Monday, January 30, 2012

Be a Duck!

When  the boys were little and had moments of disappointment, like when something they wanted didn’t work out, or somebody said something that hurt their feelings, I’d tell them to be a duck.

A duck is designed to float on the water. His feathers are a protective covering made to form a tight seal to prevent the water he’s sitting on from absorbing. If the water ever got through and absorbed he was going down. Repelling the water was the key to his ability to stay on top of the waves instead of sinking beneath them.

Even in a rain storm, he could still float. The water would drip on this head then trickle off without soaking in.

The boys learned that absorbing the bad comment or latching on to the bad feelings would weigh them down excessively, making it difficult to function. So, like a duck, allowing things to drip off would keep them on top of the water.

I’ve watched them since and realized that all those lessons gave them were tools. The lessons provided resources. They didn’t force the boys to use the resources. Occasionally the boys have taken in too much of their frustrations and have experienced life just under the surface. I have ached for them but realize I can’t make them be ducks. Only they can choose to be the duck.

As God made the duck to physically repel water, He has made us to not drown by our circumstances. I will still be affected, still get wet, may even go under the surface for a while, but I don’t have to drown. He has provided the resources, I must choose to use those resources.

I’m going to be a duck today. I choose not to absorb what my circumstances rain upon me. Today, I will walk with the Lord who remains on the throne regardless of any and all circumstances. Today, I am a duck. Hear me quack. See me waddle.

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's Not as Hard as We Make It

The challenge of walking in the Spirit is refusing to set the terms. The whole idea is to release ourselves into God’s intentions and respond to what we face detached from our ways. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

It is obvious that our ways and our thoughts tend to be more earthly than heavenly, more flesh than Spirit. So to walk in the Spirit, I must deny myself the impulse to go my way and invest in my thoughts and, instead, take up the cross to follow Jesus.

The cross was an implement of death in Jesus’ life. But in the bigger picture it was the symbol of why He came in the first place—to do the will of Him who sent Me. So the cross is bigger than the means of Jesus’ physical death, it is the statement of His willingness to find and do the Father’s ways and have the Father’s thoughts.

For us, by refusing to follow the flesh, we will walk in the Spirit. It is not a complicated process. It is a matter of choice. I will be who I am (a child of God) and live my life reflective of that identity if I refuse to act contrary.

The sculptor who created a horse from a block of granite only had to knock off all the stuff that didn’t look like a horse. He didn’t create the horse, he merely exposed the horse.

With the Spirit indwelling us, we need not invite Him in—that’s like telling someone to come into a room they are already in. Our responsibility is to yield ourselves to His presence. The promise of Him walking with us (paraklete) is a constant provision waiting for release. Once yielded, I simply go through my day acknowledging His presence and anticipating Him leading me toward God’s ways and thoughts.

“If we walk in the Spirit we will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” And, as a child of God, if we do not carry out the desires of the flesh, we will walk in the Spirit.

Let’s see where our feet lead us today.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My God's Bigger Than Your God

Has God become so common He is no longer holy? Relational theology, our attempt at knowing and relating to God, has changed throughout the years. The change has come when people gravitate toward one aspect of God’s character more than the others. When you look at God through the wrong end of the telescope, instead of seeing the big picture you end up focused on limited features. In our eyes, God becomes less than who He really is.

 With the privilege of “knowing God” comes the task of not limiting Him to any one characteristic. I know that He is a loving God whose mercy endures forever. I know that He is a forgiving God who removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. I know that He is a faithful God who remains steadfast regardless of my own failings.

But to limit Him to any one of these, to make one characteristic the primary distinctive, I lose sight of the totality of who God is. He cannot be loving without being holy. He cannot be merciful without being just. He cannot be faithful without being sovereign. By picking a characteristic as “my favorite” I run the risk of offending rather than honoring God, by limiting His limitlessness.

You often hear Christians say they like the New Testament God more than the Old Testament God. In the New Testament God is loving, forgiving and actively pursuing a relationship with them. In the Old He is separating out the good from the bad, judging the actions of His people and punishing them accordingly. We see the New Testament God as being friendlier than the Old. We are drawn to friendliness.

But Hebrews says He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Old Testament God is the same one in the New Testament and the New Testament God is the same one in the Old Testament. As difficult as it is to grasp, He was loving, merciful and faithful while at the same time holy enough to judge the actions of His people. Why can’t we see that? Why couldn’t the people back then see that? Perhaps it was the lack of understanding that it was because He loved them so much He was faithful to judge them. They failed to see that His intentions were good and right.

If we reverse the telescope and see the bigger picture we’ll see the God who desires relationship also has standards reflective of that relationship. Maybe the holiness by which He demonstrated His goodness is there for us to see. Maybe His actions were working all things together for good. And maybe the furnace by which He burned off the worldliness, was designed to purify not destroy.

Embrace God. All of God. Not just the parts that we like. Be assured there is more to God than we have yet discovered. By stopping too soon, or seeking only the parts we like, we may never discover how great He really is.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Down is Not the New Up

There is a downward spiral—like a plane losing control and tumbling to earth in ever tightening circles of despair—that catches us and hurries us into defeat. It begins with disappointment, a subtle regret that something didn’t work out as planned. If left unchecked the disappointment becomes discouragement. Discouragement is a gnawing agitation that stirs up thoughts of on-going disappointment. It is the regular reminder that what disappointed me will do it again.

Unchecked discouragement turns into disillusionment. All I can see is a distorted future of being disappointed continually. In my mind, I am in a tail-spin of disappointment and have no hope of pulling out. The downward spiral has captured me. Once captured I enter a dark and deep depression.

To change the analogy, I am disappointed I got a rock in my shoe. If I leave it there I will be come discouraged to take the next step, anticipating the pain. Failure to take the next step will paralyze me into refusing to go forward in my life. I will remain in a dark and deep depression.

Obviously, it is easier to stop the downward spiral from beginning than to pull out once gravity has gripped the plane. It is easier to deal with disappointment than discouragement and disillusionment.

Disappointment comes when I cease to give thanks in all things and become restless instead of contented in how God is accomplishing what concerns me. I may not like what goes on, but I do not have to absorb the dislike until it becomes a regret that grips my heart.

Let go of it and it will not pull you down.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Grady, Goober and Righteous Indignation

Pastor Jerguson had waxed eloquently for nearly twenty minutes on why it was okay for Jesus to get angry but not us. “It wasn’t that Jesus was mad,” he said, “it was just righteousness indignation.”

Righteous and indignation were two words Goober had never heard together in the same sentence. In fact, though he knew what the first meant, he had no clue about the second. His first thought was that Pastor Jerguson had meant to say was indigestion. But, then again, what would righteous indigestion be? Maybe indigestion you got after a church pot-luck?

“What’s righteous indigestion?” he whispered to Grady.

“Not indigestion,” Grady whispered back, “instigation, means He got so mad He did something about it.”

“Nah, I heard him say indigestion,” Goober replied a bit too loudly. Wanda Albright and little Jimmy turned around from the seat in front of them and shushed them rather loudly.

Pastor Jerguson looked over at Grady and Goober and made his eyebrows touch together. Grady poked Goober in the ribs and they both sat up straight, looking toward the front with a sudden inquisitive piousness on their faces. Pastor Jerguson continued.

“Righteous indignation is the only anger God allows,” he said. “It’s getting mad at the things God gets mad at.”

“See, I told you it was indigestion,” Goober whispered.

“He said indignation, you imbecile. God doesn’t get indigestion.”

“Don’t call me an imbecile, you moron.”

Moron? I’m the moron? You’re an idiot moron.” As the tone and volume began to kick up a notch, Goober’s neck started turning red and Grady had started spitting his words, which were now splattering on Wanda Albrights bouffant. She turned around and shushed them again, adding an argh to emphasis her displeasure with the two of them.

Pastor Jerguson stopped and looked down at Goober and Grady. “Would you two like to take this outside? Now!” he shouted.

Grady and Goober got up and headed for the back door. “I think Pastor J’s pretty mad at us this time,” Grady said.

“Nah, I think Pastor J just got his righteousness indignated,” Goober replied.

Needless to say, Pastor Jerguson lost total control of his congregation as they burst into righteous laughter with him at the pulpit fuming and Grady and Goober walking down the aisle calling each other names.