Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Burning leaves

I wrote about this a couple of years ago, in response to a question posed during a study called "Sent" by Ed Stetzer...

What change can your church make in the world?

I pondered this, and kept being reminded of the days in my childhood that Dad would burn leaves. We would start by getting our rakes and preparing the leaves into piles, strategically placing the leaves to allow for the most efficient and complete burn as possible. Usually ending up with 5-7 piles all over the yard. Dad would then go to the first pile of his choosing, and strike a match. He would light one leaf on fire. soon, each leaf in contact wit this first leaf would ignite. Within moments, the single burning leaf had led to an eruption.

Dad would then take his rake and lift some of the still burning leaves from this first pile and begin to place them in various other piles. These transplanted leaves would then ignite these other piles, and soon, every pile was burning...

At the end of the day, there would be leaves that did not burn for various reasons, and we would save them for another time, when they are more ready to catch fire... but for the leaves that were ready, the job was done.

The point being this... if our church is sure to make itself ready to be used, and is accepting of its place in the world, we can ignite our corner of the world... and once that flame is set, God's word tells us that nothing, not Hell itself can overtake us.We must also accept that some leaves are not ready for the ignition, we don't treat them any differently, we just wait...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mom beat cancer...

Probably a few posts this week about my mom, approaching the 1 year mark of her passing... This first one is a long one, the others (if they happen) will likely be shorter... So, here goes-

Been spending alot of time, and it will probably get worse before it gets better, throwing myself little pity parties. I have been stuck in a pattern of thinking about my mom and losing her nearly a year ago... In a little more than a week, it'll be the 1 year anniversary. Life getting back to normal seems to be the biggest culprit, I've finally gotten to where I am using some of her recipes, and accepting that she is gone. It makes me feel that I am not grieved enough to not have her... Like I must be broken because I'm not distraught (nor have I truly been during this) over losing her.

I love my mom dearly, she was the o e person who could flawlessly follow my logic, and her straightforward honest approach to my upbringing made me so much of what I am now... But I rarely "miss" her. I know there are times when it'd be nice to tell her something, or have her be the ONLY person to laugh at my joke... But ultimately, I'm so happy for her, so proud of her, that I can't bring myself to say I truly wish she were still here.

My mom is with our living God and Savior. She chose to tell her cancer to take a hike and that she was going to go to the Master Physician and get healed. Not only does my mom not have cancer anymore, but she also has a place in a heavenly choir. She doesn't have to think about, dwell on, or worry about this sad, broken, sinful world. She was done putting up with the filth that Satan spreads on this earth, she was ready to be in a world that has never, and will never be marred by sin. I'm jealous that she is there already, but encouraged that I am still here because there is work to be done. I have a mission, assigned by the Holy, Living God... I am His servant.

One day, I'll get to leave this earth, just like the rest of us all... We will all spend eternity somewhere... our soul is eternal, it has to dwell someplace... do you know where you're headed? Mom knew where she was going, and she was excited to be going.

How do I know that?

It the last conversation we ever had. I went to her hospital room at 2AM. She was awake when I walked in, just staring at the ceiling. We had just that morning been told that her cancer had overtaken her liver. The only treatment options left stood a better chance at just making her death slow and painful. Her decision, as she put it, was to stop playing by cancer's rules. She was tired of the disease dictating her life, she was ready to go home.
When I walked into her room, her gaze to the ceiling looked prayerful. I can honestly say that I don't remember seeing my mother pray often. Her faith was private in so many ways. I waited until she noticed me standing there. I has just lost a patient of my own, like my mom, much to young for their body to have put up with what it had. I had made a habit of visit mom's room while I was working, particularly if it had been a bad night. She was in the hospital so often, that I knew that I would have someone to talk to.

She noticed me standing next to her bed after a couple moments, I told her about the patient I had just lost... She smiled and gave me a hug. As she released me I caught a glimpse of her eyes. There was something different, peace... they were no longer tired, dying, they were (in that moment) youthful and joyous. I asked, "You ready to go home tomorrow?"

We talked briefly about the arrangements at the house... Her bed positioned in front of the front bay window, overlooking her flowers and the timber... at last, I asked the only question that really matters, "Are you ready to go Home." She smiled (her unforgettable, gorgeous smile) and simply said, "yes." We hugged, cried, and she told me she was sorry about the patient I lost that night. It was the last time we spoke, the rest of the week she had left, there was hand-holding, and smiles... there was peace and comfort. And, I will stand by it forever, just before she left this world, she looked me in the eye, smiled, and then moved her gaze beyond me... looking past this broken world. Her faith, though quiet for many years, became abundantly clear sight. She beat cancer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

VBS reminded me

It's VBS week at FBC-Nixa... One of the many great things that our church does is adult VBS. this is the first year that we are attending the event, and it's so good to spend some extra time in God's word, learning about His power. It has been a great reminder that, with our priorities in proper alignment, life is much easier to navigate.

I was reminded of the need for proper priorities while we're reviewing the first lesson from this week. From the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan in Joshua 3-4. Normally we read this as another account of how powerful God is to help us through our troubles. But this time around, as I have been struggling through a process of following God, the story spoke from a different angle.
God told Joshua to first send the Ark of the Covenant into the river. God placed Himself (or at least this representation of Himself) into the river. He told Joshua that if he would put God first, that the raging flow of the flooded Jordan would be stood up like a wall and Joshua's people would cross on dry land!
God promises us over and over again that He will be with us always. He will help us in all our trials, by seeing us through them, and at times, by removing the obstacles. We get angry and doubt His existence when we perceive that He has lied to us, or failed us... but, look again at this story, God gave us a standard and condition... We are to place Him first.

Friday, June 8, 2012

An honest question

Something that has been a recurring theme lately in books I'm reading, sermons I'm listening to, and, most recently, in some VeggieTales I was watching earlier... Sometimes and, it seems apparent to me, most of the time, forgiveness not only requires repentance, but also repayment/replenishment.

We see it in the story of Zacchaeus, when he became a follower of Jesus, he felt he not only needed to repent, but to give back what he took and more! And in the VeggieTales telling of Esther, we see King Xerxes, upon learning that it was Mordecai that saved his life, not only asked forgiveness, he lavished him with royal gifts!

The fact that this principle keeps cropping up makes me wonder what kinds of things we miss in day to day life to say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong, help me make it right." In a sermon from Luke, Mark Driscoll talks about this by describing it if you let a "friend" borrow your Hyundai, and he never returned... Until one day, he apologizes, and then hands over the keys to his new BMW.

So, what I am asking is this, if you read this... How have I wronged you that I have not apologized for, and how can I repay my debt to you?

I will ask that you keep in mind that I am not capable of gifting you a Beamer...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Not a Fan: week 2: "Follow me"

Last night was the second installment of our church-wide study of Kyle Idleman's book, "Not a Fan". We focused mostly on the accounts of the gospels' recording how Matthew became a follower of Christ.

While discussing the verses, we were to look at what it was that stood out to us about Matthew's conversion. Many pointed to how he immediately followed, or how he left everything to follow. For the purpose of our study, those are awesome points. It gives us a great example of how a terrible sinner like Matthew can be accepted, as he is, by Christ. It is also an impressive and inspiring story to see someone as wealthy and powerful leave everything and, immediately, follow.

For me, and where I have been struggling lately, the words that stuck out most to me were the words of Jesus, "Follow me". That's all He said to Matthew. It wasn't a request, Jesus wasn't asking if Matthew wanted to follow. It was a command, "Follow me."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The girl with the tattoo

Talking with a friend this week, she told me of something that she saw recently that broke her heart. It was a young woman she came across, on the back of her leg was tattooed the phrase "this knee will never bow".

I've spent some time the last couple days thinking about it, and I just think I need to get some thoughts out... In case a person stumbles across this blog who has a similar attitude.

1) I don't know this person, and have zero idea about their life or any of the circumstances that led her to get this tattoo. I don't know what her true spiritual condition is, or what she truly believes about God. I would guess, from the evidence, that she calls herself an atheist.
I would argue however, that a person who would get such a tattoo is in no way an atheist. It is more likely that she knows that God exists, but chooses to live her life as though he does not... probably believing that life is easier that way. She doesn't have to be responsible for her behaviors if she can tell herself that there is no God. The worst part of this, to me, is that her lifestyle is eerily similar to many people who profess Christianity. The motivations behind the behavior is different... we tell ourselves that we are covered by the grace of God, or that our sin is less important than others'. We suppose on the love of God, choosing to live as if we are outside of His wrath. The end result of both of these types of people, is a life that is fake, sinful, and wasted. The final product is two lives that, when observed for the outside, look the same. They are both lives that are useless to the Kingdom of God. The hope for both is remembering who God is and truly coming into relationship with Christ. Both would then have a chance if amazing testimonies, and, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, could do amazing things to the Glory of God.

2) As I thought about all of that, I thought, "wouldn't it be great if someone just walked up and (lovingly) explained those things to her." Which reminded me of something Chan wrote about in CrazyLove: saying that those moments when we imagine what the world would look like if we all started living radically for the cause of Christ... in those moments, we need to remember that that behavior is not considered radical to God, it is what Jesus expects out of us, as followers. We are expected to converse with people like this young lady, get to know her story. We are supposed to invest in her and try to understand why she felt it was necessary to tattoo such a bold statement against God on her body. We are supposed to understand the depth of God's love for her, allowing us to recognize how to best display that love to her. We are supposed to open her up and allow the Holy Spirit to bring that deep, eternal heart change that I spoke of earlier... If we fail her by simply brushing past her, and judging her for that tattoo, her life may never change.

One day we will then stand in the presence of God, He will replay our life... I fear the when He stops the film and asks, "What about the girl with the tattoo?" I hate to think of all the times that I have not been obedient in living as Christ commands us to live. I break to think of the potential persons who are now, or someday may be, in the eternal torment of Hell that may have just been waiting for one person to care enough to listen, and allow them to see God's perfect love.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Elementary Truths: easy does not equal right

I have recently, the past month or so, finally realized the sometimes a person can't always do what is easy. I have learned that we have to do what is right, and sometimes, that is really hard. I know, we all think that this is pretty basic, and that everyone knows this truth... But here's the thing, if everyone knows it, why do so few do it?

It's a message that is shoved down our throats from elementary school and to eternity... And yet again, we live as though the concept is foreign.

I have made 2 major decisions in the last month that I consciously was aware were not the easy choice. I struggled mightily, claiming that I was pursuing God's will... But I knew, very clearly, in each case where God stood. I was trying to find a way to blame God for making the easy choice.

You know what happens when you do that? You get nailed by sermons, personal bible study, books, peers, your wife...everything. Resisting such a strong call and direct guidance of our God opens you up for a gauntlet of conviction... I, personally, went into bargaining mode. I knew that my choices, though right, would cost me some things. And not just small things, things that I rank as pretty important in my life. They would probably even hurt some folks who are close to me. So, how could they be the right choice?

Because, the things that I would be sacrificing are all things that I often place at a higher priority in life than God. From that perspective, it becomes a matter of whether my relationship with Christ is truly the most important thing, or if it is one of the many other things I put in its place.

It is this act of melting down my own golden calf, and being able to tangibly feel the personal sacrifice that has given me peace that these decisions, while hard, are right. It is that knowledge that has brought me to the place of finally, truly KNOWING that sometimes, the right choice is not the easy choice.