Sunday, March 29, 2015

From a Zero to a Hero

Don't you just love those stories where inconspicuous people suddenly become hero’s? Their fame may come through a gift they give or a miraculous rescue they make. Regardless of how it happens it’s edifying to see them making the headlines.  Such was the case with the young colt the Lord chose to ride on Palm Sunday.  The story is given to us Mark 11.   “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; 2 and He said to them, "Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. 3 And if anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord has need of it,' and immediately he will send it here." 4 So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it.” In reading this passage one might get the idea that the Master’s choice was one of coincidence. However, Zechariah’s prophecy given centuries earlier proves otherwise. The colt was merely responding to its God appointed destiny; and what a response it was.  Although never ridden before the little donkey yielded in total obedience.  You never read where it bucked or stubbornly persisted in going its own way as many untrained subjects do. No, it simply walked giving heed to every command.  It chose to bear the burden of service without restraint.  In the minds of those lining the street that day, this little animal was doing what it had always done. However, only later do we find out it was doing what it had never done.  Because of obedience the colt indelibly etched its name in the greatest history book of all time—the Bible. In essence it went from a zero to a hero. You and I can do the same. It may appear as if our lives are inactive. We may feel as if we are simply tied to a post. However, as we wait and then respond to our time of destiny we will find ourselves doing incredible things, giving others something to talk about for years to come.        

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Till Death Do us Part

When this blog posts I will be on my tenth pilgrimage to Israel. There are so many sights and stories of significance in this incredible land. But the one that continues to amaze me is that of God’s betrothal. It’s hard grasp the depth of this kind of commitment when men and women today swap partners like swapping cars. In the words of Laurie Beth Jones, author of JESUS CEO, “We live in a world where the words ‘till death do us part’ have meaning for only half of the couples who recite them with all the sincerity they can muster.” However, with God they are not mere words. In spite of their idolatry, their blasphemy which led to the eventual crucifixion of His Son, and the continual rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, God remains faithful to them.  He has endlessly betrothed Himself to this people and will do whatever it takes to defend and protect His coveted possession. His love carries the same intensity as that portrayed by Jesus when conversing with the young rich ruler.  Although he knew the wealthy entrepreneur would walk away Mark says “Jesus looked at the young man and looking at him, loved him.” He did not withdraw His love because the young man walked away. Why? He continues to be obsessed with the ceremony.  The thought of “eventually but not now” preoccupies the Contractor of the universe. His commitment is one that is willing to wait until there is a change of mind.  Laurie Beth Jones sums it up like this:

Jesus never slammed a door or burned a bridge.  He said, “Just knock on the door and I’ll open it.”  He meant any time, any place.  He would be there…..No matter how long someone had been gone or what she or he had said on the way out.  He promised to be there. Every door is built with hinges… perhaps for eternal reasons. As a carpenter, Jesus must have built a lot of doors in his Father’s mansion. He knew that doors once shut could again be opened.

In other words His intent could be described with the Motel 6 slogan, “We’ll keep the light on for you.” The same can be said of us. The Jewish people are not the only object of the King’s affection, nor are they the only ones to put a sparkle in His eyes. Israel is favored by covenant, we by grace, which necessitates changing the proverbial vow “Till death do us part”, repeated during the wedding ceremony. Better said, it should be rendered “Till eternity do us part.” That’s commitment!  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Good Brother for Joseph

Have you ever had one of those moments when truth came crashing into your life? The revelation will often be encouraging but sometimes can leave you in a state of shock.  That’s what happened to me recently.  I was reading and reflecting upon the life of Joseph when it hit me. It came as I was relishing in the actions of his brothers and giving in to some pretty enlightening thoughts. Thoughts like: “Man, those guys had some deep-rooted problems; they could have used some serious family counseling.” Of all the issues they wrestled with the greatest were the green-eyed monster called jealousy and the spirit of envy.” Those hideous demons Vine and Webster describe as “the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others; feelings of apprehension or bitterness.” Such evil pretenses led them to sell their sibling into slavery. The thought that he was more favored, blessed, and loved than they was unbearable. Oh the joys of looking out the window of humanity and basking in the faults of others! However, the scenery changes when suddenly you find yourself starring into a mirror. That’s when God delivers a “gotcha” moment; when it dawns upon you that you would have made a good character in the story.  Why? The answer for me was pretty apparent.  I realized that more often than not I wrestle with the same feelings. When praying for ministry success I find myself looking at others and asking the question “where is my favor, my blessing; God do you love them more than me?” In reality thoughts and utterances of thanks should be given. The true spirit of kingdom living is one that can celebrate in whatever gifts are given to others by God or man. It is when we can rejoice upon seeing our brother and sister wearing the coat of many colors that has been specifically designed for their life and ministry. After considering my own reflection in the story and offering a prayer of repentance, the thought dawned on me, I could still make a good brother for Joseph. I could be Benjamin—the youngest, the innocent one; the one who could hug his brother’s neck, celebrate his success and his lofty position without the trappings of envy and jealousy.  Which one would you like to be?         

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Thinking in a Different Way

Do you ever find yourself wishing God would explain in detail why he does what he does or allows you to experience what you do? Thoughts like this tend to surface especially when we are suffering or going through severe trials. Yet God just expects us to trust him. While we might imagine and formulate a list of reasons why we think it’s happening more than likely none that make our list will be correct.  Such lists can in no way ascertain the larger purpose God might have for our experience. In the book “Truth Matters” the authors suggest we try looking at things differently.

Think of it this way:  A basketball coach could call a time-out for any number of reasons at any different point in a ball game.  He might see a flaw in the opponent’s defense, for example, that he thinks his team could exploit with a hastily designed play. He might want to stop a flurry of momentum or a hot hand by one of the opposing players.  He might use it to try icing a free-throw shooter.  He might use it to stop the clock near the end of the half or regulation.  He might use it to force an instant-replay review of a questionable call by the officials. That’s six different options right there. Easy. And they’re all determined not by fixed logarithms but by the flow of the game, the nature of the opponent, the time left on the shot clock or the game clock – any of these factors and many others could dictate his purpose in asking for a stoppage in play.  Plus it’s all dictated by the coach’s unique, personal knowledge of his players, his awareness of what each of them can do, what makes them perform best, what puts them in the best position to win the game. Why must God’s decisions be any different?

They continue by saying, “God is not bound by any list, nor is he under orders to treat every person or every problem in the same way.” That being said it leaves us to the element of trust—a belief that refuses to entertain any option other than the one of providential care. When you allow yourself to think of God as being a loving coach you know whatever the score might be He is calling every play in your life to assure the ultimate win!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

In Search of Happiness II

In 1955 Walt Disney built Disneyland, an entertainment venue that would be called the “Happiest Place on Earth” and would revolutionize the way the world vacationed. The ever tenacious developer on the day of dedication delivered his address with these words: “To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” Since that jovial speech and the park’s opening millions have visited making it one of the touristy hot-spots in the world. In the park vacationers find four junctions called Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Tomorrowland—all tied together by a railroad that encircles it. They can get on and off the train at any stop, however to experience the full extent of happiness visitors are encouraged to make the circle. While it would be wonderful to think those visiting Disneyland found it to be the place for happiness, if the truth be known multitudes of parents, children, and friends visited yet left unhappy.  The weather was too hot, the lines too long, and the food too expensive.  They may have experienced periods of momentary jubilation but not unceasing happiness. The reason is simple.  The secret to finding this gift cannot be found in riding a roller coaster, watching a parade in the streets, or getting one’s picture with Mickey Mouse.  The key that unlocks the door to this emotion is found in Psalms. “Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!” An added secret is given by Jesus, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them. “These are my commandments you will be happy if you do them.” Happiness is found in knowing and doing. Being free from guilt, judgmentalism, having self-worth and a feeling of accomplishment are all parts of the ingredient. These come by knowing and doing and result in one’s being able to say, “I am okay and so are you;” an equation that ultimately creates happiness.