Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One Way Or The Other

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19
Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you! Joshua 3:5.

Not long ago, my son and I were watching an episode of one of our "it's a guy thing" shows on TV, "Mythbusters." The myth being tested was whether or not you could stop a car moving at full-speed by suddenly shifting the transmission into reverse. Now, I've never tried to do this (and not sure why anybody would want to), but I do know what happened when I tried to put the car into a gear it wasn't ready to go into! I don't think anyone ever forgets the sound of those grinding gears! Needless to say, the myth was "busted" (proved wrong), as they never were able to get a car, regardless of the type of transmission, to shit into and unwanted gear and force a stop.

The flip-side of this reminds me of a biblical truth that permeates all of Scripture: you can't move forward if you're stuck in reverse. Reverse, for the sake of our discussion, is what we'll affectionately call "the past" and Forward we'll carefully call "the future." The simple fact is that the greatest obstacle to us embracing the future is our tendency to cling to the past.

All through God's Bible, we see God doing one amazing thing after another. Yet, at the same time, we never see Him do something the same way twice. How often we long for the "good ol' days" when it seems everything was better - and probably some of those things were. I have seen people spend incredible amounts of time and money in an effort to recreate those days. They are so reluctant to shift out of the past...to shift out of Reverse.

Problem is, until we are willing to shift out of Reverse, we can never go Forward - we just can't go both directions at the same time - it must be one way or the other. Now, this doesn't mean to forget the past...that would be foolish. But we must realize that the purpose of the past is to provide a solid foundation of learning, and thus, actually prepare us for the future. We would be lost without our past, and we should never throw it away. But correctly understood, it will always propel us into the future.

God has an abundance of amazing, new things prepared for us, ahead of us, but we'll only enjoy them as we move Forward. Because God's purposes are unshakeable, we can gratefully let go of the past, confidently embrace the future and thoughfully accept His new ways to accomplish those purposes. While we will always appreciate how God brought us this far, we must also realize that the things that brought us here won't be what takes us Forward, for He is constantly preparing to do a "new thing."

So what must we do? "Consecrate [our]selves." This means to learn all we can from the past, but prepare ourselves for tomorrow by setting our focus wholly on the Lord's purposes and ways. It won't always be easy, but it will always be good with the Lord as our Helper. So let's make sure we're in Forward, give it some "gas," and securly move with Him!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Frustration...And Joy

I'm a little embarrassed to admit to you that I spent more than two hours tonight online with just one person! Now, had that one person been somebody really important, like a longtime friend, attender at my church wrestling with a serious issue, or dear family member, it would have been okay. But alas, it was none of those worthy causes. Instead, it was via "Live Chat" with a sales person!

What's really frustrating is that if all had gone like it should, the entire ordeal should have taken about 15 minutes - not two hours! First I was misdirected, second my "Shopping Cart" wouldn't work, third I was given bogus information and fourth the whole thing "timed out." It would have been quicker AND simpler to have just driven to Cedar Rapids and back!

Oh, we finally "succeeded" (depending upon how you define "success," I suppose), but I found myself growing more grateful by the minute that my relationship with the Lord isn't plagued by these problems. I've yet to be misdirected, receive bad information or "time out" with Him. In fact, just the opposite has been true: He deals directly with whatever troubles me, His information has been and always will be true, and He's got all the time I'll ever want or need (matter of fact, He'd love to have more time with me!).

I don't think it's coincidental that my online ordeal led right up to my weekly prayer time with some friends here at the church office. What a remarkable study in contrasts! We shared our hearts, went right to Him, laid it all on the line, felt His direction and finished with Joy - refreshed by our encounter - not frustrated.

The lesson? Hopefully it's crystal clear. The next time anything has you frustrated, stop...go to the Lord...lay it all before Him...and rejoice that He is not only available, but ready and willing to help you with whatever is going on. The results of your interaction with Him probably won't come in the mail in "6-10 business days," but it will bring more satisfaction, peace and genuine joy than anything else this world has to offer!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Greener Grass

I'm sure you're all familiar with "The Myth of Greener Grass." In a nutshell, it states that things will always look better from a distance, and once you actually get there, there'll be something else that looks better. Thus, you're almost always better off staying where you are and "blooming where you're planted" (another old adage I'm sure you recognize).

While falling for this myth is often naive, recently God has been helping me to understand that it's also counter-productive to the life of faith. You see, the "Greener Grass" myth is all about wanting what you don't have. God's Word calls it "coveting" and declares it to be a sin. Is it wrong to want things? Absolutely not. So where's the sin come in?

The sin comes in because wanting what you don't have (or coveting) is a direct affront to God as Provider in our lives. When we covet, we are saying in not-so-subtle language, "God, I don't like how you're providing for me. Matter of fact, I don't trust that you have my best in mind and I think I can do better." And far too often, we head off down the road of self-provision (a.k.a. Greener Grass) and find out it was yet another illusion and that God actually did know what He was doing.

The problem is that in order to learn this lesson, it often takes us, our family or others getting hurt (seems to be the only way we learn, doesn't it?). I know this from personal experience, having hurt numerous people over the years as I received my "education" via the school of hard knocks (brought about from my pursuit of the myth).

True to my confessed Star Trek mindset, I remember first officer Spock getting a healthy dose of this reality in one episode, culminated by his frank admission that, "Having something is not nearly as much fun as wanting it," for in getting it, he discovered it was not at all what he really wanted (let alone needed).

Wouldn't it be great if we'd just learn to be more content, confident that if we don't have it, we don't need it, and that if God deems we need it, He'll provide it? It certainly would involve less pain, damage and wasted time & effort.

I confess that I'm not there yet, but I am encouraged that I am getting there. There's a host of things I could wish to be different right now, but 90% of them are rooted in the myth. I choose today to turn away from that myth and turn towards the only One upon whom I can rely...all the time. Besides, this grass right here is looking greener all the time!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Worth Fighting For?

Sorry for the delay between posts, but I've been wrestling with something: How do you determine when something is worth fighting for? Not just disagreeing over, but actually taking a stand and saying in essence, "Here I stand and I will not be moved!" Obviously, you've got to be careful about what you're willing to "die" for and as any parent of a teenager can tell you, if you take this position too frequently, you can end up with losses you hadn't envisioned and were not prepared to suffer.

Emotion is important in this realm, because if you aren't passionate about a certain issue, you will quickly fold when the fire gets hot. But emotion can't be the only defining characteristic. I mean, if passion about an issue was the sole measure of it's merit and/or value, we'd find ourselves looking up to people like Hitler, David Koresh and the like, for they were definitely passionate, but passionately wrong.

So there's got to be more to it than this, and as I prepare for this weekend, I understand that it has to be about more than this. You see, I'm heading into a meeting Sunday afternoon where there will be plenty of passionate people...almost totally at odds with one another. So how do we draw the lines?

I know I may sound "old-fashioned" and "dated" in my thinking, but I still believe that God's Word has to have the final say. We dare not go about making up the rules as we go, following our "gut" or "intuition" or current trend/philosophy. We need to be crystal clear where it is crystal clear, gracious where it is not, and filled with wisdom from on high about where the line is between the two.

Thus, I find myself asking a serious favor from a relatively limited audience (unless there are thousands of you out there I'm totally unaware of who are afraid to make yourself known to me as "Followers" - which I suppose is possible). The favor? To pray with me for clarity, grace and wisdom as my church and I both enter a pivotal moment in our spiritual journey - privately and corporately.

I know that the last thing Jesus wants is a fight, but I also know that when His Word and His Way are being assaulted, there may indeed be a time to fight. May His Name be lifted up, any enemy humbled and the Body of Christ united as we follow Him!