Monday, July 29, 2019

pursued

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,” say the words of the ancient prayer.  And even as I utter those words something within me comes alive.  For somehow, throughout the course of my days and my years, I have convinced myself otherwise.  Somehow I have convinced myself that it is I who am constantly in pursuit of him, the elusive God, rather than he being in pursuit of me.

And a careful examination of these words show just how wonderful this pursuit really is.  Goodness is a hallmark of our God, as well as a hallmark of his very good creation.  Thus, the goodness that pursues me is the very good-ness (Genesis 1:31) of his creation intent for me.  Not only is the One who pursues me very good, but the one he intended and designed me to be is also very good.  His very good desire is that he restore me to my very good-ness.  To remake me into the fearful and wonderful creation that he intended me to be.

The other thing that is a hallmark of our God is his unfailing love.  The Hebrew word is hesed.  It is the word for love that highlights the eternal nature of God’s love.  It is forever, it is unchanging, it is not going anywhere.  Nothing can stop it.  It is a pursuit that will not rest until it captures completely heart of the one being pursued. 

And finally, there is the word follow, which is not nearly strong enough to describe the picture being painted here.  The Hebrew word is radaph, which is most often translated pursue.  It is used 143 times in the Old Testament, mostly in reference to armies pursuing their enemies.  And on one occasion (1 Samuel 26:20) it is even translated hunt, as a hunter would stalk his prey.  That is the kind of following we are talking about.  It is not a casual, haphazard type of thing, but a relentless pursuit.  God relentlessly pursues me with his goodness and his unfailing love “all the days of my life.”  Thus, my relationship with him is not dependent on my feeble pursuit of him, but on his relentless pursuit of me.  It is not so much about finding him, as it is about being found by him.  It is dependent on him, not on me.  Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

stubborn

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
     Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
     He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
     “No,” they answered.
      He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:1-6, NIV)

I can be pretty stubborn at times.  I can keep my head down and plod right along without even noticing that I might have been toiling all night and still have empty nets.  I guess I figure that if I keep doing the same old things, the way I have always done them, that eventually it will work out.  It might never occur to me that I need to do something different, to change my ways.  It seems like I remember someone very wise once saying something about the definition of insanity being to continue to do the same old things over and over and expect to get a different outcome.  Well, call me crazy I suppose, because I tend to do that a lot.  I fail to recognize—or refuse to acknowledge—that my way just isn’t working.  After all, who is a better expert on my life than me?

I guess that’s why this passage haunts me a little bit.  The disciples did the exact same thing.  They worked and worked and worked, all night long, and caught absolutely nothing. The only difference is that when someone made a suggestion that they might want to try another way, at least they listened.  They didn’t even recognize it was Jesus until after they had taken his advice and caught a massive amount of fish.  And it wasn’t the first time this had happened.  But give them some credit.  They weren’t so hard-headed that they refused to acknowledge that their way just wasn’t working, and were willing to embrace a new way of doing things.

I need to follow their example.  For it is quite possible that I get so busy toiling all night long that I, like the disciples, fail to recognize that Jesus is standing on the shore.  It is quite possible that when someone brings up the possibility of doing things in a new and different way, that it might actually be Jesus trying to open me up to the possibility of new ways of seeing or being or doing.

The beautiful thing is that even if I do not always recognize Jesus, he always recognizes me.  Thanks be to God!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

weakness


“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I don’t know about you, but I go to great lengths to try and hide my weaknesses.  I even go so far as to try and never operate outside my areas of strength.  I do this, I suppose, because my goal in life is for everyone to think the best of me.  The problem is that when I live my life trying to make everyone think the best of me, I leave one significant thing out—God!  I forget that this life is not about me at all, but about him.

Paul got that.  I guess that’s why he could make this outlandish statement about gladly boasting about his weaknesses.  I mean, who does that?  Someone who cares more about God’s glory that his own, that’s who.  Someone who realizes that God’s power is on full display when we are completely out of the way.  Someone who understands that we actually block people’s view of God when we are trying to get them to look at us.  Someone who realizes that when he is operating out of his own strength, he is actually keeping God’s power from being made perfect.

O Lord, help me to be more like Paul.  Help me to embrace and celebrate my weaknesses, because they are opportunities for you to show your power.  For when I try to hide my weaknesses, I am actually hiding—or denying—the sufficiency of your grace.  Lord Jesus, give me the power to be weak.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

my grace


My grace is sufficient for you.  No, really, it is!  So stop trying to earn my love and favor.  Stop trying to make it on your own.  Stop beating yourself up and wearing yourself out.  Stop trying to arrange your life in such a way that you won’t need me quite so much.  My grace really is sufficient for you.  It is all you need.

Help me to let your grace be enough for me today, Lord Jesus.  For if I really believe your grace is enough, it changes everything.  It totally changes the way I live my life.

Friday, July 5, 2019

the tale of two men

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14, ESV)


Once upon a time there were two men; one who thought he had it all together, and the other who was painfully aware that he did not.  One who was pretty sure that he was God’s gift to humanity, and the other who was pretty sure humanity didn’t even know his name.  One who was constantly seeking the spotlight, and the other who was content in the shadows.  One who was ever climbing upward, and the other who was well acquainted with the downward path.  One who was so in love with his own observations and opinions that he couldn’t wait to share his "wisdom" with anyone and everyone in his path, and the other who was fully aware that the only thing he really knew was that he did not know.  One who thought he knew how to pray, and the other who realized he didn’t even know what prayer really was.  One who was so full of himself that there was not any room for anyone or anything else, and the other who was so empty that there was plenty of room for God and others.  One who was destined to be humbled, and the other who humbled himself.  Which one would you rather be, one or the other?


He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’  Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'" 
     Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (Luke 18:9-14, The Message)

Thursday, July 4, 2019

freedom

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14, NIV)

How would you define freedom?  What does it look like to be truly free?  How we answer both of those questions has a whole lot to do with whether or not we will ever experience true freedom in our lives.

Freedom is not about personal rights and privileges, it is not a license to be self-consumed.  Freedom is about us collectively living the lives we were intended to live—being the people we were created to be.  Loving and serving one another the way we were intended to love and serve.  It is not about doing whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it.  It is much bigger than that.  It is about living a life of love.  Freedom is not about being consumed with self, but about not having to be consumed with self.  It is so easy to be held hostage in the prison of self without even realizing we are in bondage.

Jesus came to show us a different way.  He came to show us what freedom really is—and what it is not.  True freedom is about living a life of love.  It says, “I do not need you to tell me who I am and why I am valuable, therefore I can actually love and serve you without trying to squeeze or manipulate love out of you."  That’s true freedom.

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. (Galatians 5:13-15, The Message)