Grace & Peace

lightning-1158027_1280Let all the world in every corner sing, “Our God is King!”

Last night we had a tremendous rain storm, Colin by name. When I woke this morning I could hear the birds singing. The lake by my home sang forth, a veritable choir rejoicing to the Lord. Though Colin lasted a few days, it did pass. I heard no birds singing through the thunder and the pounding rain. But the storm passed and the birds are singing now. During the storm they hunkered down, waiting.

Not all waiting is the same. My guess is that how we enter the storm determines the way we wait. If hope has not gotten ahold of us before the storm, we may dread the storm, or dramatize it, complain about it. But if hope has gotten us, when the storm comes we simply hunker down and wait for the morning when we know we will sing again as we have a hundred times before.

When our hope is in God’s faithfulness rather than our own resources, hunkering down becomes simply a necessary step in Gods redemptive plan. We know we will sing again. Saints of old knew this truth: “when the storms of life are raging stand by me. When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea. When the storms of life are raging stand by me.”

If you do not know your hope, then I invite you to get to know Jesus. This summer, read the gospel of John with the intent of getting to know Jesus. Meet him, listen to his teaching, experience the warmth of his spirit. Read slowly. Read, then think. Then think some more and then read some more. I would encourage you to use your thinking to make a decision. Some people think they are thinking when all they are doing is avoiding a decision. Meeting Jesus, really meeting him, will push you to make a decision about him. Is he actually who he says he is in this gospel? Imagine you are there, one of the twelve listening to him for the first time. Feel his compassion for others. When you have finished John, read it again. Then make a decision about Jesus. You can find hope as you read the stories and hear the teaching. No storm in life is ever the same once you have met Jesus.



Grace & Peace

book-897834_1280The trouble with thinking part 2

Information is so readily available to us. Our technology allows us to gather ideas and thoughts from around the world in an instant. Our minds quickly classify and categorize and filter the information into what we determine is useful and worth reading or considering and what we can simply discard as irrelevant or wrong. For example: We want to know if giving a child a vaccination is safe. So what do we do? We Google the name of the vaccination. More than 200,000 resources become available in less than a second. We quickly filter the articles and determine which ones are worth reading. Where did the filter come from? A conversation with a friend? A pastor? A show from 60 minutes I watched three years ago? The movement in the country that connects vaccinations to autism and has science to prove it? Or the hundreds of scientific studies that prove there is no link? Lots of people have lots to say on Facebook, maybe I should read their comments.

So maybe I should just trust the experts and ask my pediatrician. But maybe the pediatrician is a homeopathic quack or is getting a kickback from the pharmaceutical company. I mean I watch Law and Order and there are some really crazy people out there. The real trouble we have is that we want to have someone else make the decision for us and not actually think it through. In fact, problem solving is a diminishing skill in our specialty driven world: too much noise, too much confusion, too much advice, too much information.

The real trouble with thinking is that we would rather argue or run away or fight. As soon as there is a problem that requires some thought, we polarize it and create good guys and bad guys. This leads not to solutions but to sides and division. Evidence of this is so easy to see and hear. The conversation turns from “we have a problem and need to think our way through it” to “you are a liar and a thief.” Character assassination opposes solutions and thinking. Thinking people know this and get disgusted pretty quickly with it.

On the Apollo 13 mission, there were these famous words, “Houston we have a problem.” Everyone’s mind began to race to find solutions to the problem, and there were lots of ideas. Ultimately, the men on the flight had to make a decision about what to do. They had no time to polarize or elect a decision, no time to vet each other and attack someone’s character. There was no “you were wrong last time this happened.” They had to think, choose, and act. So they did.

There comes a time in a person’s life when they have to think and then decide, and then act. For a while, thinking is good. We have to filter. But remember, the purpose of thinking ultimately is to make a decision that leads to action. So how do I learn to think?

Thinking is a lot like preparing to write an essay. You begin with the problem or the idea. Lay out on the table the options, research all of the options and weigh what you learn, make a decision based on your research. Live out the decision. For me, this is why personal Bible Study is so very important in my life. Over the years I have learned that the Bible provides the answers to all of life’s problems. When I have a problem or a decision to make, I follow the thinking process and lay it all on the table. Inevitably God’s word brings clarity to the decision.



Grace & Peace

CBCE283969-2The trouble with thinking

I am a fan of William Barclay’s Notes on the New Testament, have been for more than thirty years. He has an astute awareness of human nature and a keen mind that connects things most people miss. I have read him enough times to know that I do not agree with all of his theology. Yet I admire the way he thinks and presents his thoughts. We live in a very polarized world, and not just politically. Yes, Congress votes party lines even when personal conscience might say to vote otherwise. The media seem to have a belief structure and help us to be aware when someone thinks differently. Outliers are rapidly identified and shunned and it rarely seems to matter that people are thinking. Sometimes that means they are THINKING. We all too readily conclude that thinking means people have decided.

God forbid anyone decide anything different from what I have already decided. That would make them wrong. One of the reasons I enjoy Barclay’s notes is that he is clearly thinking as he writes. We have become so polarized that differing thoughts separate friends and families and, it seems, churches. If someone says or does one thing that challenges us, we separate. It just seems to me that love ought to be stronger than that. Now I am just thinking here.

In his Daily Bible Study notes on John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” Barclay says, “The tremendous thing about this text is that it shows us God is acting, not for His own sake, but for ours. It was not to satisfy His desire for power that God acted. It was not to bring into being a universe brought to heel. It was to satisfy His love. God is not an absolute monarch who treats each man as a subject to be reduced to an abject obedience. God is a Father who cannot be happy until His wandering children have come home.”

A little later in the gospel though there is quite a challenge to the thinking that God loves no matter what. At first it even seems to be a contradiction, and if I were not a thinking man, I might have ceased reading before I had thought through what was being said. The next verse in John 3 reads, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” And all of this is spoken in the midst of a very intense conversation with Nicodemus about salvation. If all of God’s love were simply unconditional and irrevocably enacted for the whole world, then we would all be saved no matter what we said, thought, or did. And so it is at this point in the thinking and presentation of the gospel writer.

But the thinking is not yet complete. So now I can either think along with my savior or I can make up my mind that I have discerned what is true and will no longer listen to any thought to the contrary. If I believe I have heard enough and want no more of thinking, I will simply highlight and underline all those Biblical texts that support my position and agree with teachers who agree with me. Any and all who think otherwise are simply wrong and not really worthy of my attention. Should I step foot in a church where the leader begins teaching something that is contrary to what I have decided, I can simply stop listening or leave. We almost never would admit that what has really happened is that we have stopped thinking and determined that our decisions about an issue or a topic are more valuable to us than the person helping us think.

In just two short chapters, by chapter 5, John begins to share the thought of Jesus as a judge; he talks of separation, of sheep and goats, and all of this is clearly a contradiction to the thought that Jesus did not come to condemn, and there is no condemnation in Jesus, and everyone gets saved no matter what. A thinking person then says, now what do I believe? So I confess, actually thinking can be a bit of a mess. More to follow…



Grace & Peace

EUWYCOBR4B“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23

 

The people we live with often shape us in ways we hardly recognize until we begin looking back. In my early days I of course lived with my parents and shared a room with my brother. The earliest formative memories were of catching frogs at the lake, getting food from the dumpster, going to church and then grandmas, playing with my brother Rick. After High School it was a bit of a blur for a while. I lived with my aunt, and then a college roommate who came to the room I believe just to throw up, then a summer on the streets, a magician, a professional tennis player, some friends from Campus Crusade for Christ, and then Brenda for the next 37 years. I had no expectation that any of the living arrangement had any permanency until I got married.

 

After a short while I realized that a permanent living partner would take a bit of understanding and some changes, maybe even some work on my part. Most of the changes started on the fly, suggestions in conversations we had, several suggestions repeated several times. Over the years, I have changed a whole lot and am thankful to have someone alongside who always had my best interest in mind.

 

When Jesus chooses to take up residence in our lives, we can begin with assurance that He always has our best interest in mind and He intends this new living arrangement to be permanent. The yes and no of the Holy Spirit are meant to guide us to maturity, like a good parent trying to help us along. Of course, like any relationship, we can assume we know better what works for us than another. What I have learned though is that it is not always about what works better for me that matters. In fact, often that is the very edge pushing me to grow. I must learn to get past what works the best for me and figure out what works best for another.

 

For God to choose to make a home in us is an honor. Let us honor Him with faithful obedience and follow after his good guidance.