Saturday, January 30, 2016

WARMTH FOR THE WINTER SOUL


Creeping sadness… like the setting sun during a winter power outage…


Disappointed with people who know better… wearied by their callous disregard…


Uncertain about my future, my health, my happiness…

God’s voice sounding like the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons…

The tired, detached feeling of being alone in the company of laughing hyenas…

Been there… done that… is there hope for a winter soul?

A prayer for the dying… Hear my cry, Jesus. You have something I do not have. Help me!

Tim Keller said,

“No matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family, and successful with our career — something will inevitably ruin it.”[1]

In preparation for the coming tragic letdown of Golgotha, Jesus asked his disciples if they still believed in him. It’s a good question for all of us who sometimes struggle with unbelief, doubt and discouragement. Do you still believe even though your heart is filled with dread?


John 16:
31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


I don’t know if you saw it right away, but losing hope and fear are the common lot. Leaving Jesus and going home are predictable patterns. But, Jesus is not dependent on your faithfulness to him.

If we all leave Jesus behind, he will still not be alone. We might be alone, but not him! He has the Father with him always. Inseparable from God…

Jesus will be okay with or without us… and he is not being glib or unfeeling to say that. He is telling us that he has the peace we desperately lack. He tells us this so we can take heart. Take Jesus’ heart when you lose your own…

If suffering and fear are your present state, Jesus invites you to lean into him. He overcomes the desperately, troubled condition of the world and invites us to the peace he has.



[1] Tim Keller, Walking With God Through Pain And Suffering, 2013 Dutton, p.3

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

READING OF THE WILL

When someone passes away, the closest family and friends are faced with a new chapter of life that includes grief and reflection. If you are attending your first funeral, it will not likely be the last one. 


I have been to approximately 100 funerals in my lifetime. Funerals are a time of remembrance, learning new things and honouring the best in people. Following a death there is an abrupt time of adjustment that includes emptying closets, closing accounts and ensuring that the good of the survivors is considered.

Sometimes, families undergo incredible stress in matters related to inheritance. If the person was very wealthy or penniless, someone may have sentimental attachment to some of the stuff. From the Mercedes-Benz in the garage to the fridge magnets, everything a person owns will one day be disposed of or given to another.

I remember one woman who left nothing for her step-children and gave her money to charity. Some of the adult children felt hurt by the woman they had grown to call mother. I have seen others who are shocked when they discover that a rich relative did not include them in their estate planning. Brothers and sisters sometimes fight over what they feel entitled to. It seems that many want to be treated equally when it comes to what they are getting.

If your parent were a billionaire, would the memory of a loving relationship not be worth more than all the money and possessions they would leave behind? Riches bring a false sense of security; unlike the security of knowing you were loved and respected by the one who passed. Still, people are tempted by the potential of gain.

Jesus had this to say about worldly gain—


Mark 8:
36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 


A good funeral is one where the departed left their soul behind. If they were ‘a good soul’ their impact on others will be lasting and profound. How are things with your soul? Are you living a life built on gaining everything you can get from the world? Have you forfeited your soul in the process?

Followers of Jesus do not count gain on this side of the grave. A few may possess wealth, power and prestige but it is secondary to the eternal possession. The Christ follower stores their legacy in eternity.


Romans 8:
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 


Your Heavenly Father has an inheritance to share with the sons and daughters. Jesus came to make the way for us to enter God’s eternal family. God’s Spirit is at work to convince you of your place at the family table.



Saturday, January 23, 2016

TERRORISTS, TSUNAMIS AND CHOKING HAZARDS

How many TV shows, books and Internet articles focus on doing all the right things to live a long, healthy life? This is all good, but Jesus tells us that more is at stake than personal care and feeling bad for others who suffer.


Personal repentance is mostly changing the way we think about things. It is an attitude that seeks to live a life in alignment with God’s Love. It is living in a way that welcomes the Kingdom of God that Jesus leads.

Jesus is not making suggestions, but sending warnings to his hearers. Make the change God requires or eventually be destroyed by things beyond your control. Turning to God will not prevent terrorists, Tsunami waves or asphyxiation by donut.  But, we can know peace with God and the promise of life beyond the grave. Jesus told Nicodemus this truth about God’s plans for humanity.


John 3:
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 


Jesus has every right to tell us to repent, doesn’t He… if anyone has something to say about changing the world, it is Jesus.

Do you hear the message to Nicodemus?

God loves you and wants to save you from dying a pointless death. He wants to bring you from living a condemned life, to an eternal one!

Inclusion in God’s plan is found in knowing that Jesus has come to restore all Creation. But restoration also includes exclusion. Some trees will be uprooted.

Have you put your trust in Jesus? Before you waste your breath figuring out who is in and who is out, turn inward. What have you done with Jesus? Is He your Lord or have you excluded Him from your life?


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION


The Kingdom of God is a story about inclusion and exclusion. The ones who were promised the Kingdom ended up rejecting it—excluded from their own inheritance. Adam and Eve are excluded from the Garden of Eden.



Jesus tells other provocative stories—the Good Samaritan who was an outsider showing the insiders what true mercy looks like. Inclusion…

Or how about the most vulnerable and poor being invited to the King’s party because the normal guests were disinterested and making excuses for not coming? Inclusion and exclusion…

The adulterous woman being protected and restored… inclusion…

The theme of inclusion and exclusion permeates the Scriptures.

The Gentiles being a wild branch grafted into the domesticated Jewish fig tree… inclusion…

Separation of the sheep and goats… inclusion and exclusion…

Rich men and the eye of the needle… exclusion…

The Great White Throne Judgment and the Lamb’s Book Of Life… inclusion or exclusion…

When my 16-year-old friend Mitchell died in 1978, he was excluded from earthly life but included in the Eternal Kingdom. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

GOD'S GONNA CUT YOU DOWN



Johnny Cash sang, “Sooner or later God’s gonna cut you down.”[1]




Is that true Johnny? Do we all have a reason to be concerned? How are we to interpret the meaning of disaster and tragedy?

Jesus’ message of repentance is not just pointed at individuals, but also to his religious community. He came calling his own nation Israel home to God. The family nation is often described in botanical terms—a bruised reed, a vine or a fig tree.


Luke 13:
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”


The simple parable shows common sense gardening. If your fruit tree doesn’t yield in the appropriate season, remove it from the ground and burn it. Three years was the formative stage that prepared the fig tree to start growing its fruit.

In the guise of a patient farmer, Jesus describes how God will take something unfruitful and change its environment. Loosening the soil around it, adding nutrients… what can help this tree to do what it is made for?

Jesus tells both individuals and the nation that the clock is ticking. God is watching over his vineyard. If his plant does not bear fruit, he can find other ways to get fruit.[2]




[1] Johnny Cash, ©2006 American Recordings, LLC & The Island Def Jam Music Group
[2] The IVP New Testament Commentary Series

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