January 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
Robert E. Webber, the Divine Embrace
It is a new year and it is all there for the taking. What do you see before you?
If I am honest I have to admit that I sometimes cheat myself out of what is before me because of what lies behind. There are so many words I can’t un-speak, so many mistakes I can’t un-do, and so many people I can’t ‘un-hurt.’ We think we move on, but the deceiver loves dragging us into his warped version of the past, where grace is never has a part. It is all so personal and easily devolves into paralyzing guilt. Sometimes I’ll apologize to one of our children for something I did, or didn’t do when they were young, only to have them say that they don’t know what I’m talking about.
We can make ourselves prisoners of the past, even when the past isn’t holding on.
I think Robert Webber is right in saying that the story of any given religion shapes our spirituality (and therefore how we view life and perceive the world). And I see this all the more clearly when I am pressed to function and respond in the unknown. Because in the story we were born into the future is always terrifying and the ending is never good. The weight of failures and past injuries tend to find their way into our greatest hopes.
And this is what I love about the gospel. It is the new story – the story we have been invited into. And in this story, at the heart of the plot is Jesus, who entered into all that causes fear, dread and regret, to bring what we always dream we may have but never feel we can obtain – Redemption. In other words, that old narrative is only relevant so far as we allow it to be.
So here is the New Year. Only fear will make the future appear to be terrifying – a fear born of the story you were not meant to any longer be defined by.
Is this what you want?
But the new story beckons, and everything lovely that it represents is before you: reconciled relationships, forgiven sins, healed wounds, restored families, renewed passion, grace for all you can never ‘fix’ on your own – it is all there.
What are you waiting for?
It isn’t that we have overcome, but that Jesus has, and because of this, with Paul we can ‘forget what lies behind… straining forward to what lies ahead’ (Philippians 3), not because we know how things will go in the year, but because we know how the big story ends.
What good, mysterious, exciting news…
Happy New Year.
December 31, 2012 § 3 Comments
In a few hours the New Year will be reality. The Mayans have been proven wrong, and the world has survived. Though this is in no way an exhaustive list, take the encouragements offered as musings from the heart of a simple pastor and fellow sinner who remains unfinished to the core, but redeemed none the less.
An Encouragement to Remember Who You Are (ala Mufasa in James Earl Jones voice in The Lion King) – The fact is that life is a struggle between competing forces that constantly vie for our identity. Each offers plausible shortcuts to all kinds of good things such as respectability, success, fulfillment and peace. But they require energies and compromises that we weren’t created to bend our hearts around, and in the end they compromise us, and others. So find your identity in Jesus – Christ alone offers unconditional love without diminishing our dignity.
Be who you are! God likes you that way. And deep down, so do you. Sure, you will meet with some rejection – that is an unavoidable consequence of the fall, but the alternative is to live in a pretend world that fools everyone except God – Oh… and the person you see in the mirror each morning.
An Encouragement to Live for Something Greater than Yourself – Katherine and I saw Lincoln this past week. It is worth more than the price of admission – an amazingly well acted, scripted and directed movie. What struck me was that Abraham Lincoln lived only 56 years, just one year longer than I have been alive. They were hard years, particularly towards the end of his life. But what he was used for in those years! The fact is that God put you here for a good purpose. It may be as simple as being a good parent, as public as holding an elected office, or as undetected as providing some faithful service in a broken world. Just determine to not come to the end of your life and conclude that you set the bar too low. Every instinct will tell you that you can’t do this, and you’re right, but as our Director of College & High School Ministries said yesterday, (Patrick Allen), Because God is faithful we have the hope of what will one day be. – Rest in that faithfulness.
So Live! Look past your short lifetime believing that what you do and who you are count for something larger than yourself.
An Encouragement to Pursue Jesus – Let me challenge you to make this a year to deepen your roots with God. Enter the adventure that is redemption, only don’t rely primarily on secondary sources – With the Christian life Relationship is everything, and our relationship with God deepens in His Word. Facebook is great for social interaction, but quaint spiritual sayings on pink or light green backgrounds are no replacement for journeying into God’s story, and ours. A simple admission may help here: I do ‘personal devotions’ only three times a week (sermon prep doesn’t count). It’s true – My life is crazy, and spending time in God’s Word is not as simple as a New Year’s resolution. Sure, I reflect on what I read throughout the entire week, and I enjoy a constant life of prayer, but when it comes to the discipline of bible reading, I give more energy and passion to those three days than I would under some formulaic system borne of guilt. And don’t deny yourself thoughtful authors who stretch your faith and challenge you to grow. God has revealed Himself, and Jesus tells us that He can be found beyond our natural layers of self-protection, not only in His Word, but also His World, the broken and weak, the lovely and beautiful. Expect Him to make Himself known to you.
So discover Jesus freshly! And hey, sometimes all we can do is remain near until He shows up. I am confident that He will in some way you never expected, and when He does, you’ll realize that He was not only waiting, but also pursuing you all along – even in your doubts.
An Encouragement to Love – God has put people in your life – people you know and people you don’t know. Love them well. Don’t let those you know just assume that you care. Care. There is nothing sweeter than being loved beyond obligation. Whether your immediate family or your church community, in the end, you will be thankful that actively caring for loved ones is not among your regrets. Give strangers the gift of kindness, signaling to them that no one is invisible to God. Jesus even calls our enemies our neighbors, so love the ‘neighborhood’ God has placed you in, whether faces are recognizable or not, and discover that the world changes in small, kindness-shaped bytes. And you may never know what unexpected charity brings to the recipients.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Trust me, you’ll be disappointed time and again by putting yourself out there, even by those you most love, but an unloved and unloving, calloused heart is no match for one that is tender to the risks of love. And somewhere along the journey, you’ll remember that God didn’t wait for you to clean up before making you His.
For the New Year, this is good news…
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you… Philippians 1:3