Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why Aren't We Crying?

I read the news this morning of 700 Africans drowning in the Mediterranean. And I cried. I was in a bustling coffee shop surrounded by strangers, and I put my head in my hands and cried. It was the correct response to such horrible desperation.

For if we claim to be followers of Jesus, where are our tears? If we can read of 700 desperate Africans fleeing hunger and violence without putting our heads down and sobbing, then what is wrong with us? Where have we gone wrong? To what are we giving our hearts if not to relieve the pain of people who are just like us. Moms dads sons daughters brothers sisters. We are all the same. 

It is scary how hard it is to love others. We are told plainly and often to love each other, but we do it so poorly. Why is it so difficult? Why do we complicate it so? Does this go back to fear? To pride? To our constant struggle to die to self? To die to our need to get our own way? 

"Meditate on Jesus, who is the ultimate meditation of God. Look at him loving you. Look at him dying for you. Look at him rejoicing in you. Look at him singing over you. Look at all that, and he will be a delight to you. . . " Timothy Keller, Prayer, Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

It is only in seeing how well Jesus loves me, that I can ever hope to love others. By admitting and holding onto how lovable and valuable Jesus sees me, I can then look at every other person and see them as lovable and valuable. This should change everything about how I live EVERY day. Because love is an action. Love has hands and feet. Love is not a word. Love is a way of living.

The Lord your God is among you, 
a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will bring you quietness with His love.
He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”
Zephaniah 3:17

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Where is Our Desperation?

I spent the weeks between Lent and Easter deep in the Bible, spending hours each day with Jesus, re-reading his last days, talking with him, meditating on his Word. It was wonderful. I experienced the celebration of his resurrection more deeply than ever before in my life.

And yet the day after Easter I spoke these words to my husband, “Why aren’t we as Christians desperate for humility? Why don’t we crave it? Why don’t we recognize how hopeless we are to live – to truly live – what Jesus calls us to do if we do not ooze humility?

I believe that until humility lives deep inside me, until humility drowns out my selfish desires, I cannot really know Jesus. Because until humility reigns in me, I just keep getting in the way of my savior.

This morning I read an article written by Timothy Keller entitled, The Advent of Humility. It’s a great article but also discouraging. Here are a few highlights:

“Once we become aware of the poison of pride, we begin to notice it all around us.” This is where I am today. After walking all these years with Jesus, I began to notice and despair of the pride that has ruled me, that has been the source of so many of the struggles I have faced down over the years. Today, my most frequent prayer is that humility will live in me. That pride will be forced out. That I will die to my own selfishness. But Keller says, “Humility is so shy. If you begin talking about it, it leaves.” What I have to be proud of I cannot imagine, because as Keller says, “Our sin was so great, nothing less than the death of Jesus could save us.” This must drop me to my knees every time!

I used to believe that behaving made God love me more. Keller describes it like this, “When people living in the moral-performance narrative base their self-worth on being hard working or theologically sound, then they must look down on those whom they perceive to be lazy or theologically weak.”

Today, I am living into this new way of believing, “But those who understand the gospel cannot possibly look down on anyone, since they were saved by sheer grace, not by their perfect doctrine or strong moral character.”

“When the gospel is deeply grasped, however, our need to win arguments is removed, and our language becomes gracious. We don’t have to ridicule our opponents, but instead we can engage them respectfully.” I desperately want this in me.

Keller goes on to say:

“In the chapter, ‘The Great Sin’, in Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, ‘Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good – above all, that we are better than someone else – I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil.’”

“Humility is only achieved as a byproduct of understanding, believing, and marveling in the gospel of grace. . . . when we listen to the gospel preached or meditate on it in the Scriptures, we are driving it so deeply into our hearts, imaginations, and thinking that we begin to instinctively ‘live out’ the gospel.”

“So let us preach grace till humility starts to grow in us.” Yes, please, Jesus! Make this so in me!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Thirteen

John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

1 Peter 2:9 But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. (The Message)

Am I living sent? Jesus said, Go. Tell. Share these amazing events. Go. Share. Tell. Change the world. Because we can. Oh, we like to say I'm just one person. What can I do? But I can change the world for one person, for that person standing in front of me, living next door to me. For that single mom. That fatherless child. It is not complicated. It just takes time. It just requires me to share myself. It just requires me to live for someone other than me.

We are so good at making excuses. Truly, we have perfected the art of why it can't be done. For why else would we hunker down within the walls of our homes and our churches, our divided denominations? The instructions Jesus gave are simple. "Go" he said. Share what I have done for you. Love everyone. Help everyone. Live through the lens of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control. Towards every person.

Am I living this? Do I know my neighbors' names? Or am I afraid and hunkered down? Am I sharing my life only with those who look and believe just like me?

Go! Because Jesus died a gruesome death for me. He rose in triumph for me. How can I ever allow the lazy, scared part of me to win over all I have been given in Jesus. It is for freedom that Jesus came and set me free. Let's set some more people free.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Twelve

Matthew 28:16-20
The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Oh, the relief and joy the disciples must have felt at seeing Jesus alive, at being able to touch him, to fall face down and worship him.

Oh, the sweet forgiveness of Peter, for while Judas is not included here, we see the other "11 disciples" were.

"And some doubted." This bothered me so I researched the original Greek and the original word indicates "hesitation," the kind of hesitation a person experiences when in a new situation.

And then Jesus tells them to go everywhere, teaching everyone to do "what I have commanded you." I'm thinking of what we see Jesus doing and saying in the time he spent with his disciples. It is not a teaching of rules. It is a teaching of the heart. Love each other, care for each other, open up space for dignity for every person. And in all of this, point the way to a loving God. A God who gave it all up for me. For you. For freedom. He is risen, indeed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Eleven

Mark 16:9 Early on the first day of the week, after He had risen, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. 

And Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, the most messed up of his followers. I love it! A woman from whom Jesus had previously cast out seven demons. Who could have loved him more? Even before his death and resurrection, which gave Mary hope of eternal life, Jesus had already given her new life. A life free of demons. He gave her back herself. Who could have loved Jesus more?

Mark 16:10-13 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, as they were mourning and weeping. Yet, when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. Then after this, He appeared in a different form to two of them walking on their way into the country. And they went and reported it to the rest, who did not believe them either.

And Mary ran and told the mourning and weeping disciples and they did not believe her. Even when two more believers came and told them Jesus was alive, they did not believe. We humans just have such a hard time believing outside what we are already believing, outside of what we previously have experienced. We struggle so greatly to let go of ourselves, to release our "I know better" attitude. Oh how I crave the humility that allows me to depend on Jesus and not myself.

Jesus, please help me not be blind to your truth. Because I don't know everything and when you reveal more of yourself to me, more of who you are, more of your truth, I want to believe.

Mark 16:14-20 Later, He appeared to the Eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table. He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who saw Him after He had been resurrected. Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.” Then after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs.

"Since this moment the universe is no longer what is was; 
nature has received another meaning; history is
transformed and you and I are no more, and should not be
anymore, what we were before." 
Paul Tillich