Impatience

Posted 3/11/2018

No doubt we’ve all heard the prayer for patience: “God give me patience, and give it to me right now!” Perhaps we’ve even prayed it ourselves.

 

While we may laugh at that prayer, the truth is it captures a real truth about us. We are an impatient people who want what we want and want it now.

 

Israel was an impatient people as well. They chafed against the delays (in their eyes) in arriving at the Promised Land. Surely, if God was going to fulfill his promise it should have happened by now. 

 

How easy it is for us, like Israel, to become impatient with God for the delays (in our eyes) of the fulfillment of the promises. God has promised to care for us, yet we continue to struggle with paying our bills. God has promised to redeem us, yet we continue to struggle with sin. God has promised Christ will come again, yet it has been 2000 years and no sign of him yet….

 

The fact is, my impatience with God leads me to complain about (and to) God. It is, at it’s heart a lack of trust in God. And when I admit that this what my impatience truly is, then I can repent, turn to God again in trust and experience once more the redeeming, saving power of God in Christ. 

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Repentance

Posted 3/7/2018

Lent is a season of repentance. Repentance is the difficult process of admitting we have done wrong. Yet it is more than simply saying “I’m sorry.” The word “repent” actually means “to turn.” To repent is to turn our thinking and ways of acting into new paths.

 

Repentance means looking closely at ourselves and noticing the patterns of thought we hold that permit us to engage in acts that hurt others. Do we silently judge? Do we feel some people are not as worthy of our concern as others? Do we justify ourselves saying, “They hurt me first”? What thought patterns on our part contributed to the pain we have caused?

 

But repentance means more than simply looking. It means changing. It means changing those thought patterns. It means changing so that we don’t engage in the same hurtful behaviors again. 

 

True repentance — like a true apology — means more than simply saying “I’m sorry.” It involves accepting our responsibility and making the commitment to live in a different way in the future so we don’t repeat the same pattern of causing harm. 

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Relationships

Posted 3/4/2018

Relationships are basic to our lives. We are born into families which consist of webs of relationships that form our lives. As we grow older we establish friendships — another web of relationships that form our lives. And as Christians, we live in relationships with others in and church and we seek to nurture a relationship with God — the relationship we desire to be the one that forms our life from beginning to end.

 

Yet in all these webs of relationships, what is our guide for HOW we are to relate to one another? All societies have developed guides for such relationships. The most important are established in a code of laws; but there are many other guides that exist only as matters of etiquette or simply “the way we do things here.” All these guides are meant to keep a particular set of relationships healthy and growing. 

 

God knew we humans need such guides. That is why, when God chose Israel and brought them out of slavery in Egypt he established a covenant with them — the covenant of the Ten Commandments. These commandments are the guides for living the kind of life and being the kind of people God was calling Israel to be. They were guides for Israel in their relationship with God and their relationships with one another. They were not meant to be guides for the nations around Israel, but a guide for Israel in how they were to live out the covenant God had made with them.

 

As Christians we “don’t live under the Law.” Yet we know that the Law — in particular the Ten Commandments — give us guidance on the way God’s people live. The Ten Commandments aren’t some list of “does and don’ts” but our guide to how to live in relationship with God and with one another.

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Forgiveness: Honesty About Enemies

Posted 2/28/2018

Learning to stop judging others is a first step in learning to practice forgiveness. Yet it is not an easy step. One reason it can be so hard is we judge others as a way of avoiding really looking at ourselves. When I judge another to be the one who is “wrong,” I don’t have to look at how I may have contributed to the situation. When I judge another’s sin as “worse” than mine, I can feel self-righteous rather than feel sorrow for my own sin.

 

One of the real truths about our judging others is we often condemn in them what hides in our own heart as well. To forgive, we need to not only give up judging others but begin to recognize what lies in our own hearts. Then we can recognize that we are all alike — sinners who need God’s grace. 

 

This Lenten season, as we reflect on what it means to forgive, I invite you to reflect on your own life. Who do you view as an enemy? Why? What parts of your personality and behaviors do you find it hard to accept? Why? Can you begin to see that other person and yourself as both in need of God’s grace and forgiveness? Can you move from judging that other person to praying for them?

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Jesus Loves US

Posted 2/25/2018

One of the joyous proclamations of the gospel is “Jesus loves me.” As children many of us learned this truth as we sang “Jesus loves me, this I know….” For evangelical Christians there is probably little that is more significant than the realization Jesus loves me. And it is a very important realization. I know one of the most significant spiritual moments in my life was when I came to truly realize God’s love for me in Christ. 

 

Yet if all we recognize is God loves me, we miss one important part of the gospel truth — that God loves us. God’s desire isn’t just to have a bunch of relationships with individuals, God desires to have a relationship with a “people.” That is why we Paul insists that we are “the body of Christ.” Our relationship with God isn’t simply about “God and me;” it is ultimately about “God and us.”

 

We see this good news that God chooses a people way back in the Old Testament as God chooses Abraham and his descendants. God doesn’t just choose Abraham, but all his descendants, and promises to be their God. The good news is God chooses me; but He also chooses you and together we are the body of Christ!

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The Complexity of Forgiveness

Posted 2/21/2018

Forgiveness is hard. It is hard, among other things, because we like to think that what has happened is all the other person’s fault. “I am innocent, they are the ones who are guilty,” we say to ourselves if not out loud.

 

Yet our relationships are seldom, if ever, that simple. Each of us has not only experience hurt in our lives; we have also caused harm to others. And sometimes — often — neither we or they are the only ones who are “guilty” in the situation. 

 

The fact is, we carry a history in our relationships. A history with one another. The history of our own lives. We each bear hurts — hurts we’ve possibly experienced with this particular person and certainly hurts we’ve experienced with others throughout our lives. We each have been shaped by those hurts — and our ability to forgive and ask for forgiveness. 

 

All this make forgiveness a complex thing. Yet it doesn’t make the need to forgive or the need to ask for forgiveness any less important — even essential. 

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God the Protector

Posted 2/18/2018

Recognizing that I'm not who I should be can leave me feeling down. Sometimes the gap between who I am (or what I've done) and who I know I should (or want) to be is so great I can find it hard to truly love myself. At such times I can even find myself wondering if God loves me.

 

The good news of the gospel is that even when the world was becoming everything God didn't want it to be, God continued to show grace and protect us. In the story of Noah we discover God protecting Noah and his family from the flood. In the New Testament we see God's grace as Jesus becomes one with us so that we can become one with him.

 

We aren't who we know we should be. We fall short. We are broken and frail people. Yet the good news is God is our protector, not simply the judge who condemns us for our sin. Thanks be to God, who protects us with His grace!

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Coming Clean

Posted 2/15/2018

I don’t particularly like to think of myself as a sinner. Yet the season of Lent invites us to “come clean” about ourselves — to recognize our own sinfulness. It’s easy to try to escape that recognition by comparing ourselves to others or simply by refusing to really look at our lives. We don’t want to see the ways in which we respond to God, as if He were an enemy, in either “flight or fight.” 

 

Sometimes we are tempted to respond in flight. To avoid looking at ourselves or even to decide that what we have done is so sinful God could never forgive. Sometimes we respond in fight, denying the degree of our sinfulness, as if God graded sin on a curve. Neither response helps us see ourselves — or God — honestly.

 

The truth is we are sinners. The truth is God loves us, sinners though we be. Paul writes to the Romans saying, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God doesn’t wait for us to repent or change our lives to love us. God loves and forgives us just as we are. That is the good news of the gospel we cling to in Lent as we take an honest look at ourselves and our own sinfulness.

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Experiencing God

Posted 2/12/2018

We long to see God. We fear to see God. Both of those statements are true. From the days of Old Testament, through the days of the New Testament into our own day, we both long to see God and fear to see God.

 

We long to see God. We long to know God’s presence. We long to experience God. Many of us have had “mountaintop experiences” of God, and in truth we long to have those experiences last for all of our lifetime.

 

Yet, when we are honest, we also fear seeing God. We know God to be holy — and ourselves to be much less than righteous. We know God is a consuming fire — a holiness that burns away sin — and we dread that fire touching our lives. Like Israel, we fear experiencing the presence of God means we will die.

 

The good news is as followers of Jesus Christ we know that God’s holiness is also God’s mercy. God’s consuming fire comes to consume our sin, not to consume us. We know that we can experience the wonder of God not only on the mountaintop, where Jesus was transfigured with the glory of God, but also in the dark valley of the cross, where God’s glory seems so totally absent. 

 

Such is our experience of God, the holy one who comes to us the glory and the humility of Jesus Christ. 

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God's Delight

Posted 2/5/2018

I confess, I don’t usually think about God being filled with delight. Pleased, perhaps — but delighted?! Somehow that just seems — well, too human.

 

Yet Scripture tells us God delights. Our Psalm for today, by saying what God doesn’t delight in, tells us God delights in our weaknesses and dependency on him. How odd that sounds to us. God doesn’t delight in our ability to do, but our inability to do. As Paul puts it, it is when we are weak that God is strong in us. 

 

Personally, I’m not to fond of admitting I’m weak. Weakness feels too much like helplessness. I’d prefer to be strong and able to do and independent. Yet it is in my weakness that God delight because when I am weak I get it that I need to depend upon God. God’s heart sings as he cares for us — and when we allow him to care for us.

 

So, I think the next time I feel myself to be weak I’ll try to cling to that image of God delighting in me. Not because I have it all together, or am strong or am independent; but simply because I am aware I need to rely upon God’s love and strength.

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