Monday, December 22, 2008

Non Sequitur

Non Sequitur: Latin for 'it does not follow'.
So, I was reading in the Gospel of Mark this morning for my LTG (Life Transformation Group).  I was reading along in chapter 3 and found these words...
"...He said to them, 'Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?'  But they kept silent.  After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, ' Stretch out your hand.'  and he stretched it out, and his hand was restored."  Mark 3:4-5
That is a pretty cool story.  Here was a guy with a messed up hand, couldn't be fully productive and probably had to rely on everyone else to do many things for him.  Jesus tells this guy to stretch out his hand and a miracle.  His hand was restored and useful.  You can imagine the glee that must have been all over this guy.  You would think that the religious leaders, the Pharisees would at least be happy for this guy for minute...even a second, but no!  The next verse is a non sequitur for me - it does not follow, does not make sense, is not coherent and probably, I'm a lot like this too!
"The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him."  Mark 3:6
This response does not seem like what should have been happening after this guys hand was restored.  What kind of people see miracles happen, right in front of their own eyes and go out and start plotting to destroy the guy who healed the withered hand?  What kind of hearts do they have?
It also doesn't follow that I have seen God do so much in my life and yet I often take it for granted.  Now, I'm not going out and trying to get back at Jesus as these guys were, but  I find myself often doing what I want instead of doing what I know Jesus would prefer.  I find myself going in directions that it shouldn't.  I'm glad that Jesus was 'grieved at their hardness of heart.'  I know Jesus may be grieved as he looks at me at times and I know He is praying for me.    Yeah, my life is often a Non Sequitur when it comes to living for Jesus...and I want that to change.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Calculating Faith

With many losing their jobs, pensions, equity and investments it makes sense to sit down with our finances and calculate how to protect what funds we have left. But what does that say about our faith? Admittedly, there is a balance between being good stewards of our resources and being generous with our resources; with calculating how to be safe and with placing faith in God who is our provider. How can we be generous and wise when things are rough financially? Is it possible to become even more generous when things are tight when we look at our checkbooks? Certainly many (some reading this now) 'calculated' and took out equity loans to buy things or pay off other debt. For most, that has not turned out to be such a good calculation. Certainly there are more opportunities today to bless people than in many years. There are people who need assistance with their electric bills, car insurance, groceries or small home repairs. If we choose to be generous, many seeds of the Gospel can be sown into lives we could have never touched before these difficult times. So how about you? Are you living by faith or by calculation? What does that say about where your faith is focused? How about your house church? Have you begun talking about being more generous to meet the needs of friends and strangers? What is Jesus saying to you and to us? I doubt it is to calculate more.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Growing Up

I walked my six year old grandson to school the other day.  It was cold morning in Phoenix so we invented ways to keep our hands warm as we walked.  The best way we found was to pull our hands up into our sweatshirt sleeves and make a fist.  Once we figured that out, Parker leaned into me and said, "Pop Pop, I'm almost as tall as you are" as his head bumped into my elbow.  We laughed and talked about what it is like to grow up.
Parker told me that one way he is growing up is that when he began school, he didn't know anyone.  He shared that he was a little scared on the first day of school.  Now he reports that he has lots of friends and how they came over for his birthday party and how they play together on the jungle gym in the school yard.  He also told me about many of the things he is learning in school and how that is a way he is growing up as well.  He said that school and new friends are a little scary, but necessary because he wants to grow up.
As I thought about that conversation, I began to realize that for six years old, Parker is very wise.  He didn't allow the fear of new things to stop him from embracing them.  He doesn't mind stretching himself because he has a thirst to grow.  Parker told me that he can't wait to turn seven and get taller and grow up more.  What six year old doesn't want to be seven and in first grade?  
With growth comes challenges, pain and hardships.  Parker is learning this in school and life and so far, he is choosing to embrace those challenges, pains and hardships because he wants to grow.  He doesn't want to stay in kindergarten.  That is way of life in a simpler form isn't it.  In my experience, it seems that as people become adults, their growth often becomes stunted.  Growth for adults comes in a variety of ways like maturity, knowledge, dealing with past wounds, becoming more responsible and so on.  To often in my experience, adults are not so excited to 'turn seven'.  Many are content to not grow, it just seems easier that way.  
I think we can learn some things from Parker's outlook on growth.  We should face it, embrace it and work through it.  We might even want to get excited about growing.  I know as well as you know that it is always difficult to grow (change), but just like you, I know that it is best when I do.
I'll bet that there is an area or two in your life that needs to enter a 'growth spurt'.  Maybe you have sensed God's nudging you to move out in a new direction or at a different (more difficult) level.  Why not follow Parker's example and face it and embrace it.  It will be good for your soul and those you rub shoulders with as well.  
As we turned the corner on the way to school, Parker wanted to race to the cross walk.  We took off running and Parker took the lead.  I almost caught him, but he won...again!  One day, he will actually beat me in a foot race and that will be a great day because it will show, once again, that growing up is something to be excited about.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pursuing a Mystery

Debbie and I were watching "Without A Trace" the other night. Without A Trace is a T.V. mystery drama where a person vanishes from their family and friends and the F.B.I. then gets involved to solve the mystery of the missing person. There is something riveting about mysteries of all kinds.
The Bible talks about mysteries, things not fully understood, veiled or that needs the help of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Timothy 3:16, Paul says that "...great is the mystery of godliness." A few verses later Paul goes on to encourage his readers to "...discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." (1 Tim. 4:7) and a little further in his letter he instructs his audience to "...pursue...godliness." (1 Tim. 6:11). So what is the mystery that we should be pursuing with discipline?
Godliness can be the quality of ones life. To be godly is to have qualities in your life that are likened to God. Qualities like love, purity, selflessness, faithful, kind and the like. Godliness can also speak of the content of ones beliefs. This seems to be the emphasis in 1 Tim. 3:16 when it is read in its' context. Therefore godliness can be both what we believe (truth) and living out the qualities of what we believe.
To be honest, the truth about Jesus being 100% God and 100% man is quite impossible. That is without God and His supernaturalness. This truth is a mystery. How can a man also be God without any imperfection, sinful thought or activity? The resurrection is another truth that is mysterious. How can a person who has died not only be raised from the dead but also raise himself from the dead (John 10:17-18). These two mysteries are only the beginning. These type of mysteries can only be believed, embraced and defended by a supernatural changing of ones heart by the Holy Spirit (another mystery as to how this happens). One can know the facts, but believing them in your soul is quite impossible without the Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 15:26).
Becoming a true follower of Jesus Christ is more than knowing that Jesus was born, lived a sinless life, was crucified, died and buried and then rose again three days later. Knowing these facts are important, but they alone do not transform your soul. Simply knowing these things do not transfer you from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus (Colossians 1:13). There is a difference between knowing truths in your head and knowing them in your heart. That 18 inches between the two can only be tranversed supernaturally, by the power of God Himself. If you have not had that experience yet but you know you believe the truth stated above about Jesus, then I encourage you to call out to God and ask Him to deliver you from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. If you do that, be ready for some mysterious (positive) changes in your life.
So let me encourage you to pursue the mystery of godliness. Pursue both the truth of Jesus Christ and living out of that faith so that your character, over the time of your life, becomes more and more like Jesus Christ. How that has happened in my life is great mystery for which I am eternally thankful! Pursuing this mystery is a lifetime adventure.