Thursday, October 28, 2010

United, Stirred, and Good Enough for Jesus

I found a little something in all three Scripture readings today. First, in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he reminds me of our connectedness. Wherever we go...when we are among others who believe and declare Jesus as God's Son and trust in Him for their forgiveness and salvation...these are our brothers and sisters. We are connected in a way that surpasses blood relationships. Our very essence...our spirits...are connected and interwoven and united. And so while it can be challenging for someone more introverted like me to feel comfortable in a new group of people, I need to remember that when I am among believers, I am at home...I am safe. No place else will God's spirit reach me as openly and effectively as among His children. He can move most freely among His people...and so I should not go reluctant or hesitant because of new faces...but rather eager because of God's presence.

The second reading...the Responsorial Psalm...just stirred me with its poetic imagery. I love the picture of the fullness of Creation forever resounding with praise to God...always echoing for us His Love and Grace and Mercy.
Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge.
But I must admit the original Psalm itself is even more moving in its depiction of Nature forever whispering the Love and Majesty of Our God.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder's craft.
One day to the next conveys that message; one night to the next imparts that knowledge.
There is no word or sound; no voice is heard;
Yet their report goes forth through all the earth, their message, to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:2-5
Though there is no audible word or perceivable sound, God's Truth reverberates through all Creation...through us....into us. Despite so many denying that Truth...or so polluted that they can't feel touches us all. God's constant reminder that He is in control, that He loves us, and that all is His.

The third reading is a lesson in decision I still struggle to apply. The time has come for Jesus to choose the 12. It doesn't say how many disciples he had at that point to choose from, but regardless, Jesus obviously needed to discern who the 12 would be. And so despite His "natural" gifts of wisdom and intelligence, despite the gut feeling He probably had, He refused to make a decision without praying first. Once more, He didn't throw up a quick prayer, "Father, guide my decision. Amen." and then simply act on his own instincts. No, Jesus sought the Father. He prayed...and waited on God for a response. He prayed fervently I am sure...but also patiently. He prayed all night. Can you imagine...working all day, knowing you have a big decision coming up, feeling its weight on you, and then getting to the end of your day and deciding not to get some rest...not to sleep, but instead pray...and pray all night...because it is THAT important.

Jesus refused to take a step...until He knew what God wanted. I don't know how much clearer God can be in laying out how we are...and how I make decisions. Seek His will...find out His out His plan. And then...only I move. I find it really difficult sometimes...many times...just waiting. I want to make a decision...especially a big decision...and have it done. Of course I do my research...analyze the situation...think about it nearly non-stop. I generally am not rash in my decisions. (Many would say I over analyze things.) The problem is...that once I feel like I have an answer...I want to move forward. So waiting on God...waiting on the definitive yeah-that's-what-God-wants is a real challenge for me. Or sometimes it is the opposite. The decision is so big with so many potential consequences....that I keep waiting...ignoring that sense inside of me telling me that I already know the answer....and instead apparently waiting for some miraculous vision or a direct message from one of God's Angels. I am so afraid of making a misstep that I don't move at all. Either way...perhaps if I simply committed to prayer...and continued praying until I had an answer...making these big decisions would be less stressful...and more faith building. After all, if it was good enough...and important enough...for Jesus, then it is certainly good enough for me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Knew It

I knew I would meet God this morning. I was a jerk yesterday...lost my temper...and said some things I should not have said. Of course I knew not 10 seconds after the words came out of my mouth that I was wrong. Dead wrong. And though I knew it would be awhile before I would have a chance to make amends to this person I love, I knew God would meet me this Scripture. I knew He would be waiting there to reaffirm the truth that I cement the lesson I learned (and obviously still need to learn) this time. And of course he did:
Be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Eph 4:32–5:2
It doesn't take much to realize that selfishly railing about one's own plans and desires doesn't equate with being kind, compassionate, or imitating Christ. So I knew what I had to admit...again.

Yup...I screwed up, God. But what is new, right? I wish I could understand how I can be so focused on You, Father, at one point in my day...or may even just hours or minutes before...and then so quickly forsake it all for the sake of my "self." It seems to happen so suddenly...I become vehement about what I think I need or want...and feel it is my right...or that I deserve it. And before I know it...I am lashing out at whoever or whatever is in the way of me getting what I "need" or want. And it always starts with a seemingly innocent thought or action...either mine or someone else's. It's crazy to think how many things are said or done that simply move through my mind like the ticker tape. Most don't linger...but for some reason...sometimes...something catches or drags in the forefront of my mind. But even then, I imagine if I stopped there and looked to You...said a prayer...asked for Your help...offered this thought/action to You...then maybe it would be over before anything began. But too often I don't do that. I start to think about what was said or done (or what wasn't said or done). And inevitably my first concern is how that affects me. That is when the trouble begins. Why did he/she say/do that? Didn't they consider how I would feel? Did they say/do that on purpose? Why am I always the one people say/do this to? And the list goes on. Talk about your slippery slope! As soon as I give just one of those questions a moment of seems as though they all are entertained at once...and I start to feel hurt or angry or bitter or all of these or something else. Once that happens, fight or flight kicks in...and I start to defend take what should be mine ("respect," "consideration," "freedom," "an apology," whatever). From that point on, I am no longer thinking about anyone else but me.

I can imagine, Father, that if it wasn't for the pain these tantrums cause, You might just chuckle at them when they happen. It must be quite a sight to see this creation of Yours so totally dependent on obviously not in control of almost anything...flailing and swinging at the world trying to demand his/her "rights" or to get his/her "needs" met. And all this despite the fact that this creation knows (at least most of the time) that You are the source of everything...that You love him/her...and that You gladly and abundantly supply all that he/she needs. What a sad display it must be when I try to take control of meeting my needs and obtaining my futile and so clearly backwards.

But the joy, Father, is that despite these continual failings on my part...You provide the way out of my self...the way back to You. First, You remind me of the reason for needing to abandon myself: "Christ loved us and handed himself over for us [me] as a sacrificial offering...." We were saved at a great cost. You love us so much, that You didn't think twice about doing whatever it would take. You loved...and so we live.

Second, You pick me up...lift me up...out of myself. You have already forgiven me by the time the request reaches my lips. And not only do You forgive, but You saved me from the eternal consequences of my sin.

You are merciful....You are compassionate...You are Good. You humbled Yourself...for my sake. You endured unspeakable humiliations and deprivations...for my sake. You allowed Yourself....Your be tortured...abused...spit upon...degraded...for my sake. How did You do it, Jesus? How did You restrain Yourself from wiping out all those who dare hurt You...who dare deny that You are God's Son? Surely You could have destroyed them all...and who among us would have blamed You? But that is why Your ways are not our ways.

I can only imagine You did it...You endured all for our sake...not by focusing on Yourself....but by focusing on focusing on Your/Our Father. You decided to serve...rather than be serve. You decided to put us first....rather than demand that You be first (as You most assuredly deserve). You crucified Your own flesh, long before the first nail ever pierced You. And I guess that is what I have to do. I have to be like You. As best I each situation I have to remember...that You endured far worse...You humbled Yourself far more...and so who am I to demand my "rights." Yup...that's what I need to do. That is what I should have done. I knew it!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Worthy of the Call

...lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called...Ephesians 4:1-6

This is Paul's halftime speech. This is his locker room motivation. He's begging...he's pleading with us...just live a life that is worthy of our call. He's not asking us to change the whole world. He isn't asking us to proselytize everyone on the street. He isn't asking us to sell all our worldly possessions and join a monastery. All he is asking is that we live what we believe. That we live our lives as Christians in such a way that we honor that name...the name of Christ Jesus.

God paid everything to save us. He didn't even withhold His Son...His Divinity from us. He entered our dirt and filth and sin...subjected himself to the worst of us...allowed us to place our most vile evilness on Him...and even descended into Hell...all for the sake of saving us...of making a way for us to return to Paradise.

And so when He calls us to our jobs and professions, to our marriages, to our children, to our Churches, to our neighborhoods and communities, to our world...Paul begs us to remember the price God paid...and to live a life worthy of that. We'll never be perfect. But no coach expects his team to be perfect. The expectation, I think, is that we pursue perfection. We strive to be our best...each moment...everytime. That is what I think Paul is saying. Remember you were bought at a price. Remember that you bear His name. Remember that you are God's child. And act like it. Act in a way that will honor Him....that will make Him proud.

Father, I know that so often I fall short. So many times I emerge from a situation and am convicted by what I should have done or should have said. But I ask that You continue to transform me...continue to erase the evil in me...the dirt I have let build up, and fill me with Your Spirit...with Your fruit...that I may share it with those around me. Help me to live the life You have for me...the life You desire for me. Don't let me compromise or take a shortcut. I want to live for you...I want to live out loud for you. I am so thankful for this life You have given me...for your constant blessings. I want to live boldly for You...without fear...completely abandoned to You and Your will. Help me, Father. I can't do it without You. Make me like Your Son...and through Him...make me worthy of Your call. On my own I will always fall short. But with You, through You, In You...I am worthy.

All praise be Yours...forever and ever.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Generation Lost

I have to admit I am thoroughly unfamiliar with today's passage from Luke. Having read the Bible all the way through a few years ago, I know I must have read this before...but it is foreign to me. Maybe that is because I find it so difficult.

I guess I thought by Jesus' arrival we did away with the idea of children carrying the sins of their fathers. That seems unfair...unjust. But this passage implies that our burden...our not just the sins of our fathers, but our fathers' fathers, and our fathers' fathers' fathers. order that this generation might be charged
with the blood of all the prophets
shed since the foundation of the world....
That's a tough deal. BUT...we need...I need to look at this remembering that God is Just.

It certainly isn't hard to see how we are the product of the generations before us. With all our accomplishments...with all our revivals...we are still the progression...or rather regression...of the generations before us. Since the first gift of God...the first Law of God was twisted...we haven't looked back. The distance of time somehow has lessened the tragedy of all our sin. We rationalize and dismiss many of our choices today because "that's just the culture we live in." We are the blame society after all...accountability is all but gone. We seek solace in knowing we are products of society...of culture...of "our time." But that is precisely why we stand convicted...and rightfully so. Why shouldn't the blood of the all the prophets and Apostles be on us. Unless we heed their words...unless we humble ourselves to their are we any different than those who killed them?

But I have to be careful. For God is about conviction...not guilt. Now that I see that I realize my collusion...rather than gripe about it being "unfair" AND instead of feeling overwhelmed and depressed (by the guilt and consequences of all this sin), I need to wrap myself in the blanket of God's Mercy and Grace. I need to follow the simple example of the Prodigal Son. If I just humble myself...acknowledge my sin...and start back to God, He will meet me...He will run to me before I ever get the chance to run to Him. The formula is simple...and has been for thousands of years:
...if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
Call, humble, pray, seek, and turn...that's all there is to it. God has already forgiven us...already paved the way for Eternity without blemish...without guilt. Just freedom and love. But not only are we forgiven, but the future is not yet written. It isn't too late for us. Our generation can still change. We can still honor the prophets and Apostles. All we have to do is obey. And all that responsibility to all starts...with me...

Father, please humble me...convict me of the sin in my life...convict me of all that is unholy. Strip away my pride so that I can fully embrace Your love and forgiveness. And finally, direct my next step, Father. Set me on Your path...and guide all of my steps. Teach me to honor Your servants of brothers and sisters surrounding me. Empower me to humble service. Let me be a light for my generation. Let me be a beacon for Your love...and Mercy...and Grace. I know I am unworthy, Father. But all things are possible through You.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Move Me to Your "More"

You certainly can't read today's Gospel, and walk away feeling anything but least I can't. Jesus doesn't hold back and leaves no ambiguity.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.
Whatever I am doing, whatever good I manage to allow God to do through me, there is more. More that God wants to do in me and through me. More that He's already gifted me to do. And so it begs the question...what's my problem? Why am I not doing more? God has blessed me so abundantly. He has been so incredibly patient with me all these years as I rebelled and struggled and backslid and failed. He has always "believed" in me...and in who I can be. He knows my potential...because He created it...He wove it into me. But wayward as I am...He continues to bless me...continues to call to me...continues to meet me the moment I turn back to Him...and away from sin. And yet...

I can do more...I can be more. I want to do more. I want to be more. All that is left is just doing it. I have to stop making all the excuses. I have to stop procrastinating. All I need to do is take the first step. He will point the way, and open my eyes, and give me the strength I need. He'll do all the hard work. I just need to obey.

Just recently I watched "The Blind Side" again...and again I was moved by the simple obedience...the lack of hesitation Mrs. Tuohy demonstrated. She didn't analyze and plan and weigh the options and consider the consequences. She just acted. She saw the need in this one boy (Michael Oher)...and knew in her soul that she could help...that she should help...and so she did. It was that simple. And that was just one person helping one other person. What if we all obeyed God's promptings like that? All of His promptings? What if we all just "did" and didn't worry about ourselves? What if that is how I lived?

Father, forgive me for doing so little for so long. You have blessed me with so very much. You have continually poured out Your love on me...and I have hidden it under the bushel. Infuse me with Your Spirit...wipe away my laziness. Move me to the "More" You have for me. Let me see where I can share Your love. Open my eyes to how I can obey. Make my life about You...not about me. I know I am weak...but I also know that You are strong...and I am strong through You. Your Spirit has convicted lead me in Your will. From this moment forward I want to live in Your More. Please hear me, Father...this is my heart's cry.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Maybe because Christmas trees are already appearing in stores, or because I stumbled across a Christmas song while introducing my daughter to U2 and Frank Sinatra, but when I read today's reading from Paul, I was struck by the idea of God bringing us "nearer."
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have become near by the Blood of Christ.
What does this have to do with Christmas you may ask? Well for me, one of the big of the echos in my soul at Christmas that God Came Near....God is with Us. Such a magnanimous gesture...that our Creator humbled Himself, and came closer to us...He lowered Himself to be closer to us. And now I see...not only did He lower Himself, but He also lifted us up. He drew us closer to Him. And what really strikes how He is doing all the work. Moving us to Him...Him coming closer to us. I mean how much greater of a demonstration of His love for us do we need? How much more evidence do we I understand that God wants me...desires me...appreciates me...loves me...just as I am. We are infinitely valuable to Him...despite our sin...despite our stubbornness...despite our rebellion. God loves us. He will move Heaven and Earth...and even Himself for our sake. Think about it! He asks so little of us...and yet with just a little bit of effort on our part...we move infinitely Him.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Today I felt a familiar sting in Paul's letter to Timothy: Do not be enamored by the present world. It stings because I know I'm guilty of it. I am enamored with this world. I cling to it...I hold on to it....and the thought of leaving it scares me to death (almost).

But my attachment to this world is not about material I expect many interpret Paul's warning. I mean sure I love technology and gadgets as much as the next guy (I could go on and on about my iPad), and I don't pretend that I wouldn't throw a mild tantrum if for some reason I had to give away my iPad or flatscreen TV or car. But I honestly think I could do it if necessary. I mean as cool as all this stuff is...I recognize it's really of little significance in the grand scheme (as I think George Carlin brilliantly (if irreverently) demonstrated). And the same goes for money. I appreciate money...I like having it...I try to be a good steward of it...but I don't think about it too much. I certainly don't worry about it (though obviously much of that is because of the goodness and blessings God has bestowed on me and my family).

No...I am attached to this world...or "enamored" with it at a deeper, and I think more serious, level. I think I see it most clearly when I think about dying. The simple truth is...I don't want to die. I mean I am sure most people don't WANT to die, but as a Christian, shouldn't I be looking forward to (maybe even longing) for the day when I am united with Jesus in Heaven...when I leave this broken world and return home? But if I'm honest, I have to admit I'm really not looking forward to that at all. (Forgive me, Jesus.)

And it's not that I don't want to have an intimate relationship with my Savior...I do...and hopefully I am pursuing that every day. It's also not that I am concerned with how I am going to die...or that I am worried about whether I will get to go to Heaven when I do die.'s really more about when am I going to die...and I guess partly...what happens after we die. [Just thinking about this last issue brings me to the brink of what I imagine would be a panic attack if I let chest hurts...its hard to heart is racing...]

I realized awhile ago (because I've been dealing with this for a long time)...that this desperate attachment I have to this my rooted in my unwillingness to let go of this life. I don't want to die because I have plans. I have things I want to do. There are people here that I believe need me...and they need me here.

When I really think about it, I see that at some place below the surface of my soul, I am unwilling to accept and believe with my heart (not just my mind) that my plans are nothing compared to God's plans...and that I can't begin to realize the first part of any plan without God's help....and that despite how important I like to think I am, there is no need that anyone has (including those of my wife and daughter), that God can not meet either with or without me, and certainly infinitely better than I can. And when I look at it that way, my "love" of this world is really just pride and arrogance.

But it isn't just that, because I also worry about what Heaven will be like. What will we do all "day?" What will we be? To be honest, some of the images of Heaven and eternity that are out there are a bit...unsettling. Is eternity all about harps and church services all day? Are we absorbed into God in such a way that we lose who we are as individuals? Or is it more the way C.S. Lewis describes it...a world not unlike our current one, but more real. (Oh how I hope it is the latter.)

And still if I push further, all of this...all of my pride and fear boil down to me being worried about me. Despite all my failings, all my sinfulness, all my issues...I don't want to lose "me." And that, I'm afraid, is maybe the more dangerous kind of world-enamor, because at the core of loving this world...of worrying about not believing or trusting God.

So here I am...all self-analyzed with he curtain of my soul pulled back. And once again I am confronted with the simplicity of the fix.

If I just believe (not just intellectually, but emotionally and spiritually believe) that God is in control, that He does love me, that He made me, that His Son rose from the dead, that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for me...if I believe all these things (and all the other promises in the Bible)...and I mean really believe them...then I can live life with open hands...letting God put in them whatever He wants me to have and also letting Him take whatever He knows I no longer need. If I really just believed all the things Christ died to tell me, then I would be enamored with Him instead of this world. And if I really was enamored with Him...then my eternal life would begin right now...and Heaven would be here on Earth.

The Prayer of Paul

In the readings on Saturday, Paul is praying for the Ephesians asking:

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance...
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe....
What an incredible prayer and what a gift the answer would be. To know the Hope in God's call on my really know what He wants me to do...and to have complete faith and confidence in knowing it will succeed. To behold the riches of His glory as my inheritance...simply because He loves me...and chose me...and accepted me as his child. To live with the surpassing greatness of his live free of of hesitation...because I know I am powered by His Spirit...the force of Life.

Father, this is my prayer for me....for all of us. That I may know you as Paul describes...that you are real and present to me in a radical way...a life changing way. And not just me...but be real and present to all of your Church. Transform us all...into Lightbearers...images of Your Son.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Gluttons for Sin

Earlier this week the daily readings dropped us in the middle of Paul's admonition of the Galatians for doubting...and faltering in the Faith. Interestingly he challenges us not to "submit again to the yoke of slavery"...which is to say sin.

I know I have read this many times...and it may even be one of the pieces of Scripture I could quote (through probably not cite specifically). But I'm just realizing the true nature of his warning here.

He is not warning us about "falling" into sin. He is not telling us to take heed lest we wander into sin or get dragged in by others. No. He is telling us that we must fight against our deliberate, conscious choosing of sin.

Before we came to know Christ, we still had a choice...but we had no power to power to break away and deny those stubborn, evil impulses the world taught us.

This reminds me of a song done many years ago by the group The Newsboys (who by the way have a great new song out right now called "Born Again"). Here is how they described it:

Like a criminal guilty on all counts,
rattling his cage with every ounce
of resolve he never had,
I was convicted.

Then I took the pardon
and the walls came down,
but I must like it here,
'cause I keep hanging around
for a better suit, and an escort,
and a winning lottery ticket.

First we waited for miracles.
Then we needed a sign.
Now we're here to confess
we've wasted the time.

Despite that we have been set free by Christ...despite that we now have the strength and the power (through the Holy Spirit) to resist flee from resist and deny the worst parts of ourselves...we don't. At least we don't all the time...and maybe we don't much of the time.

Somehow, we feel comfortable in our our crud. I imagine it is like the ex-con who was in prison for so long, that he forgets how to live outside of that prison...and so rather than fight through is easier to go back...easier to choose sin again.

I can't begin to count the number of times I've committed the same sin (and THAT is the frustration...its the same sin) over and over again...immediately feeling the conviction of God's Spirit...begging and receiving His forgiveness...and then on another day in another situation being weak...and sinning (that same sin) once again.

Don't get me wrong, I know we all sin...and I know we will never be perfected in this life...sin is a consequence of our collective rebellion. But damn if it isn't frustrating to see myself regressing...and doing so willingly (at least at that moment).

But that's why we need Paul...and the rest of Scripture...and the Saints....and our brothers and sisters here on Earth. We need to encourage one another. We need to build eachother up...and maybe sometimes hold eachother up (i.e.

We need to constantly remind eachother that...We are indeed! We can choose! We can choose to leave our prisons of sin! We can walk through the open door...and into the Life of Christ...the life he has waiting for us in Him. And if we make that decision one moment at a time...if I make that decision one moment at a time...I know I will find Christ with me...taking that step with me...right by my side.

“Free at last; free at last; thank God Almighty we are free at last.”
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.