Monday, September 15, 2014

OF LOVE AND LOSS

I'M AUTHORING THIS BLOG AROUND 30,000 FEET, somewhere between Phoenix and Los Angeles heading home to the Santa Cruz mountains.

This past week four friends of mine were called home to heaven, it's been sad for us, but we rest assured in their presence before the Lord, resting in His peace.  We shall miss them, but we entrust them into God's continuing care.

So to, Greg Foster, Joyce Barnes, Beth Belden and Roger Williams I say God keep you until we meet again. For therein is our hope, peace and joy.

As I have been traveling to help my brother Rick who had a hip replaced, I have been reading Gordon T. Smith's great book, Called to be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity. One chapter, among others, deals with the topic of "Love." As I was musing over his thoughts I thought about why we love. Of course it finds its foundation in God's triune nature and character of love. As the Apostle John reminds us, "God is love" (1 John 4:7-9)

My thought was , in light of my heightened sensitivity to love through the loss of those I have loved, We were created to bear the Image of God, who is love. I need to be loved (be not alone as Genesis 2 reminds us) for I was created for love. I was created to be loved. God created us not just He lacked something to do, or needed to create, but because being Love He desired to create that which He could express His perfect love. We were created for love, that love whish first receives from God, then loves others and is loved in return,

This contemplation of God's love and our love for others, (Matthew 22:37-40) and being away from my family at home caused me to ponder familial love which I believe has a direct relationship between God's love for us, our love for God and for neighbor.

In my journal I wrote,
"We marry so we can love and be loved. We have kids so we can love more. We desire grandkids so we can love even more and in the process we hope to be loved more. The basic motivation for procreation therefore, is not just to create and repopulate, but rather it is to love more. If we marry only to be loved then we short-circuit the design.  This is the model we find in the triune loving God -- He created so to love -- it's His nature, and He loves it (is worshiped) when He sees us seek to make the circle complete."


To love opens us up to loss, but to not love, to not seek to create those relationships that allow us to love, and possibly be loved in return, steals from us some of very Image-bearing that we hold has Abba God's beloved.

Therefore, let us love, for He first loved us.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

THINGS THAT MOM SAID #3

HUSH!!! (Can you really write that in bold capital letters with three exclamation points?) That was a word often spoken to me as a young boy fidgeting on a hard wooden pew at the First Methodist Church in Garden Grove, California. Actually, there was only one Methodist church, so their name should have been: Only Methodist Church. Anyway, growing up in that stained-glass, bell-towered, wooden-floored church, complete with robed choir and pipe organ was quite awe-inspiring for a little guy, how could I not fidget?

When you walked into the foyer of the old church there was a sign that greeted the worshippers as they entered the sanctuary taken from Habakkuk 2:20, “The LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silent before Him.” My mom took that sign seriously. This was God’s House and deserving of the highest respect, which included sitting still and silent. Unless, of course it was time to sing a hymn, then I would stand, barely able to see over the pew back in front of me and sing songs with words like “Ebenezer” and “Royal Diadem.”  Thank goodness my mom kept a purse full of hard candy for me to suck on to keep me occupied. No “What’s in the Box?” or Children’s Church in those days

How different our church is today. We almost have to blow a whistle to get everybody settled down and ready to worship. Yet, personally, as much as I love the hymnody of my childhood, I appreciate that the church has taken to heart the words of the psalmists regarding coming before the LORD with clapping hands, clashing cymbals and loud peals of praise from the people of God.

God is deserving of our reverent praise. There are important times for us to sit quietly before him, stepping out of the noise and rush of our daily lives, but I also enjoy the opportunity to hear the voices of young and old praising the Lord Most High.

He is worthy of our full praise. So, let the hands clap, let the cymbals clash, let the children of God rejoice. Let us all remember it is the LORD we address with all reverence and awe . . . and that may mean HUSH, the LORD is in His holy temple.

DROUGHT TOLERANT

I AM NOT A BOTANIST, nor the son of a botanist, so my scope of understanding of the workings of the plant world is incredibly limited, other than the fact that if you don’t water plants they tend to die! That is unless you are a weed!

As we know California is a very thirsty place right now. Our lakes are drying up, the streams are ceasing to flow and the water table is dropping. Thus, many of us are under some kind of water restriction. In our neck of the dry woods we get to water three days a week for a total of 15 minutes a day. We’re doing our best, cutting back where we can, flushing when we must, saving that which would flow down the drain and of course, praying for rain. We’re keeping a few things green and growing, that is what’s left after the deer have breakfast, but it’s looking pretty bleak.

Our lawn, we call it the “back-forty” is as dry as a bone, except for the weeds! They keep springing up all green and vibrant!  What gives with THAT?  I guess weeds thrive on drought, or at least they don’t need much moisture to grow and reproduce.

As I ponder the drying up of our community, and with that drying, the rising risk of wildfire that could destroy not only nature but homes and lives as well, I’m given to consider the spiritual implications for the follower of Jesus Christ and for the whole of the church, the Lord’s Body.

It’s not a spiritual stretch to see that sin can be well represented as weeds. It doesn’t take much water or neglect to get weeds to grow. In fact, they don’t need much help at all, and left untended they will multiply. So it is with sin.

As followers of Jesus if we are not tending to the fields of our spirit it will not take long before the weeds of sin take root and begin to spread. In order to keep things flourishing as they should be, a few things are required.

First, is watering our spirits with the Word of God, keeping the soil of our hearts moist and fertile so that the good seed will sprout and grow. Second, we must also be diligent at weed removal. As my wife reminds me just lopping off their heads is not weed removal, you must pull them up from the roots, and as we know some of those buggers have some mighty firm roots. So it is with sin, we must work diligently at removing those things that choke out the growth of the Word in our lives. (Luke 8:1-15)

God desires that our spirits be fertile ground for His fruit of grace to grow, the “fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Therefore, even though our state finds itself in the midst of a dire drought, it must not be so for the church of Jesus Christ. The soul that remains in drought will produce only weeds and that is not the harvest field Jesus desires for us. Let us commit to do that which keeps our lives, and the life of the church, growing and reproducing a hundred-fold unto His glory.

Holy Spirit rain down on us and may Your mighty river flow.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

THINGS THAT MOM SAID #2

CLEAN YOUR ROOM, NOW!”  These were words I heard my mother often tell me, she never yelled them, she was not a “yeller,” but she did have that quiet, fear instilling voice and look that communicate very well the importance of her words.


Now, I wouldn’t say my mom was a “neat-freak,”  Okay, she really was! Did you ever have to comb the fringe on the area rugs throughout the house?  And you wonder why I turned out as well as I did . . . but I digress.


My mom’s idea of a clean room and my idea were not the same, to say the least. Mom saw that stuff on the floor, piles on the desk, clothes strewn on the bed, did not constitute a clean room, and I must agree with her.  But that’s why there is a closet with a door and space under your bed, right? All that was needed to clean your room was to push things far enough under your bed, toss them in the closest and close the door and sweep items on the dresser top into the top drawer.  Room is clean, right? Wrong!


My mom expected under the bed emptied of all stuff, including dust-bunnies. She expected closets were for hanging clothes and tidily placed shoes, and dresser drawers were to be neatly arranged. She would have made a great Marine!


To put the above in a Scriptural frame of reference; we are not saved by the cleanliness of our rooms, we are saved and brought into God’s forgiven family through the receiving of Jesus Christ’s atoning death on the cross, and His life-proclaiming resurrection. BUT, we are called to keep our spiritual rooms clean. Take a look at the directives in Colossians 3:1-17 and see what a clean room looks like.  Nothing jammed in closets, pushed into drawers or hidden under the beds.

A dirty room never got me kicked-out of the family, nor denied dinner but it sure made mom happy.  Get the picture?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

RESTING AMIDST THE RUBBLE

THE PROPHET JEREMIAH was asked by a remnant of Jews after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem what they should do now that the majority of the city was destroyed and the mass of people had been either killed or taken off into captivity. (See: Jeremiah 42:1-22)

Jeremiah wisely inquired of the LORD and ten days later brought back the answer: STAY WHERE YOU ARE AND GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR YOU.  The other side of the answer was that if you should choose to run to the relative safety of Egypt, "Be sure of this, you will die by sword, famine and plague in the place that you settle." (Jeremiah 42:22)  Sadly, the people chose Egypt, which seemed safer; security of a protected city, food and distance from Babylonian attack.

I personally know what it is to sit in the rubble and ruins of life and wonder if it would be better somewhere else? Somewhere that seemed safer, or at least farther from that which seemed to be relentlessly attacking. I too, have sought the Lord and wondered what would be better, and His answer, though delayed, seems to be stay in the rubble of the City, and I will be with you. Run to that which seems to be safer and easier and I can guarantee you life will be more difficult, not less.

So, my word for you, who find yourself sitting amidst the rubble of your Jerusalem; it may be better to stay within God's City, within the place of His Word, within the place where He has chosen to dwell, and there find your true safety.

It all comes down to a matter of trust. In what or Whom will you place your trust? In the relative safety of the world, or in the real security of the Living Word? (John 1:1-10)

I'd encouraged the latter.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

BEHIND THE BEDROOM DOOR

ON THE BACK OF OUR BEDROOM DOOR is a series of hieroglyphics. Names, numbers, various lines, dates, all of them related to the heights of our children, most often that of Lizzie and Jordan, with mom and dad marked for good measure.

We tried to measure our kids every year on their birthdays to see how they’ve grown, this year was no exception. One evening this past week, as I sat in my bedroom reading chair with the door shut I was drawn to the newest marking for Jordan who just turned fourteen. If I remember correctly he measured in at sixty-five and a quarter inches. What caught my eye next was his name toward the bottom of the door, a whopping thirty-four inches at age two. A difference of thirty-one and a quarter (and believe me, those quarter inches matter, especially when you’re working at passing up your sister!)

As I tearfully considered all the markings on the back of the door I was caught by the thought, when did he get so tall? Where did those thirty-one and a quarter inches pop into being? Obviously, it wasn’t over-night, though at times it seems like it was. When did he get from three to fourteen? It wasn’t in the blink-of-an-eye, or was it? The toddler was now continuing through his teenage years, and in four years, maybe off to college.

I pondered how I did thus far as a dad? Have I imparted any wisdom, have I helped move him toward physical, emotional, intellectual and most importantly spiritual maturity? I pray I have, but staring at the back of the door it’s all gone by so fast!

I’m humbled (he’s a great young man.) I’m challenged (there’s so much yet to know.) I’m scared (do I have what it takes?) You’d think that after four kids you’d have this down to a science, but I was never that good at science, though I love gazing into the star-filled night sky.  So, that’s what I’ll continue to do, stare up into heaven and pray, “Lord, help me raise this young man in the way that he should go, so that when he is old he will not depart from Thee.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Amen!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

THINGS THAT MOM SAID

“LET ME SEE THOSE HANDS!”  Mom didn’t just ask, “Did you wash your hands for dinner?” Because she knew that just because I said I did, didn’t mean that I did.  It was doubtful that any dirt would get on the food anyway. But no use arguing with mom, just show her your hands and they better be clean!

Jesus makes the same demands as my mother did. It was not enough to say something was done or not, Jesus wanted to see the action that proved out the statement. This is the problem He often had with the Pharisees, calling them white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. (Matthew 23:27)

Later, the Apostle Paul would call the church in Galatia into account by calling them to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk, seeing that God cannot be fooled. (Galatians 5:13-26; 6:7-10)  Even James would get into the act by reminding his readers that faith and deeds must work in concert. (James 2:14-26)

The reality is this, when it comes to confessing our sins, it’s not enough to say we’re sorry, we need to show a contriteness of heart and life. Now, I firmly believe that our sins, and their final effect where taken care through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. (1 John 2:1-2) Yet, we are also called to have, that is to show clean hands.

As we partake of the Lord’s Supper this day, let us do so with clean hands. Let them be washed in the atoning blood of Christ. (Isaiah 1:18) And also let us lift them up through our righteous acts to show to the Father that we are ready to sit and receive the Meal.

PARALYZED!

PARALYSIS CAN COME IN DIFFERENT FORMS. We can be physically paralyzed by some trauma producing accident. We can be emotionally paralyzed by some crisis producing event from our past. We can be spiritually paralyzed by the fear of God and some secret sin we keep hidden in the dark corner of our life. Trauma, fear, crisis, past hurt, future unknowns, all this things can paralyze us.

Sadly, some paralysis may be incurable, it is something we need to live with, but I also believe that God offers us a freedom from the effects of paralysis that far exceed the actual paralysis itself. I find God’s healing opportunity in Mark’s gospel chapter two where we witness the powerful setting free of a man bound to his mat.The account is as follows:

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?  Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Now, herein lies the power of being set free from the paralysis in which we may find ourselves. It comes from receiving the forgiveness that Jesus offers. But it’s not just forgiveness, it is the love that prompts it and empowers it.

Jesus came not only to forgive sins, but more importantly to show us the love that God has for us. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” The end game as not only the forgiveness of sins, or to “get us to heaven,” but it was to offer us the opportunity to know and experience the love that God has for each of us.
It is when you and I come to know that love. When we begin to believe that we are truly loved by the One who invites us to address Him as Father (Romans 4:14-17) we can begin the process that sets us free from the paralysis that binds us. This is why Jesus offered the man forgiveness first as part of the “healing package.” It does us no good to walk and jump without knowing the love of God that truly sets us free. When we come to acquire the Truth, and the love that Truth brings, we shall truly be set free. (John 14:6; John 8:32)

Therefore, if you find yourself paralyzed today, God grants you the gift of freedom which comes from knowing that you are greatly loved by the Father. (John 3:16-17) Maybe you know someone who also needs to know that love-based, sin-forgiving, freedom-granting power that the Master offers. If you do, it’s time to start to dig that hole in the roof and let your friend down to Jesus. (Luke 4:18; Romans 6:2)