Monday, July 27, 2009

Choose Life

I recently read a book about the life of an amazing basketball player. My time within the basketball world was concurrent with that of “Pistol” Pete Maravich. Pistol Pete is legendary and still holds many records for scoring within both the NCAA and NBA.

Before I go on too long here, this is not a sports story or discussion. There was an interesting parallel that I discovered as I read the story. For year after year, Pistol Pete was famous for his ability to score from any position and against any defense. As his fame for scoring grew so did is dissatisfaction with the game of basketball as well as his discontentment with his life.

There was a far too brief period wherein all of that changed. Many who have played, competitively, any team game will identify with the rare time in which the team ceases to be a collection of individuals and becomes a unit of one. Pistol Pete discovered this far too rare state when he adjusted his attitude toward the game.

It is impossible for a collection of individuals to ever realize the flow and the joy of the team experience. The term “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” describes this rarefied state.

Jesus knew of the deep, deep nature that moves within us because He chose personally experienced our nature.

As the cross drew imminent, Jesus laid out the desires of His heart in a prayer: I do not (just) as in behalf of these (His disciples) alone but for those who believe in Me through their word: that they may all be one; even as You, Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You did send Me. And the glory which You have given Me, I have given them; that they may be one, just as WE are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity…John 17:20-23a

There is a, otherwise impossible to know, glory that exists within the unity of an individual with his Creator; “that they also may be in Us”. Furthermore, in addition to this and not as a separate option, is the glory that comes within the unity of believers who are in unity with the Creator; “that they may all be one; even as You, Father are in Me and I in You”.

The natural urge within each of us is to be independent. We simply desire to follow our own ideas and choose our own destinies. Jesus recognized this “pull” within each of us and warned us about this proclivity and is natural effects. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s sake shall save it”. Mark 8:35

This “losing one’s life” is not a one-time commitment. The natural bent of our personalities is not eradicated by a one-time decision. No, rather, this is a moment by moment decision. If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me…Luke 9:23

The implement of death, the cross, must be picked up daily but it is for the sole purpose of carrying this life-giving tool with us throughout the day for us to choose to use on a moment by moment basis.

Moses called us to choose life, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curses. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers…Deuteronomy 30:19&20

Choose LIFE!

Monday, July 20, 2009

And a Nickel Too!

This morning started off a bit rough due to another long but short night. They seem to come from time to time and I have a deep sense that it is the only way that God can get a message through my thick skull.

You have probably experience the long/short night opportunity as well. Long because something keeps you from sleep; short because once you have finally fallen to sleep it is immediately time to get up.

Well, that was my night and why my morning started off a bit rough. Nevertheless, I soldiered on an drove to the place where I do my workout.

As I began my workout (not as big a deal as it sounds), things seemed different. The work was relatively easy and I actually enjoyed each task. As I was walked out of the door to leave a wonderful young brother in Jesus was approaching the door. His smile was infectious and as we talked his message was salve for my soul.

I continued toward my car considering the blessing of my brother, the beauty of the green grass, the warm sunshine, the cool gentle breeze; just exulting in God's goodness.

Now here is were things really get interesting. As I walked further toward my car I saw a bright glint on the ground. As I looked down I saw a bright, glistening new nickel lying on the ground.
Now, ordinarily, a nickel wouldn't be that meaningful but in this wonderful moment the thought came to my mind: “the grass, the trees, the blue sky, the wonderful breeze and a nickel too!”

God is able to do far more that we ask or imagine!

What a God!

Allow Him to show you your nickel too!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Your kingdom or His!

The righteous shall be faith. Romans 1:17

So what exactly is faith? Hebrews give a definition:

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things unseen. Hebrews 11:1 (emphasis added).

So let me ask you: when was the last time that you used faith in your life?

Let me first address a few things that faith is not:

faith in not a feeling
faith is not a gamble
faith is not what someone else has more of
faith is not dependant upon circumstances
faith is not god; it is not omni-potent or any of the other omni's
faith is not only given to the "more righteous".
faith is not confidence in yourself or your own abilities

No faith is a gift of God. Jesus is the author and the perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:2

So if Jesus is the source of our faith why do we not have more than we do?

The short answer is: we have exactly as much faith as we currently need.

Jesus is faithful; the answer could not be anything else.

Christians, for the most part, have fallen into the original trap of the garden of Eden. We have been given a far reaching invitation to extend our lives by faith but we have chosen to stay and eat from the forbidden tree. (Genesis chapters 2 and 3)

We have chosen to remain the king of our own "kingdom". Our desire is to control our own world. If we have a good job with a good income, a good spouse and obedient and respectful children, a beautiful home, pretty cars, a certain retirement fund and health we are content!

The problem with that scenario is that little of that is ever even possible one at a time much less all at once. These things never were purposed for our satisfaction or our security.

The result is that Christians today live lives of quite desperation; filled with stress, pressures and conflict. We are as likely as the non-christian world to be on some type of medication, legal or otherwise, just as likely to divorce, just as likely to escape into entertainment, pornography or alcohol.

But that doesn't stop us from changing jobs to find the next promise, buying the bigger television, the newer car or the next toy or dress, always looking to find our joy and security in things rather that turning around to see the gracious God waiting patiently to provide all of our souls desires with a new infusion of faith!

Joshua chapter 3 paints a picture of what faith is about. The short story is that the Nation of Israel had been up tot the point of entrance of Gods' promised land once before and balked. That generation had now died off and the nation was again at the same entry point. As Joshua addressed the people just before entering he said:

Now take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel; one man for each tribe. And it shall come about that when the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the Lord. the Lord of all the earth, shall rest on the waters of the Jordan. the waters will be shut off and the waters which are flowing down from above shall stand in one heap. Joshua 3:12&13

The point of faith is when the bottom of the feet touched to water; until that point nothing was promised and nothing was done.

Isn't it past time for you to give up your kingdom? It is an uneven trade but God doesn't mind; He will trade His kingdom for yours anytime you are ready!

Continue to live in the captivity of Egypt or step your foot in the water and enter, on dry ground, the promised land!

Monday, July 6, 2009

What Me Wait?

Waiting has become a national irritation; perhaps it is one of yours as well.

Lines in banks or in stores, late friends or family members, sitting in the “waiting” room too long past the appointment time, spouse issues too many to mention; waiting grates and pushes against our sense of what is “right”.

Waiting is a BIG thing for our God as well.

The meaningful difference between how we tend to see waiting from how God sees waiting is that He sees waiting as a good thing. No, not that waiting itself is a good thing, but that waiting indicates a good thing.

Just moments before He left His friends, Jesus told them to wait:

And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait…

Not that waiting is tough enough by itself but Jesus asked His friends to wait around in the very city where He was horribly treated and crucified just days before. The religious and political rancor was at extreme high; the danger was palpable!

…wait for what the Father had promised. “Which.” He said, “you heard from Me; for John baptized you with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now”.

So that which “the Father” had promised was going to be delivered but there was evidently a prerequisite to the receipt of the gift. Clearly, the Father could have delivered the promised gift in any manner He chose. For some reason He chose to deliver it to those who “waited”.

There is a scripture that is probably very familiar to us; familiar to our minds perhaps but far too unfamiliar in practice.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired and vigorous young men stumble and badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:29-31

Once again waiting seems to be the path to the promised benefits. Waiting is the ultimate illustration of our faith!

The psalmist knew this depth of this display of faith:

To Thee I lift up my eyes, O Thou who art enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master. As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress; so our eyes look to the Lord our God until He shall be gracious to us!
Psalm 123:1-2

Before ending this discussion it is important to address two levels of waiting. The first is waiting for some specific relief, a specific blessing or a special need. The second is where we begin to touch the essence of the inscrutable God, the presence of waiting for whatever He has in mind for us.

Waiting takes time. Time is the only thing that we have that once spent cannot be replaced. It is the greatest, most personal thing that we can offer.

When Thou didst awesome things which we did not expect, Thou didst come down, the mountains quaked at Thy presence. or from of old they have not heard not perceived by ear, neither has eye seen a God besides Thee Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him. Isaiah 64:3&4