April 15, 2017

#EasterVigil Lesson

Yes, you absolutely can recover from the loss of life's familiar structures and patterns.

The disciples on Holy Saturday:  hiding out, dreams crushed, identities warped, "fearless leader" killed by oppressive state powers which were guided by jealousy and envy.

The disciples after the Resurrection:  surprised beyond belief by the emergence of supernatural good, enfused with a positive mission, focused and determined, full of faith even when challenged or in danger or meeting death.

Yes, you can recover. When Jesus restores, he takes less and makes more.

There is a life worth living, even after the deepest darkness and the most piercing pain.

April 12, 2017

#Lent2017: Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #8

From Hebrews 12:2: "...Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross..."

What was that joy?

After all, isn't the world a pretty miserable place? Hasn't human history been filled with war, disease, oppression, and dishonesty---even among those who claim to be "religious"  or "spiritual"?

Even when we find happiness and contentment within our circles of family, friendship, church, or work, we cannot remain isolated from the wider world.

In spite of the pain that has lined human history, God has always lived in the hearts and minds of those who follow him in love.

Although we cannot see the full picture of the souls committed to love and serve God, these souls are visible and known to him.

These souls bring him joy!

In the midst of sadness and injustice of every kind,  there are those who continue to trust in the love of God. Some are alone in their faith. Others worship in a church or other gathering.

Some are ill. Some are healthy and fit. Some are wise and intellectually powerful.  Others struggle to function at a basic level.

Some are wealthy. Others make ends meet with much effort. Some will travel across continents several times each year. Others will never leave the town or village where they were born.

The "joy set before him" was the certainty that so many lost souls from so many corners of humanity would come into fellowship with the God who loves them. No matter how or where or when those souls entered the world, they would be able to spend their lives and all eternity loving the God who loves them from forever to forever.

For this, he endured the cross.

April 5, 2017

#Lent2017 Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #7

Jesus offers freedom.

Freedom is the will and ability to act upon the higher elements of your gifts, temperament, and personality.

What's stopping you?

Very likely,  you are stopped by some combination of fear, peer pressure, and self-doubt.

You can be free of these, but freedom won't come easily or instantly.

Begin. Begin now.

Follow Jesus.

April 4, 2017

#Lent2017 Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #6

Fatigue often accompanies the struggle for renewal.

Choosing to go against "the grain", against an established pattern, calls to the deepest parts of our hearts.

Rest, a coming away from daily demands and routines, is a requirement for growth. There is no virtue in refusing to accept and embrace a time of renewal and refreshment.

Jesus, the God-Man, regularly stepped away from the crowds for a time of prayer and quiet reflection.
In this practice,  I will follow my leader.

April 3, 2017

#Lent2017 Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #5

"Jesus wept". It is the shortest verse in the Bible (John 11:35).

Jesus was acquainted with grief. He didn't live in grief, but he knew and understood it. That should be our formula as well.

If we live honestly and see what's around us, we will be acquainted with grief. Then, we will move on. We will not bury or deny our grief. In fact, if we have been deeply wounded, some part of us will be changed--perhaps forever.

When we reach that place, we can choose to welcome and engage Jesus the Resurrector. He restores life.

There are no guarantees he will restore the life we had, or the life we'd hoped to have. He may restore us to something wildly different from what we'd imagined. It will be good.

His call to follow comes with a single promise: come with me and allow the life of God to live in you. See and experience fear, then deny and crush it. Come to the end of yourself in sadness and pain and learn a new way to live.

Allow Jesus to resurrect you into the life of truth. But first, you must be willing to let go of what you think you know.

April 2, 2017

#Lent2017: Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #4

Jesus always encourages us to face our fears. Then, he says "fear not."

He's telling us not to be consumed by fear, not to hold the energy of fear within us, and not to accommodate our lives to the things we fear.

When we go with Jesus, there is always some stress involved because we are constantly uncovering and defeating our fears.

We don't do this alone.  He goes with us because we chose to go with him. It's a journey of love: a loving God teaches his beloved creature to live beyond fear.

Beyond fear, there is only love.

April 1, 2017

#Lent2017: Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #3

Yes, there are easier journeys.
There are journeys requiring less change, journeys of fewer challenges, journeys filled with ease and comfort.
But when God calls you to walk with him, there is no finer road to walk.
The journey brings the vision to life. There is nothing better.

March 30, 2017

Lent 2017: Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #2

When I journey with Jesus, I choose his companionship. I also choose a preference for his companionship. No one is in competition with him for my love or devotion.

March 29, 2017

Lent 2017: Going to Jerusalem with Jesus

The human and divine parts of Jesus chose to take the long view. After Gethsemane and Calvary: Resurrection and Ascension.

Am I willing to follow this pattern?

February 16, 2017

Courage: The Indispensable Christian Virtue



Image: Crosswalk.com

 


 "He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” - Revelation 21:6-8

Do these words of Jesus comfort you, or offend you?

Cowardice is the first among the "vices" listed in this Bible passage. When I re-read these verses recently, I noted for the first time cowardice is listed in the same range of offenses as unbelief and murder. How can this be? Why would cowardice condemn someone to eternal torment, or separation from God?

Isn't it true we all fear something, or someone, at some point in our lives? What's wrong with that?

Cowardice isn't the same as reasonable or sensible fear of danger. Cowardice is a state of mind, a world view, and a perspective on how to manage the unknown.

We are all afraid of something. I don't accept the popular phrase often spoken by motivational speakers (FEAR = false evidence appearing real). There are real things any intelligent and well-reasoned person should fear. Fear can guide and direct us away from danger and harm. Would you trust the judgment of someone who said they feared nothing and no one?

Cowardice is different. Cowardice may express itself as a lifestyle of avoiding or running away from anything we don't feel completely prepared to handle on our own. That lifestyle is in complete opposition to God's call and command to "fear not" because, as Jesus assures us, He is with us "always, even until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20).

Choosing cowardice over courage always limits what God can do in, for, and through us. Cowardice is more than a weakness or a character flaw for the Christian. Cowardice is actually a form of rebellion, an unwillingness to trust God to support and aid us when we are at the end of ourselves and our natural abilities. If cowardice could speak, it would say: "God, I do not think you can handle this."

Of course, there are times when each of us lose sight of what God will do for us, especially as we pioneer into spaces and places where friends and family may not be able or willing to guide, help, or advise us. Even in that situation, courage asks God to show Himself more clearly and build our faith in the direction of trust and reliance upon Him.

Do you feel free to tell the truth, even when no one around you wants to hear it?

Are you confident you can stand alone if and when God calls you to do so?

Are you brave enough to remain steadfast when it would be easier or more naturally comforting to go along with everything you see and feel around you?

Cowardice cripples us when we repeatedly embrace it over choosing courage. Cowardice murders future opportunities. Cowardice makes a lie of God's promise to always love, keep, and care for us as His beloved children. Cowardice is where unbelief and fear find their home.

Courage brings and keeps us in the place of peace and progress because we don't rely only upon our natural abilities and resources when we embrace godly courage. When we reach out with courage, God's loving arms lift us, hold us, and carry us forward.