Tag Archives: God

Happy + Thanks + Giving Part 2

What do many rich guys have in common with toddlers?  You can find out in this continuation of the Thanksgiving message posted last time (See Happy + Thanks + Giving).

Have a great Thanksgiving Day tomorrow.  I’ll post the conclusion to this message on Friday.

Peace

Our hearts and tears go out for our sisters and brothers of Paris.  We are shocked, dismayed by the wanton brutality.  We pray for them, asking that they might find real peace in their hearts, healing from the terror, comfort in sorrow.  And safety.  I pray that many will hear and respond to these words of Jesus:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  –  (Matthew 11:28–30 NIV84)

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.   –  (Jn 14:23b ESV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  –  (John 14:27  NIV84)

 

Skinning Your Spiritual Knees

Learning to ride a bike involves skinning a few knees.  Most kids, after successfully riding a few feet without falling, look up and shout, “I can do it! I can do it!”  –  that , just before they dump the thing, trying to avoid the neighbor’s dog.  Dad runs along beside the bike, shouting encouragement, but he cannot actually teach a child how to ride.  He can describe what to do, but balance, the skill that makes bike riding work, has to naturally and gradually emerge from inside the life of the one who is learning.  Balance is built in to their system; they just need to learn how to use it.

Learning to follow Jesus is a lot like that.  Most of us skin our knees repeatedly in the process.  We default to our old habits, which don’t work, and we crash.  It can be discouraging.  So we say things like, “I should be better; I shouldn’t make the same mistake over and over again.”  And the biggie: “Maybe I’m not really a real Christian.”  But remember this:  Christlikeness, like balance, can be described but it cannot be taught.  It does not show up instantly.  It emerges gradually as a natural consequence of the Holy Spirit coming to live in the believer.  That’s why Paul said this:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy … being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.(Philippians 1:4–6 excerpts)

If you have followed Jesus by faith, God is going to make the changes in you. He is not going to be rushed in His work.  He also isn’t going to quit until you are finished.  God doesn’t give up.

So then, if God is going to do the work, what is our part?  Should we just passively wait until He makes us to be like Christ?  Nope.  That would be like waiting for balance to show up before we try to ride a bike.  Our part is to pay careful attention to what God is telling us, climb on this new life and try once again to take it for a spin.  See if we can get further down the road before the next crash.  And don’t sweat the skinned knees.  Paul said it like this:

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.  –  (Philippians 2:12b–13).

Quotes: The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Where’s the Path?

It’s a hollow, panicky feeling when you are in the back country, hiking along and suddenly realize you are not on the trail.  You look around, trying to spot the path, unsure of where you lost it.  You start backtracking, bushwhacking and stumbling, until at last you see it.  Once you are back on the trail, the hike is so much easier, and it reliably leads to the place you are trying to get to.   Lose the path and you are on your own.

David was a shepherd and spent a lot of time in the back country.  He knew about paths.  As he became more acquainted with God, he realized the truth about paths was also true with God’s paths.  He wrote:

Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.  –  (Ps 25:4–5)

If you follow God’s paths, the journey is easier and reliably gets you where you want to go.  Leave the path and you are on your own.  It’s true for individuals and it is true for whole nations.  The nation of Israel had to learn that lesson repeatedly.  They would leave the path, fall into ruin, go back and find the path, recover, and then quickly forget.  The cycle would begin again.  I am convinced we in the US are in the process of learning this same lesson.

Quotes: The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Bribing God

Remember this song?

I’ll give you jewelry and money too
That’s not all, all I’ll do for you
Oh, if bring it to me
Bring your sweet loving
Bring it on home to me
                                                    (Sam Cooke – Bring It To Me)

Great song, but lousy concept.  Because you can’t buy love.  The Beatles almost had it right with “Can’t buy me love…”  But, even in that same song they sang:

I’ll give you all I’ve got to give
If you say you love me too
I may not have a lot to give
But what I’ve got I’ll give to you
                                                          (The Beatles – Can’t Buy Me Love)

Bribing someone to love you is illogical on its face.  And yet, the default posture we humans adopt before God is this:  I’ll pay whatever You want if You will love me.  That is the core idea behind all man-made religions.  Here’s an example from the Old Testament book of MIcah:

6 With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  (Micah 6:6–7  –  NIV84)

God already and always loves us like a father.  Imagine if one of your children got the idea you didn’t love him and offered to pay…   It’s offensive, isn’t it?  God does not need for us to pay Him with any of His possessions.  So then, what does He want?  This:

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:8  –  NIV84)

God wants us to stop hurting  one another and ourselves.  He wants us to live with a humble awareness of Him, Who gave us life, Who made this world and Who knows how to live in it.

One last thought.  Eventually a payment was made for sin, the most costly one suggested above – the sacrifice of a firstborn Son.  But it was not a bribe, but a punishment that balanced the scales of justice.

And it was God Who paid.

Because He loves us that much.

Dealing with the Truth

How do you respond to criticism?  My first reaction isn’t constructive, I must confess.  I want to argue or fight back.  But after letting my negativity subside, I’ve discovered it often helps to ask pertinent questions, to let the truth soak in deeper and have its way with me.

If you haven’t already listened to the short audio messages I posted earlier in the week, here are the links again.  They are about how Jesus used parables to sneak past our defenses with  tough truth:

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To let this parable have its way with you, here are some of the kinds of questions you might  ask:

  • In what sense is teaching from God like a seed?
  • What influences in our world tend to make our “soil” hard, so that His truth bounces off?
  • What is the danger of religion that focuses mostly on drumming up emotional fervor?
  • How much hard work does a seed expend in order to be fruitful?
  • If none, then what does it do?  How is the fruit produced?
  • How are your eyes and ears; do you have defenses to shield you from God’s dangerous truth?
  • If so, what will you do about those defenses?

Listen at Your Own Risk

When Jesus told a parable, it was a time-release gotcha, His version of a Trojan Horse.  He’d light the fuse on what looked like a nice little story and slide it right past the people’s defenses.  Too late, they’d realize His stories were aimed at them, at their bone-headed stupidity or wickedness.

As an experiment, this week I’ve edited an audio message about one of His parables into five chunks, each about 5 minutes long or so, thinking you might spread them out and listen to them during the week. You will discover His seemingly harmless story springs its trap just as effectively today as it did when He first told it.  So, you have been warned: Listen at your own risk.  Here they are the audio links.  Take your time and work your way through these chunks in order:

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If  you are willing, let me know how you respond to blog messages in audio form.  They are more work on this end, but worth it to me, if they work for you,