Month: April 2016

Star Wars and Heart Wars

1 Chronicles 17:1, 3-4

After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.”….
But that night the word of God came to Nathan, saying: “Go and tell my servant David,
‘This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.’”

Last week, in his God in the Movies sermon series, our pastor taught on the faith lessons to be gleaned from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now, you have to know that I am NOT a Star Wars fan. Every 10 years or so, I try again to watch A New Hope, but I fall asleep before they get out of the desert. I once tried to watch The Empire Strikes Back, but couldn’t manage to stay awake for more than about 20 minutes.

Even so, the spiritual significance of this new installment was not lost on me. Our pastor highlighted the main theme running through the film, namely that there was a generational handoff afoot. The old guard was giving way to the new, and there were tensions and sacrifices associated with this transition. He compared this transition to one depicted in 1 Timothy, wherein the Apostle Paul is handing the ministerial baton to Timothy, his understudy.

This epistle has at least three lessons to offer to both the old guard in the faith and the new. For the older generation, Paul sets the example of being willing to: (1) serve for as long as he lives, even if the capacity of that service may change; (2) serve with humility; and (3) provide wise counsel as a mentor. For the newer and younger members of the Body, Timothy sets the example of: (1) having a teachable spirit; (2) finding confidence in his calling rather than his experience; and (3) being willing to sacrifice his own desires for the sake of the greater good.

This handoff reminds me of another story in Scripture, one that is recounted in both 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17. In this story, David wants to build a temple for God. God has other plans, however. He intends for David’s son Solomon to build the temple. David sacrifices his desire in the interest of God’s. And sometimes we must follow in these same footsteps.

As I have reflected on last week’s sermon, and these passages, I can’t help but relate them to my own desire to adopt a child. I’ve had a heart for adoption for a long time, but have not received clear direction from God to go forward. Sadly, I have no Nathan in my life to speak directly on behalf of God. But something in Brady’s sermon did catch my attention. He said, in relation to Timothy’s calling, that our callings should be “affirmed by Godly leaders.” So I thought back. I’ve been talking about adoption for a long time, to pretty much anyone who would listen. But try as I may, I can’t think of anyone who has actually affirmed that desire as my calling. People listen, they promise to pray, they ask if we’ve come to any decisions, they have even pressured us to come to a decision (one way or the other). But if I’m being honest, that affirmation hasn’t come.

Lesson #3 from Timothy also caught my attention. God’s people must be willing to sacrifice their own desires for the sake of the greater good. It’s one thing to make sacrifices for things we desire—although certainly not easy. But it’s quite another to consider the bigger picture and the greater narrative, and to give up our own desires for the cause. And what if, for me, adoption is just that—a desire? What if it isn’t my calling after all?

What if I’m actually part of the old guard in this narrative? What if I’m meant to pass the baton to the newer and younger followers? What if my role now is to move on to a new stage in life, and to serve in any way that I can from that position? What if my job is to offer wise counsel to those who follow? What if I am called to mentor and disciple future leaders, investing in their spiritual growth? What if I am meant to shine God’s light in a classroom, rather than being confined to the walls of my home?

I have to tell you, I don’t have all the answers. But I’m willing to ask the questions, and I figure that must count for something, right?

Here’s to you, and your own search for meaning, purpose, and calling in this life.

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An Unlikely Enemy

Isaiah 55:8-9

“‘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.’”

They say that the good is often the enemy of the best. It’s one of the truest statements ever made. I think it applies especially to God and to His plans for each of us. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some ideas. I’ve got ideas about how I can serve God, and further the Kingdom, and bless all of humanity. Yeah, I’ve got some big ideas and some equally big plans. But wait—what’s that the Bible says in Proverbs 16:9? “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”

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But my plans are good! They’re noble, they’re selfless and sacrificial. And those things are true. But no matter how good my plans may be, they may not be BEST. God may have better plans than I do. Let’s face it, He undoubtedly does. So He’ll close some doors and open others. He’ll speak to me through other believers. He will give me a sense of peace, or perhaps a sense of unrest. And sometimes, some of our dreams have to die to make room for the dreams God has for us.

There’s a story I’ve heard several times, of a little girl with a fake pearl necklace that she adores and wears religiously. One night, her Dad asks, “Do you love me?” Her reply is, “Yes, of course I love you.” Dad’s reply? “Then will you give me your pearls?” Devastated, she replies, “Daddy, I do love you, but I can’t give you my pearls.” This exchange goes on for several nights, until the little girl finally answers, “Daddy, I do love you, and if you really want my pearls that badly, you can have them.” And once she hands them over through tears, the dad pulls out a beautiful string of REAL pearls, a gift he’s been waiting so long to give her. She’s finally willing to give up the good, in exchange for the best. The question is, am I? And are you?

Oh God, let us accept your best for us with open minds, open hands, and open hearts. Help us to believe the truth that your thoughts and your ways are so very much higher than ours; that you have plans to prosper us, to bring us a future and a hope; and that you are ready and waiting to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. In the all-powerful name of Jesus, let it be so.  

The Greater Blessing

Hebrews 12:1-2a

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run
 with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

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If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you may recall how I feel about blessings and what it means to be blessed. Awhile back, our pastor described blessings in terms of a nearness to God. So it isn’t the material things (money, houses, cars) or even the nonmaterial things (health, longevity, family) that we so often ask God for that offer the greatest blessings. Rather, it is those things that draw us closer to Him, that force us to place our trust more firmly in Him, and that help us to fall ever more in love with Him.

I recently posed an argument that opportunities to become more like Christ would also fall under this definition of blessing, and I still believe that’s true. However, over the last week or so, God has begun to change my heart about what that Christ-like transformation might look like—namely, it will look different for each one of us.

Of course, we are seeking a likeness to the same Jesus, who is as unchanging as God the Father Himself. But that Jesus is made up of many more characteristics than one. And we each excel at Christ-likeness in some areas, and struggle in others. And God wants us to grow closer to Him along all of those dimensions. And that growth may look different for you than it does for me—in fact, it almost assuredly will!

So, perhaps God will grow my patience, while He grows your joy. Or my gentleness and your love. Or my self-control and your peace. These exercises will require different actions from each of us. God has convicted me to recognize that my way is not the only way, or the right way, or the only right way. It isn’t even necessarily the better way. Instead, each of us will find the greater blessing when we openly accept God’s invitation to draw most near to Him. It will come when we allow God to stretch us beyond our current strengths, and to grow us in our areas of weakness.

I pray that we would each be open to God’s leading and instruction: that we would read the Word with intention and conviction, taking from it the hard as well as the easy truths; that we would seek and discern wise counsel from among the many voices swirling around us; and that we would trust and follow the Holy Spirit. Godspeed as you seek the greater blessing!

The Choicest of Wines

John 2: 7-10

“Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.
He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said,

“Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine
after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

Don’t you just love how you can read a Bible story over and over, and still get something new out of it every time? I think we’ve all read John’s account of Christ’s first miracle at the wedding in Cana. But recently, I read it again, and it meant something new to me. You see, the master of the banquet was right. The guests would have been perfectly content with a cheap wine. Jesus could have brought out the Franzia or the Boon’s Farm and it would have been fine.

But Jesus doesn’t do that, does he? He doesn’t give cheap gifts—ever. He doesn’t perform half-hearted miracles—ever. He gives only the best, because that’s what God does. Every. Single. Time. He outdoes himself, and never ceases to amaze his beloved children.

And even when things aren’t going the way we planned, even when we’ve run out of wine at the wedding, we can be confident that Jesus will step in and meet our needs in a way that only he can—in a way that will amaze us and everyone around us. Our job is to ask, and to ask believing that he will respond, and trusting that he will always respond with the very choicest of wines. Selah.

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