Back to Reality

“A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. ” Isaiah 40:6-6 (ESV)

There is an ongoing challenge that I believe we face on a daily basis. (And by we, I mean believers in/ followers of Jesus Christ.) As I explain what I perceive as the challenge, some might be offended while others might agree. My goal is neither offense nor agreement. My goal is to stimulate consideration.

Our minds are under constant demand for attention, by the “always there” information flow. Our lives are filled with screens: TV, computer, smart phone.  Each of these carry so many promises of escape from reality. But from reality there is no escape, only distraction. Over time the distraction begins to replace reality to the point that reality becomes the distraction. We settle for that which fades, while that which endures forever is relegated to an afterthought.

Taken for Granted

Several years ago a popular worship song contained the lyric, ” Lord, you are more precious….” The song then proceeded to list things such silver, gold and diamonds. This song seemed express the heart of a person captured by the immeasurable beauty and value of the Lord. Christ is the only precious one or He is taken for granted.

Are you and I captured, fascinated, awestruck by that which God has done on our behalf? Do we stand amazed that the Creator of the heavens and the earth put on flesh and dwelt among us, that we might know  His grace and goodness and redemption? It ought to be enough to stop us in our tracks and stun us with wonder. Joy ought to overwhelm us. The beauty of our God’s grace and work, in doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves, should literally take our breath away.

So I pose these three questions: 

1) Has following Jesus become more of a cliche than an active engagement?                                           2) Is life overflowing with gratitude for a salvation that relegates ALL circumstances of life to their proper category; temporary?               3) Are you taking for granted the salvation that is only available because God loves us and put Christ up as the payment?

I believe that when we take Christ and our salvation for granted we dim the light we are called to be. I believe that when we live captivated by the wondrous work of Christ on the Cross and the grave breaking resurrection, taking salvation for granted is far less likely. And I can firmly state that when we are fully alive in this amazing salvation, we display and declare with contagious conviction and glorious joy that Jesus Christ is the only source.

A Thought from the Journey

I first came to faith in late 1986. I was a college student and knucklehead who was all about a good time. Those early years of “following” Christ were definitely informed by the love of a “good time”. The neo-pentecostal/ charismatic movement was very much the “big” thing in most of my early experience. Yes, I bought in to the prosperty gospel, the word of faith, and everything else that promised a good time.

God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit were often treated as being there to fulfill my emotional, physical and spiritual desires. All I had to do was know the right language and write an occasional extra check. Any thought of serving Christ as Lord and trusting God as Father, while being led by the Spirit into real truth just did not fit. 

I had believed, falsely, that me and my desires were the central factor in my relationship with God. Christ on the cross was reduced from an amazing work of mercy to proof that it’s all about me. Following Jesus was not about living for His honor and glory. Following Jesus was about my whims being satisfied and feeling good. My expectations were built on too many “your best days are ahead” statements and very little awareness of “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”(Hebrews 13:8)

It took a long time to move away from the belief that faith is all about me. The mercy of God came in the form of hunger. A hunger to read the Bible, big huge chunks of it. A hunger to know God through His story. A hunger for relationship that was enduring not see-sawing on the fulcrum of my selfishness. A hunger for Him.

I seldom,if ever, listen to the T.V. preachers who are often running corporations disguised as ministries. Most of what I read is from, the tried and found faithful men, and women who live or lived in pursuit of the increase of God’s fame with little thought of any cost to themselves. 

I listen to some close and trusted friends when I need counsel. The Lord puts some pretty amazing people in our lives to walk with, so I have ceased to care about the slickly produced and regularly published. I choose those who have been faithful and steady. Those who walk in relationship with God because He is worth it. Those who see Him as their great rewatd.

If I could offer one piece of advice from my journey, it would be this:                                  Read the Word and let it inform you, teach you, correct you, shape you and equip you. 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5, 14

Don’t Make Compartments

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4

Work, family, hobby, faith, relationships, excercise, diet, commitments; all are important. Which one matters most? Generally, it is whichever we are engaging at the moment. The problem, however, is that all these areas of life can become disconnected and our lives become disjointed.

As followers of Christ, our Lord is our life. The various areas of life that we treat as compartments He calls us to live in as a united flow. While we tend to forget He is Lord over all parts of our life, He steadily reminds us that real life is only in Him. Let us again lift our vision higher, let our eyes be on Christ. For in Him are we truly living.

Let Us Be Prayerful

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. ” 1 Timothy 2:1-4(nlt)

A new president has been officially inaugurated. Another session of the House and Senate is in full swing. The Supreme Court continues to function steadily. Yet, in the midst of all that is normal, there are many unanswered questions, unrest and great hope.

Let us be prayerful. Let us come before the Almighty God and pray for our fellow citizens. Let us cry out for wisdom to prevail in the decision making of our leaders. Let us pray for peace to fill the hearts of the angry and the frustrated. And above all, may we pray for our God to be glorified in us who have tasted His goodness in Christ, who have become heirs of grace.

Time for Some Salt

Unrest, division, protest, confusion, chaos; these and many other words could accurately describe the climate of our times. As we prepare to inaugurate a new president, some are hopeful and some are fearful. As some areas of the world are increasingly violent, violence is beginning to spread as a “go to” agent of change in our own nation. Yes, these are turbulent days we live in. It is so exciting!

Exciting? Yes, indeed. In the tumult of our culture and our world, we can be the salt of peace. While the waves of confusion assault the minds of men, we can be the salt of clarity and soundness. For those who live in fear, we can be the salt of faith. 

We live in the midst of countless struggles my friends, and the answer to each is the reality of Jesus Christ in the lives of us, His people. When we live out our faith in the day to day grind, allowing His Spirit to lead us, we can bring the sprinkle of salt that changes the flavor and offers our neighbors freedom from the fears, confusion 

Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 

Let us stand firm in the face of the challenges. Be different. Be salt.

What Love Does

Rules and regulations seem to be assigned to our lives from every direction. From how fast one can drive to what a kid can wear to school, there seems to a steady flow of do’s and do not’s. Somehow we humans turn the list of demands into a game, “Find the Loophole”.

Play that gane long enough and it becomes a habit, a habit of disobedience and rebellion. “Oh cone on. The rules and requirements squelch my personal expression, or my desires.”  It is always an “argument” for personal freedom yet when someone else applying such logic brings offense suddenly the tune changes.

Jesus Christ tells His people that love obeys. He informs us that those who want to express their love for Him will DO what He says. This might seem dictatorial or even narcissistic but Jesus calls His people to a lifestyle that is actually freeing. And not only freeing for His people but will be a blessing to all around them. We need to stop worrying about loopholes in the commands of Christ. Instead, let us fall so in love with Him that the easiest thing for us to do is follow His instruction.

Obedience. That’s what love does.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. “ John 14:15