm sure we'll have some warmer days before fall settles in. Forecasters are predicting a cooler and wetter winter for much of the Southeast. Maybe cities need to start stockpiling the things necessary to clear roads of snow and ice. You know, those things they never have because it doesn't snow that much.

Here is the good stuff:

The best representatives money can buy.
Things are tough, even for the tooth fairy.
Interesting article about hummingbirds.
Bad lip reading.
I bet he didn't expect this.

God in one word.
War on faith?
Good post from Jessica Thompson.
Steve Brown on freedom.
Ending homelessness in America?

Wrong people.
Behind the curtain.
Modeling slow.
Good post from Matt Appling.

Pete Enns on his favorite part of the Old Testament.
More than meets the eye.
It's hard to believe it's been ten years.
Good post from David Zahl.

Have a blessed week!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Weekend Wanderings

Football season is upon us. The NFL has begun the preseason, colleges are getting ready to play, and the high schools have had their jamboree scrimmages. If it seems as if it's too hot for football, it is. But that's the way it goes.Parts of the country continue to suffer because of drought, and California is pretty much on fire. Pray for those folks. In China, explosions and fires continue in Tianjin, while the government denies that they have ordered evacuations, even as people evacuate. Schools go back into session this week here in the sunny South, increasing the morning traffic.

Now for the news you can use, or at least enjoy:

This is good news.
As is this.
How to lose your freedom.
Why church history matters.
A list worth checking out.

The heart of a slave.
Who's your father?
A review of The Fellowship.
Portraits of forgiveness in film.

Sounds like an interesting time.
Odd and fascinating houses.
Classic post from Michael Spencer.
Are you bored?

A man's world?
Good post by Allan Bevere.
Good article from Jonathan Storment.
Good question from Dan Edelen.
Vocation as holy ground.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, August 14, 2015

How Quickly We Forget

A few weeks ago, the nation was shocked at the senseless murders of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The next day, many were shocked at the forgiveness extended to the shooter by the families of those killed. The shooter, Dylann Roof, carried out his crime in an effort to start a race war. While there was not widespread violence in the country immediately afterward, I fear that, in some way, the killer succeeded.

We seem to have forgotten what we saw that day when the families forgave the man who had so brutally taken their loved ones from them. What we saw was the result of the gospel. Those who realized they had been forgiven much, forgave much. The media and many of the politicians noted what was an extraordinary event, and then moved on. Moved on to the controversy surrounding the decisions to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capital in South Carolina and from other public buildings as well as stores and on-line marketplaces. Those decisions brought out rebel flags by the thousands, by those who believed it was their right to fly the flag regardless of what others may think or feel. Add that to the already tense climate caused by a number of police involved shootings (both as shooters and as victims). It seems as if the divide between the races has been widening in recent weeks. There is much rhetoric by people on either extreme that is designed to keep things stirred up. Very little is said about coming together in a spirit of  reconciliation to attempt some healing. There is not a great deal said about having a necessary hard conversation about the state of things in this country. It seems that the majority is simply interested in proving that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

I can understand the lack of desire for forgiveness and reconciliation from those who do not claim to follow Jesus. Those concepts are foreign in a world that tells us to demand our rights, to fight back, to make sure the other gets what's coming to them. What pains me is the number of people who claim the name of Christ and carry on in the same manner as those who don't. If an individual claims to be a Christian, why would they post on social media things that tell others that they are going to continue to fly the flag, or whatever action that their "side" is taking, regardless of what others may think, forgetting that some of those they may be offending are their brothers and sisters in Christ. I really don't believe that is something that shows others the love of Christ. We of all people should be at the forefront of attempts to bring reconciliation. We should be the first to, in the words of Jeremiah, "Seek the peace and prosperity" of our city. Maybe we have no interest in reconciliation outside of our immediate area because we have not practiced it in our families or churches. It's far to easy for us to simply uproot ourselves and leave family or church, and not attempt the hard work of repenting, forgiving, and reconciling.

All this is in spite of clear commands from the One we claim to follow. Jesus tells us we are to love our enemies, forgive those who sin against us, seek to be forgiven by those we sin against, and seek reconciliation and peace with others. We are called to love others as Jesus loved us. In fact, love and forgiveness are so important that they are the distinguishing marks of a Christian. Jesus said that it is those who are forgiven much who love much. I don't know about you, but I certainly have been forgiven much. When we think of the lengths our Father went to in order to reconcile us to himself, how can we do anything less than forgive and seek reconciliation?

Scripture says that judgement begins at the house of God. It's time we take a look at ourselves.