Friday, December 23, 2016

Finding Peace And Rest This Christmas

“When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem, buy Christmas cards, and presents for everyone, including some we hardly know.  Let’s put in extra hours with the sheep; for we will need extra money for celebrating.  So they came in a hurry (harried and tired) and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the Manger.”  We mirror this broken bible passage today.  In-between Christmas music, radio stations are playing songs like, “Worn,” and encouraging us to rest.  We hurry past the King in the manger on our way to celebrate.  We bypass the Sovereign one slipping past the simplicity of the story.

We are being seduced; “But I am afraid that, even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted and led away from the simplicity of [your sincere and] pure devotion to Christ.”  I’m guilty.  I do it with the Gospel adding law to a simplistic, “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Such simplicity; the easy burden Christ gives compared to that I choose to carry myself.

He carries the governments upon his shoulders.  He gives me an easy, shared, yoke to bear.  His request is an easy, “Follow me.”  Life is so cluttered with all the stuff I think I need.  Security and control.  Shepherds, wise-men, fishermen, tax-collectors and prostitutes gave up ‘me’ to follow.  Gave up herds and jobs; 401Ks and imagined security to follow the one whom, ‘emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.’

This angelic visit to the shepherds is a hat-tip to Moses whom God has called the most humble of men.  Its that humility that frames Jesus coming.  The attitude of Mary, the stable, the announcement to the shepherds and the response of those who recognized their spiritual poverty.  He became poor that we might become rich.  So they gave up themselves to find fullness and peace in Christ.  For the following is both intentional and simple. 

Simple in that we recognize we have nothing and He is fullness, “For in Him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form…”  Intentional because we give up self and seek to stay as close to Jesus as we can.  Only in that place can we find peace and rest.  For the control is truly never ours.  The grasping and holding tight never satisfy all our yearnings.  “He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself…” For there is born for you a Savior who is God Himself.  In His fullness and kingdom, we find rest.  This is Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2016

This Knowing Is Enough

I woke up from the dream in a sweat,  With the knowledge of evil and good  I looked at my own silhouette - it looked back with a bad attitude  You reached out to touch me  You reached out to touch me - I said it's too true:  You and me we know too much---Mark Heard, “We Know Too Much.”

 Some saints suffer greatly.  I read their stories.  For inspiration; for encouragement.  “The most inspiring testimonies are of those who have suffered deeply and found God to be faithful even in the pain,” says Laura Story who has herself suffered deeply.  Deep faith comes through difficult times. This knowing is knowing too much.  

I think too much. In my naivete; when I was even more naive than I am today, I thought God would simply answer prayer and change circumstances.  God would repair the relationship though it was me that was broken.  God would heal here instead of completely healing there.  God would give me a better job instead of chiseling me to fit the present one. 

Hardly holy.  Not character building nor caring. Still at some level I thought it so.  Wished it so. Lately I flip it all around the other way.  I muddle truth thinking God didn’t solve other’s problems (for character of course) and He won’t solve mine. 

My story is different.  My story isn’t the same as their story.  God works heart to heart; person to person, individual to individual.  God is about relationship. God is eternally fellowship, forever three-in-one. This I do know: God will work for fellowship with Him and goodness for me. God may change my circumstances. God may lead me into deep waters. 

This knowing is knowing enough.  Knowing God knows my frame.  Knowing that my story (and yours as well) will be uniquely written.  Knowing I am loved for me.  “But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you…When you pass through the waters I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you, when you walk through the fire you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.”  This knowing is knowing enough; that I am eternally known.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Trophies and Thanks

I am reward driven.  We all are.  I’m like an Olympic athlete winning gold when Strava or Duolingo award me virtual trophies.  I run laps around the house.  My wife laughs at me for this. I experience reward in differing ways.  This morning I replaced a shower-head.  My reward; manliness (and better water pressure.)

A trophy isn’t always a reward.  I played on a baseball team as a child. Even bought a jockstrap!  I was small and afraid of the ball.  I didn’t care about the game.  My parents signed me up.  I played bench and far afield. At the end of the season each person on my team received an individual trophy.  I put that trophy up on my shelf.  I didn’t care about it.  It meant nothing to me. I’d not earned it.

I want that affirmation.  I want it in my marriage; “Thank you for taking out the trash." "Thank you for a lovely dinner.”  I want it at work, “Thank you for keeping the shelves stocked.”  I want it from my child.  I wanted it from my parents.

God knows we are wired this way for He promises reward.  Ultimately, we shall hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”  Sometimes doing the good thing, the right thing, the self-dying thing needs greater motivation than being the right thing.  One needs affirmation.

If I want it—and need it maybe others want and need it also.  That’s something I will consider and work on.  It seems a little thing this giving of affirmation.  Plenty are rewarded for keeping the bench warm.  How do I affirm those that are invested in the game?

Thank you for visiting the blog (even if you didn’t invest in a jockstrap).