Saturday, December 29, 2012

Is It Time Yet?

I always got a kick out of our first glimpse of the adult Jesus at a party with his mother. When she asks Him to do something, He tells her He doesn't think it's a good idea.  Sounds like conversations I've had with my own thirty-something son:
"Not now, Mom."
"Really? Now?"
Sounds a bit like what Jesus said to his own mother:
Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.--John 2:4
At least He called her 'dear woman.'
But, aside from the common familiar comedy of it, the situation reminds me of something important.
Even in the kingdom of God, there are times for things.

Jesus knew this at the above wedding, when He told His mom that it was not yet time for Him to be acclaimed for public miracles.
He knew this later, when His friends went to Jerusalem for the festival, but He did not:
Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do.--John 7:6
He also knew when His time had finally come:
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."--John 12:23

And He also knew when the time had not only come, but was over:
 “It is finished.”--John 19:30

It is the same for us.
There are times for things.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to reap, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance...--Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

It's true.
Once a life situation begins, it will probably end.
Once we pick something up, we will probably have to put it down.
Once we take someone into our life, we will probably have to let them go.

Not worship, love, or my battle with sin, of course. Those will continue all my life.
But the others? They will all, at some time, end.
And it's OK.
Their time has either not yet come, or is over.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spitting Images Sometimes Still Spit

Two peas in a pod...
Frick and frack...
It's reassuring to be like someone. 
More than likely, your best friends are like you in many ways. It's how we get along.

But it's not how we grow.
God did not make a church of identical twins. Instead, He made complementary parts.
Just as each one of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.--Romans 12:4

But we don't like that.  We want people just like us. We want the minister to preach in a way that reaches us. We want the kind of music that moves us. We want a liturgy that is meaningful to us.
And we expect it to reach, and move, and be meaningful to everybody else, too.

Well, that is not God's plan.
We are different.  And we are stuck with each other.
We do not get to change other people to be like us.
And we do not get to divide ourselves from them because they are different.

The church is meant to be more like a family, complete with weird Uncle Ralph and crazy Grandma Mabel.  Or maybe a husband who just doesn't understand us. Or a child who has broken our heart. They are an intentional gift from God. We are supposed to learn to love them exactly as they are.

Spitting images get along pretty effortlessly, but we rarely have the opportunity to find out. More often, we share our lives with people very different from ourselves and have to figure out how to share in peace. It is good. God would have us make the effort.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Born by Will

Of all children physically born into this world, of all ages and times, only Jesus Christ chose to do it.
I did not choose to be born.  Neither did you.
I did not choose my time, my place, or my parents.
But He did.

And, by doing so, by inhabiting a physical body, by living and dying, He made it possible for us to do the same.
Now, we can be born by our own choice and the Father's will, just like He was.

To those who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God--children born not out of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband's will, but born of God.--John 1:12-13

By believing we choose, and we are made new.
As Christ was born by His own consent to fulfill His Father's purpose, so can we be.
And when we are, Christmas shines through us all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Just Wanted You to Understand

It is not my job to make people understand.
What? What about evangelizing? What about the Great Commission?
Sorry. Not my job.Not that, and not a lot of other stuff, too.
At least not unless God gives it to me.

So, what is my job? To listen and obey.
That's it.  Always.
It was the same for Jesus.
The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.--John 14:31
To obey is better than sacrifice.--1Samuel 15:22

In the life He has given me, God has not made the salvation of strangers my primary concern. Unless my life dramatically changes, evangelism takes a back seat to being a godly wife and mother and grandmother and employee, and writer, and teacher. He has already placed those front and center. I must leave them there until He replaces them, and trust that He knows what He is doing, even if it doesn't look like other people expect.

And I do not need to explain this to anyone. Neither do you.
Saint Augustine said, "Oh, Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself."
And I do lust for it--to be clearly understood, to just make someone understand why. I want it badly.  And that is lust and lust is sin.
I just wanted you to understand.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cries in Ramah

It's nearly Christmas.
We are not supposed to be crying.
But we do.
Horrible things happen and we do.

Sometimes, we cannot muster up the requisite Christian joy.
But for those times, God gives us hope.
Hope: the gift God gives when we believe, in spite of circumstance, that He loves us.

"Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage.  Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.--Augustine of Hippo

So, if there is no joy for the moment, hope bears us up. And later, joy will come.

On earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart! I have over come the world.--John 16:32-33 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Do Not Forget

God does not forgive, much less forget.
At least not in the way we most often think about it.
Just saying.

He never makes our sins just go 'poof!' and disappear. 
He does, however, move them.
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.--Isaiah 44:22 far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.--Psalm 103:12
But He does not make sin disappear until somebody dies.

When we know we are guilty, He does not forgive.
When we repent, He does not forgive.
Only after somebody dies does God forgive and, for us, God wants that person to be Jesus.

When we repent and believe, our sins are moved to Jesus' back, and He died for them, all of them. 
If we don't repent and believe, we are stuck with our own sins, forever, all the way into eternity, where we must do the dying for them.

Imagine that, every time we lie, a soldier drives another nail through Jesus' hand into the cross.
Every time we cheat or betray or love the world,--another nail, and another and another.
Don't kid yourself.
If you expect forgiveness, this must happen. It must. Either that, or you hang on to your sins right into hell.
The only way out is to stop sinning, which we should probably give serious consideration.
But forgetting may not be such a good idea.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Don't You Dare Kiss Me

The Bible tells us to be gentle.  It tells is to be patient, too, and to forbear with one another.
"I can do that," I think.
When someone cuts in line at the grocery, I can keep my mouth shut.
When I'm picking up socks for the fifth day in a row, I can almost smile.
When I get passed up for a promotion, I can try harder next time.
I'm doing pretty good.

How about if the person in the grocery cuts off my arm instead of cutting in line?
What if I must pick up a sword rather than socks?
Or if I get chosen for the gas chamber rather than passed up for promotion?
It gets a little harder, doesn't it?
But Jesus did it, and He did it for Judas, who He knew would sell Him out.

Just before Judas walked out of the upper room to collect his thirty pieces of silver, what did Jesus do?
He prayed for him, he took off his robe, knelt before him to wash his dirty, smelly, betraying feet, and then Jesus fed Judas' conniving body with His own body and blood, the bread of life and the cup of salvation.
He forbore with Judas' outright evil  not only without complaint, but without apparently even noticing. 
And me?
I bristle with annoyance at the hint of a perceived wrong.
I know offense at the smallest slight.

A person who needs a bath needs only wash his feet; his whole body is clean.  And you are not clean, though not every one of you.  You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.--John 13:10, 7

Later you will understand.  Later--like now.
Thank you, Jesus, for training me with socks and checkout lines.
And please, please forgive my sad selfishness.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Real Zombie Walk

Everybody's talking about a coming zombie apocalypse.
I used to think they were joking.

After all, what is a zombie?
The dictionary says it is "the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose."
Colloquial observation  tells me that a zombie is a mindless, soulless, automaton. Neither reason nor sentiment affects it.  Kill one if you can, because nothing else will stop it.

Don't think you've run up against a zombie lately? 
You have. 
Every time we see someone intentionally follow a course they know is wrong or destructive.
Every time someone refuses responsibility they know is rightfully theirs.
Every time someone denies obvious truth or reason.
Every time someone does wrong because someone else has. 

Take a close look at their blank stare. You've seen it before, and often. 
 And what's worse, we've been warned:
They refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears.--Zechariah 7:11
They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.--2Timothy 4:4
Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.--Isaiah 6:10
To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears and closed so they cannot hear.--Jeremiah 6:10

People who function without thought, without reflection, without reason--they are the zombies. They probably won't groan or wear that telltale blood on their shirt, but they are zombies nonetheless. 

And, in their own way, they are just as dangerous.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Only Miracle

Jesus, the very Power of God, showed the world who He was in part by performing miracles.
To do this, He had to approach the filthy and festering, the poor and vile.  They were all the same to Him.
They were sinners who needed His miracle.
And so am I.
I need His miracle, too.

This is what I ask of my God--
As You made them see again, give me sight.
As You made them hear, open my ears to holy Truth.
As You made them walk, keep my steps turned toward your leading.
As You cured withered hands, keep mine devoted to your service.
As You raised them from dead, keep me in new life.

Now, Christ healed generously in kindness and compassion, but I know that part of the healing is my responsibility.  I have, in this transaction, something to do, too.
I must truly desire change.
What do you want me to do for you?--Mark 10:51
That is the hardest part.
I must want the miracle so badly that I stop being what I am, what I have nurtured and built in myself, the only 'me' I know.

Instead, I must zealously follow Him, look for Him, desire Him.
I must trust Him.
I must listen.
I must love Him with my whole heart, soul, and mind.

Then I will receive the real miracle.
There is, after all, only one.
It isn't the healed hand or the seeing eye or the sure step.
The miracle is only and always the glimpse of Himself that He brings every day.
Say only the word, and my soul shall be healed.--Matthew 8:8