Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! -- Psalms 27:14
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
It is human nature to cling and hold back – cling and complain. Let it go, someone says. You don’t understand, we reply. If you were in this situation, if it were your child, your spouse, your house, your job, …. Meanwhile we tell ourselves and anyone who can be cornered to listen how it ought to be. Endlessly. I don’t think this is what the Bible means by waiting. Waiting requires a surrender of potential.
The highest point in Missouri is a place called Taum Sauk. It seems like it is 1700+ feet above sea level, not exactly Everest, but it a true mountain created by volcanic uplift as opposed to erosion. A few miles from the peak of the Taum Sauk ridge, on Proffit Mountain sits theTaum Sauk Hydroelectric Power Station. Water has to be pumped to the upper reservoir of the generating plant, so the power station is really a giant backup battery to supply electricity for AmerenUE customers during peak demand. Pumping water to that elevation creates a huge amount of potential energy. We were given an idea of just how much energy on December 14, 2005 when the upper reservoir failed and poured a billion gallons of water down into Johnson’s Shut-Ins StatePark. Thankfully no one was killed. The park superintendent, his wife and children were swept away in the flood but survived.
The water in the upper reservoir naturally sought “rest”, the lowest point it could find. Its unleashed potential scoured a tree-covered hillside down to the bedrock before it found that rest.
The intentional, controlled release of potential is beneficial. If I voluntarily surrender to the Lord’s will and to His timing, I will find my rest in due season. On the other hand, if I stubbornly cling to my high place, refusing to seek the lowest point of servitude, I will eventually have a dangerous and destructive fall.
I belong to the Lord. I am His servant. What does a servant do? He waits on his Master. My potential is surrendered constructively and purposefully at the appropriate times in that service.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. -- Hebrews 11:16
Making the world a better place sounds like a good idea. I think, sometimes, those who reject God and criticize believers -- especially the followers of Christ, are disappointed, perhaps even frustrated that we have not, through the power of God, gotten rid of evil and corruption.
Utopian plans and schemes are towers of Babel. The foundations may start out well enough, but before the builders reach the heavens, there is conflict for their goals and their visions are no longer one. The utopias – even the Christian ones, will invariably come up short.
There is a saying that some people are so “heavenly minded” they are no earthly good. C.S. Lewis, though, somewhere in his writings, suggested that it was really those most oriented toward heaven who ended up doing the most good on Earth. If heaven is our goal, we get Earth thrown in. When we seek only the good the world has to offer, we get neither.
Living in the kingdom, living the kingdom life, transforms the world around us. Anyone can see it on a smaller scale if they fall in love or have a child or grandchild. The presence, even the thought, of a loved one lifts the soul and spirit, makes the darkest day brighter. The world becomes a slightly better place because there is someone we love. The kingdom of heaven, with its law of love, does the same thing on a grander scale.
The kingdom of heaven is within you, Jesus said. Love cannot be imposed by external forces. I may comply with the laws of an earthly kingdom but I cannot be made to love, and without love, there is no transformation. It is possible to manipulate people with fear, hate, lies and deception. They will go along with the plan, to some extent, for a while. It all ends, as we saw in the last century, with bloodshed, millions dying by violence and starvation – all for the “greater good” and the glorious utopian dreams of the well-intentioned.
But they reply, The blood-letting was done by mad men. Indeed, it is the mad who rise to rule where God is locked out, and men become mad when they have the power of life and death.
Love or death is the only choice reality offers. Experience the metamorphosis of love. Enter the kingdom of love and let the God of love rule in your heart. The world will change.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. -- Hebrews 5:8
Yesterday we talked about recognizing and accepting God’s “higher definition” of us as His children while refusing to allow ourselves to be limited, constrained and condemned by the accuser and his agents. This verse today is the other side of that reality. Sonship was the rightful position of the Lord Jesus, but it was necessary, for our sakes, that He discover experientially the suffering of humanity in order that He might be an effective and eternal High Priest on our behalf.
We confess the vicarious and substitutionary suffering and death of Christ atoning for the sin of humanity. Hebrews reveals a deeper truth. God Himself, though knowing all things, could not fully understand and identify with us until He, too, took on flesh, walked among us, felt the pain of loss, and faced the black abyss of death for Himself.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). When Jesus was preparing His disciples for what was to come as He went to the Cross, He said, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever … (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is that Helper, the Paracletos, the One called alongside, the Comforter.
As strange as it sounds, suffering introduces us to comfort. The Comforter is revealed to us most expressly in the pains and losses of life. Why do we think it strange that we must suffer as Christ Himself suffered? How can one who has never been comforted possess the power to comfort another? When was God ever comforted? When He suffered and died in separation from His Father.
During the Feast of Tabernacles, on the last day of the Feast, Jesus stood up and invited everyone who was thirsty to come to Him and drink. He said from the innermost being of those who would believe on Him there would flow rivers of living water. John adds this: Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:39).
Jesus could not yet give the Comforter for He Himself had not yet experienced the need for comfort that His ultimate suffering brought Him into.
Every loss is an emptying. Every pain is a wound into which the balm of the Holy Spirit may be poured. We will never suffer the full measure of loss and pain which Jesus endured, but what we do experience opens us to receive more of the Comforter’s presence and power. The more that is poured into us, filling the void that suffering has created, relieving the agony of thirst we experience for meaning in the midst of our pain, the more we will have to pour out to those around us as they hurt and need an advocate and a helper.
Monday, September 21, 2015
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13
Did you ever stop and think about how your life and your limitations were defined? How many of us are where we are because someone encouraged us in some area or discouraged us? We define ourselves sometimes by past mistakes, failures, and negative experiences.
Today, the Bible says, is the day of salvation: For he says, In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Regardless of how we looked at ourselves and our abilities in the past, today we can be made whole. Today we can stop looking at ourselves as sinners and losers. Today we can allow the Word of God and the will of God to define us as children of God.
That is not to say that the negative stuff will stop. We may have people around us who will try to bring us back down for one reason or another and often with good intentions. We need to have faith in what the word of God says. We need to use that faith as a shield to keep the accusations, slander, scorn, and unjust criticisms of the world from getting into our hearts.
If we do make mistakes – and we will – at least I will, we accept our responsibility for those mistakes, but we must refuse to allow errors, sins, and faults to define us. Those are the mistakes of the flesh, a result of living with a fallen nature in a fallen world. We also have a new nature, given to us by the grace of God in Christ Jesus. That is who we are, and … we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). Far too many who call themselves Christians still live under the burden of the old life. This is not the salvation and deliverance that God intends for His children. Jesus did not go to the Cross bearing my sins, shame, and humiliation that I might continue to live broken and shattered in this world. He found us broken and rejected. He came to put us together. Believe it.
Friday, September 11, 2015
For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear. -- Ecclesiastes 5:7
It has been a busy week despite the fact that I took a couple of days of vacation following the Monday holiday, or maybe that’s the reason it has seemed busy. I have covered quite a bit of ground, without accomplishing much in a tangible way. Yet, I think that what I did had value. I spent time with people that I love and did what I could to make them happy and to draw out their laughter.
“God is the one” – yes, we must fear Him as we fear a loving father, fear that our attention will wander, that we will be distracted by the baubles and din of Vanity Fair and lose track of Him, not be able to hear His voice above or through the stridency of the world’s shouting and pot-beating. He is the One.
Here in this valley town, the circus has arrived, and we all go out to see the sights. They fascinate and transfix, glow and fade and swirl. Over here and over there are urgent calls, what we might miss if we don’t run, hither and yon.
The waterfall is inspiring and delightful to behold. Not much lives in the falls, and those who pass through risk destruction. It serves its purpose, for winnowing, breaking, and even death have their times. The river is one, and there is life where the waters run deep and still.