A Cognitive Dissonance of Faith

Caleb_bush_treatmentBless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

—Romans 12:14-15

Blood Cries Out

I feel a little strange today. Right now my youngest son is riding his bike around the cul de sac bellowing like a siren; he’s pretending to be a paramedic. I rejoice at the joyful heart of my child and his innocent imagination. I am also proud of my oldest son as he makes a life of his own in North Dakota. He’s a grown man now that makes his father proud. And yet there is a heaviness in the pit of my soul; it is like a mournful cry rising out of the earth itself as little children like my own are being murdered for their faith. The dust of the Middle East is muddying up in the blood of the innocents. God have mercy.

Dissonance

Amidst this I still have a paper to write for my Old Testament class, on God’s grace, oddly enough. I will eventually get on my bike today to enjoy the countryside, the sunshine and the feel of my body laboring in the love of cycling. We will probably grill up some tasty steaks on the back patio with an avocado salad.

And yet the pit of my soul beckons me to pray..pray for the children, pray for their parents, pray their faith remains strong, and, yes, pray that the murderers wake up to the wrong they reap with their own hands; no matter what they do, Jesus is still Jesus, and they will someday meet Him. I pray they come to faith prior to their meeting. Even so, I pray for God’s justice to reign through all the cruelty humanity heaps upon humanity.

A New To-Do List

How, then, am I to live my life? Do I hang my head in guilt that I’m not suffering as they? Do I pack, leave my family and head into the danger zone? I don’t think so. I think part of what I’m learning about this pit in my soul is the Holy Spirit encouraging me to pray as mentioned above. But He is also using this to remind me to be thankful for the life I am living, to love my sons with all I have, and to protect my marriage and my Bride by not taking her for granted, or having a wandering eye, or by thinking of her as anything less than a dear daughter of the Most High God. And to take care of myself, the temple of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19).

I can rejoice and I can weep. I can pray and I can celebrate. I can rebuke guilt and embrace the love of God that washes clean each heart of faith. I can go on with my day with a new motivation to never take for granted the life I live and the people I love and the people that love me.  And I can pray…

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Birds of a Different Feather–What We Learn from the Birds

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“That whoever believes in Him should not perish.”

—Jesus, John 3:16

“One of the biggest problems in our families, churches, and missions is that we often insist that others think and judge in the same way we do.”

—Lingenfelter and Mayers, Ministering Cross-Culturally, p. 64

I enjoy this picture because we see different birds of different kinds and sizes all hanging out together on the same log. There’s no bickering, no pushing and shoving, just hanging out in the neighborhood. They’re not comparing the size of their beaks, the color of their feathers or what they consider to be their favorite dinners. They’re just hanging out together.

What about us? Are we like the birds? Are our churches like this log, where all who come feel welcome? Would Jesus even feel welcome or would we expect Him to be like us? Do we expect people to fit in our box or do we accept them as they come? Didn’t Jesus accept you and me as we once were? What if Jesus said instead, “Whoever is right-handed with blue eyes and a Southern accent will not perish?” Clearly implying everyone else is doomed in spite of their faith in Him.

But He didn’t say that then and He doesn’t say that now, but do we? Are we as accepting as Jesus? Are our arms as wide open as His?

Sure, it is often challenging to get to know someone that is different than us; most cultures gravitate to those like them because there’s a commonality and a shared heritage that we draw comfort from. We like what is familiar. But Jesus encourages us to expand our comfort zones. No, we don’t all have to go on a foreign mission, but we can introduce ourselves to the new person in the lobby, or the homeless person in rags at the food bank or to our neighbor that flies a flag of a rival sports team.

The ‘whoever’ Jesus is speaking about may be thousands of miles across the globe or may only be across the room; all you have to do is approach them in love and let the Holy Spirit guide your words. Who knows, you may be able to touch their heart, or…they may be able to touch yours.

The ‘R’ Word

Rest is somewhat elusive for me. I’m not prone to resting nor do I find it all that productive. Sure I get tired and I sit down, but even then I’m usually “doing” something whether it’s reading, writing, watching YouTube or having a conversation. But does all this constitute rest?

 Psalm_16“Therefore…”

Psalm 16 has an interesting expression of rest. “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope” (verse 9). Why is the psalmist, in this case, David, feeling a sense of rest and what does this word mean?

 Answering the second first will reveal as one scours a reliable concordance or Bible software program that rest means to become quiet, to abide or dwell, to settle or even to fix. Also, if you scan my blog archive you’ll find I’ve written on or around this subject many times. But Psalm 16 has a slightly different ring to it when answering the first question. Verse 1 states, “preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.” Verse 8 says, “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”

 Seeing More Clearly

Ah ha, I’m seeing yet another theme to rest I had not seen before; that is, I can have a sense of rest in my soul because I have placed my trust in Jesus. No matter if I am busy or sitting quietly, I can still have a sense of rest in the depths of my soul because I know my ultimate destiny is in Heaven.

 This doesn’t mean I will all of the sudden jettison away the importance of resting my body and mind, those remain important, but now I have a fuller understanding of rest; that a fully developed sense of rest includes ceasing or quieting from physical and mental labor, but it is not complete until one has placed their trust in Christ.

 I’m tired now—see ya later!

Trees, Forest and Eternity

Tree_forestI am fascinated by the both/and nature of Jesus. So often we are tempted to put Him into a box; even pastors from the pulpit put Him into a box of theologically constructed rules and regulations. But Jesus has none of that.

 For instance, in John 14:2-3 Jesus is teaching to both the disciples present and to you and I today. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Trees

In the foreground in the picture above is a single tree. It is an alpine tree so it is not as full as trees at lower elevations. This tree represents the person to whom Jesus is teaching. That person is the disciple in the upper room sitting at His feet in rapt attention and it is also the reader of Scripture in 2014 riding the subway to work. It is a timeless message to each individual that has accepted Jesus into their lives. It is a promise that has not yet run its course. It is an equal promise to all that have eyes to see and ears to hear. It is a promise of an eternal destiny with Jesus for evermore.

Forest

In the background is the forest—a whole bunch of individual trees gathered together in an evergreen community, withstanding all that the elements of climate can throw at them. The trees are the community of Christ-followers. This community is both local and global. It is both then and now. It is past, present and future. This is the Kingdom of Christ being built throughout the centuries one tree at a time.

The Mountain and Eternity

The mountain sits in the very back of the picture. The mountain is immoveable, ever-present, majestic and beautiful. That is our destiny, the mountaintop of forever existence with Jesus.

Yes, it is true, that we can’t really see the final destiny with our eyeballs; we can, however, sense it in our inner being by way of the Holy Spirit. And yes, many of us, myself included, suffer pain of some sort every day this side of our Eternal Destiny. Yet we know that one day when we do finally arrive at that Eternal Destiny that all pain will cease, we will be completely redeemed, restored and made new (see Rev. 21 & 22 and 1 Cor. 15).

 Endurance

But like the bike ride it took to get to place to take this picture or to climb the mountain in the background we need endurance. Marathoners need endurance as do backpackers and parents. Those that suffer chronic pain or unspeakable persecution need endurance. Jesus needed endurance. We get our endurance with proper care of our bodies through nutrition, training and rest; but we also need to prepare for spiritual endurance by absorbing Scripture, spending time in prayer—which is really communion with the Father, and by being connected to our local forest whether it be a church, home group or a huddle of refugees.

 But to all of us, both then and now, the promise still holds true, that Jesus is preparing a place for us and one day we will all be with Him for ever more, amen.

Freedom in Christ and Hot Air Balloons

Hot air ballon 

As I was praying this morning in my den chair next to the window, I heard a familiar whooshing noise. Looking out the window I was not surprised to see the multi-colored hot air balloon barely rising above the rooftops one street over. This same balloon flies on most calm summer mornings. Ever-so-slowly it sinks toward the homes, then a stream of fire shoots up into the opening at the bottom of the balloon and then the whooshing sound hits my ears. Now the balloon is gaining altitude, catching a soft southerly breeze and keeps on moving.

How ironic to see such a sight as I was struggling in prayer. Jesus said that if we abide in His word we “shall know the truth and shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Except I wasn’t feeling so free. I felt like the balloon heading for the pointy rooftops. But just as the balloon, I needed to fuel my sagging soul with the fire of God via his Scripture.

Suddenly I started realizing that being free as Jesus described didn’t just happen. He clearly said that if we abide in His word then we will be made free. ‘Abide’ means dwell, or become at home in or even to endure. As the balloon pilot shoots a jet of fire into the bowels of the balloon, so do I need a similar jet of fire shot into the bowels of my being. Such a fiery shot comes via Scripture. Prayer is good, journaling is good, but the essence of the freedom is in the Scripture. How much do I know? How much of what I know do I actually live out? If I only know Scripture, that is, I’ve memorized, but I don’t live it out in my daily life, I am not abiding; I have not made myself at home in God’s Word. I am merely a passing visitor.

However, if I intentionally strive to understand the Scripture and live it out daily to the best of my ability and in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, then I am abiding. I may only be abiding in a small room in the overall dwelling of God because my knowledge is limited, I am still abiding. Jesus wasn’t talking quantity, He was talking quality. So the more time we spend abiding in Scripture to then live out in our daily lives, the freer we will become.