Category Archives: readiness

Unwrap Music

The mysterious thing about gift wrapping paper is it slows time to a crawl.  After I wrap a gift, I can hardly wait, and frequently fail to wait, until the moment the gift is first unwrapped.  The more special the gift, the slower goes the time.  It’s not just me, it’s a rule, a law of physics.  Which means angels in heaven must have had a very hard time waiting for Jesus to be “unwrapped.”

Think about it from their perspective:  In heaven, you hear about God’s plan to have His Son become a human and be born on earth.  Earth is a sphere that spins around some tiny speck of light way out in the universe.  Humans are creatures God made to live on that sphere.  And Almighty God has decided to send His Son there as a human! You can hardly imagine it, let alone understand it.  More amazing than if the Orkin man decided to become a termite.  And after Jesus has been “wrapped” in Mary, so to speak, imagine the gathering anticipation for the reveal.  Imagine how slowly those nine months would pass, worse than waiting at the DMV.  And how excited you would be to witness this miracle.  You would be ready to explode!

So now, God comes and says, “We’re getting a choir together to celebrate it when Jesus is born.  What do you think, would you be interested?”  “Are You kidding?  Of course I’m interested; I can’t wait!”  And after Gabriel is done setting the stage for the shepherds and gives the cue to the angelic choir director, how enthusiastic would your singing be?  This is probably a vast understatement:

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:13-14)

Jesus is going to come again, this time not as a baby but as the King of Kings!  Time is creeping at an agonizing pace.  But, as we wait, you don’t have to try to contain your excitement.  You can get ready to pump your fist and sing!

Kindness

The divers came upon a whale, tangled in an abandoned net, who would die if not released.  Trouble was, the whaled was freaked out and likely to injure or kill them if they got close enough to help.  But by their gentle and peaceful approach they gradually won her trust.  She allowed them to begin the tortuous task of cutting away the tough net to set her free.  Their gentleness, their kindness, convinced the whale she could trust them and submit to their rescue procedures.  I watched this amazing story with awe and will give you the link below.  But read this verse from Romans carefully and think about that principle:

4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?   (Romans 2:4)

God’s kindness was costly.  He accepted the risk of excruciating death in order to draw close enough to cut away the net that holds us captive.  Don’t dismiss that kindness or take it for granted.  Submit to what He is trying to do for you.  Let Him cut you free.

To watch the whale video, click HERE.  Make sure to watch all the way to the end to see a pretty good image of what Jesus meant by “life to the full.”

 

 

Not so Immediately

What causes people to suddenly change and follow Jesus?  Peter told Mark he did it “immediately.”

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:16-18)

Just like that?  Drop your nets and walk off to follow Jesus?  No doubt there was a lot leading up to that sudden decision.  Perhaps he and Andy had had long discussions out in the boat.  Maybe something had happened at home to make him ready.  We don’t know.  But, Jesus said, before anyone can make that jump, God “draws him” (John 6:44).  And how He draws you is personal.  He uses the things that we specifically need.  God gradually loosens our desperate grip on the illusory things we think keep us safe or satisfied.  As He does, He attracts us to Himself through Jesus.

Sometimes, as in my case, kicking and screaming.  Little by little, God got my attention and blew on the kindled flames of my restlessness.  I “just so happened” to hear an old lady speaking about the Lord’s Prayer.  My brother had “found Jesus” and began to annoy me by talking about Him all the time.  People picked me up hitchhiking and told me about their experiences with Him.  I spent a long day on a beach with “The Road Less Traveled” and a bunch of beer.  Little by little, God was loosening me up.  But then He brought out the big guns, the things I needed personally.

When you run the sound for a large event you have to listen.  This gig was a 10 day conference for a few thousand people who worked for Campus Crusade.  The guy who kicked things off every morning spoke about trusting Jesus – something everyone already understood, except me.  He was very logical in his approach – something I really needed.  Every day I came armed with new reasons to doubt what he was saying.  And, as though he was reading my mind, he addressed those objections and convincingly dismissed them.  My soul began singing that old funk tune, “Standin’ on Shaky Ground…”

Alone in the arena, I was struggling to fix a sound cable – struggling because I did not have large, channel lock pliers, needed to take the connector apart.  I looked all over for something that would work without success.  But inside, an argument was raging over what I would decide about what I had been hearing.  In frustration, on my knees, I began to weep.  I called out, “God, I don’t even know if you exist but, if You do, then I’m scared.  I don’t know if You will take care of me…”  I know, I know, that was a dumb prayer.  Embarrassing to write it down.  But, when I dried my eyes, the first thing I saw, about 2 feet in front of me, lying on a road case, was a large pair of channel lock pliers with bright orange grips.  You couldn’t miss them.  I can’t explain how they got there or why I hadn’t seen them.  But I was careful to put them back!

But later that night, on my drive back home, I “immediately” decided to follow Jesus.  Immediately, after 38 years of being drawn by God and pushing Him away.  Maybe you are not as stubborn and slow as I was.  You probably won’t need pliers.  But do pay attention when God tugs on your sleeve.  Pay attention, take time to ponder and then, follow Jesus – immediately.

What Moses Also Saw

When you promise yourself you won’t repeat (whatever wrong thing you struggle with) and then blow it – yet again – how many times will God forgive you and give you another chance?  If you are sincere, it will seem unlimited.  But is there any hope for you?  Will you ever break free of that cycle of despair?  

There is.  God showed Moses how He would ultimately fix us.  He showed Moses that He would bless the His Chosen People abundantly in the Promised Land, so long as they remained faithful to Him.  He showed Moses how they would mess that up and be banished.  This would happen again and again.  But the cool thing is how God also showed Moses what He would do to fix that cycle of hope followed by failure.  For them.  And for you.

“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” ( Deuteronomy 30:6)

Circumcision is a perfect metaphor, if you think about the tough exterior that forms around our sinful hearts.  The first time we deliberately sin it bothers us.  The next time?  Not so much.  And God’s plan is to remove that callous and make us responsive to His ways. He will do it so we can live!  How will He do it?  God gave another glimpse to Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  (Ezkiel 36:26-27)

When God causes His Spirit to be born into a calloused heart, He lives there softening and removing that tough, unresponsive exterior. This “reborn” heart becomes responsive to God. 

Jesus promised to give new life to anyone who trusts Him, through the birth of God’s Spirit in their hearts.  Their sins are forgiven, their souls are cleansed and they receive God’s Spirit.  Ultimately, the cycle of failure is broken.  They are set free.  

Mo and Zeke saw it coming.

Check His ID

They were short-handed that night, so my boss ask me to check IDs at the club where I was running the sound. It was in that capacity that I refused to let a man in without an ID who later turned out to be the owner of the club. He got over it, but at first he was pretty upset.Two of the saddest verses in the New Testament say this:

He (Jesus) was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to

 that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

 (John 1:10-11)

Imagine Frank Lloyd Wright being turned away from a house that he had designed and built. I’m trying to imagine how much patience it took for Jesus to put up with being turned away by people who had no idea He had designed and built all of reality.  But it was those people who missed out.  Big time.  

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:12)

The only thing that matters about this now is whether  you can identify Jesus and let Him in.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.  (Revelation 3:20)

Know More

God doesn’t talk out loud to me, probably because I’m so deaf.  But when He has something to tell me, I know what it is.  After retiring from a pastorate, I asked, “What’s next, Lord?”  His answer was abrupt: “It’s time for you to get to know Jesus.”  I’d spent 22 years teaching others about Jesus, but now, God told me to get to know Him.  Humbling, that.  But recently, Randy Alcorn observed that Paul, after serving Christ for 30 years wrote in Philippians 3, he wanted to get “to know Him…” (Bible Study Magazine – September/October 2016).

There’s a big difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Him.   A demon knew all about Jesus called Him, “Jesus, the Son of the Most High God.” But he didn’t know Him (Mark 5:7).  Jesus said not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Why not?  Jesus said, “… I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.”

So, when God “took me to school”  I was  grateful.  I’ve learned there is always more to knowing Jesus.  As Paul came to that realization, he wrote:

Indeed, I count everything [all his former training and credentials] as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…    (Philippians 3:8)

And,

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  (Philippians 3:12)

For more about how, see the previous two posts, below…

Knowing and Growing

A child paints a face with simplicity, using a circle, black spots for eyes and one color for skin.  If that child matures and becomes an artist, she can more accurately portray that same face, using careful observation and a complex mixture of paints and pigments.  Peter describes a similar process as he writes about how to mature in our knowledge of Jesus (see “Knowing,” posted below).  The process involves a careful observation of the character of Jesus, followed by attempts to portray those same traits on the canvas our lives.  As we learn to do so more accurately and naturally, knowing Jesus becomes more fruitful.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2Peter 1:5 -8)

Instead of viewing that somewhat intimidating passage as an impossible to-do list, think of it as a pallet of colors that you will gradually learn to mix together to achieve a pleasing result.