Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Power of Perspective


“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.”

                                           C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ministry Thought to Ponder

"We do not use people to get ministry done.  We use ministry to get people done."

                                                                                         Pastor William Sofield

Monday, August 8, 2016

Faith in a Timeless God

As I occasionally mention, I am a Dr. Who fan.  Dr. Who is a science fiction television program produced by the BBC; the Doctor is a Time Lord who travels through space and time in his Tardis.  The original version ran from 1963 to 1989; and while this iteration of the series holds a firm place as an icon of British television for many viewers, I found what little I watched of it to be too cheesy and far-fetched to keep my attention.  The re-booted series started in 2005, and it, too, is often cheesy and far-fetched.  But the new Dr. Who often offers something that not only grabs my attention but keeps it: insight into the nature and relationships of human beings and an invitation to wrestle with moral or ethical questions. 

In a Dr. Who episode that I watched recently, the Doctor is traveling with two companions, Amy and her husband Rory.  In the process of exploring a new place and time, Amy is left in another time dimension and needs rescue.  Although the Doctor and Rory find Amy quickly, they soon discover that she has been struggling to survive in a hostile environment in a faster time stream where almost 40 years have passed.  So in Amy’s time stream, decades have gone by, but for the Doctor and Rory in their time stream, no more than a day or two has passed.  In her almost 40 years of waiting, Amy has become hard, bitter, and devoid of emotion apart from anger.  She wants nothing to do with the men who abandoned her. 

Amy has good reason to be angry and wary of the men who have now—finally—come to rescue her.  And this is where the episode transcends mere science fiction and becomes real food for thought.  Amy must come to grips with the perception-bending truth that while her nearly four decades of misery is very real, the Doctor and Rory did not abandon her the way she feels they did.  She needs to release her anger.  And then she must allow herself to access her emotions and engage in relationship with the Doctor and Rory so that they can in fact rescue her.  The rescue has become as much about rescuing Amy from her heart of bitterness as it is about rescuing her from her situation.  And in true television fashion, Rory slowly coaxes Amy to recover her emotional memory of their relationship, and in the end, she sacrifices the security of her bitterness in order to recover the “real” Amy.

It strikes me that Amy’s experience in this episode of Dr. Who is often our own.  We are truly and deeply hurt, and it very much feels like God has abandoned us, or at the very least, is excruciatingly slow to rescue us.  But we are living in a different time stream than God.  We are bound by time and our sin nature, while God is eternal and perfect.  And while our pain of living in this fallen world is very legitimate, our perception of God is often artificially and inappropriately limited.  We are so hurt that we no longer feel that we can trust God.  And so, like Amy, we need to resolve our anger in the light of the larger truth that our Lord will never leave us or forsake us.  And beyond that, He will work great good out of our most difficult times of suffering.  Without doubt, we have the difficult work of grieving to do.  And then, as we allow ourselves to feel emotions other than fear and anger, we become able to cooperate in our rescue—to trust our Lord to redeem even the most difficult of circumstances.  And in true Biblical fashion, the Holy Spirit and our spiritual brothers and sisters can fan the flame of our faith, we can embrace our Lord’s rescue, and then become our real selves, the people our Lord created us to be and become.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Wait For It!

As an animal lover, one of my favorite YouTube videos gives the viewer a glimpse into the life of a woman and her two dogs.  She has just gone through the Drive Thru at McDonalds, having purchased an ice cream cone for her two dogs, Daisy and Cooper (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHvExOg4NI0).  She offers the cone to Daisy first, while Cooper looks on with hungry eyes.  The woman continues to let Daisy lick the cone while keeping Cooper at bay.  At this point in the video, it is easy for the viewer to think the woman is being unfair and unkind.  Daisy is calmly and happily taking lick after lick of the ice cream, which is just out of Cooper’s reach.  But it is truly a “wait for it” moment.  Eventually, she asks Cooper why Daisy gets to have the ice cream first.  Then she offers the ice cream cone to Cooper, and it is gone in one quick gulp.  And now, the waiting over, the viewer understands and appreciates the owner’s actions.

We live in a culture of instant gratification.  We don’t like to wait.  But if we don’t learn to wait, we will miss the satisfaction that mere gratification can’t match.  It is worth waiting for the punch line at the end of a great joke.  It is worth waiting for a gourmet meal at a nice restaurant.  And it is worth waiting for God to work in our lives.

The Apostle John records the very powerful account of the raising of Lazarus.  Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, send a message to Jesus telling Him of Lazarus’s sickness.  Their message implies a plea for help.  They send the message, and wait.  As they wait, Lazarus dies, and the waiting becomes hopelessness.  But Jesus does come, and when He raises Lazarus, the wait takes on an entirely different emotional flavor. 

Waiting is uncomfortable.  Waiting requires us to sit with our unmet needs and desires.  And while it is appropriate for us to take responsibility for our needs and desires and work toward meeting them, the most significant of these are often beyond our ability to fulfill, and we find ourselves waiting on God.  One of my “takeaways” from a Beth Moore Bible study several years ago was the observation that “God is never late, but He often neglects the opportunity to be early.”

Waiting is hard work, but it is, in fact, the work of faith.  The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Waiting is more than an exercise in patience; it is an opportunity to exercise faith.  Although God, in His sovereign and loving wisdom, may not grant us what we think we want and need, we can rest our heart and minds upon the truths that God gives only good gifts and that He will work even the most difficult of our circumstances for our good and His glory.  Waiting becomes an invitation to take our eyes off ourselves and fix them on our Lord, the author and perfecter of our faith.  And while uncomfortable, that is indeed a very good place to be.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Thought For The Day

"No matter how fast I run, I can never seem to get away from me."

                                                                             Author Unknown

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

An Observation from Paul's Letter to the Romans

"The old nature knows no law; the new nature needs no law."

                                                            Pastor Andrew Straubel, Windsor Chapel

Sunday, June 5, 2016

God's HR Department

The management of human resources has become an increasingly important concept in our culture and society.  Although human resource departments are a secular development, they represent an implicit recognition of Biblical truth: people and the relationships among them are vitally important, and sin creates personal and relational havoc wherever people live and interact.  In business, human resource departments deal with the struggles that emerge when sinful human beings work together, and policies are established to promote a constructive relational environment in which to work and also to limit the damage when sin takes it toll on that environment.

God has a lot to say about the importance of people and about the way He would like them to interact with one another.  Man was created in His image, the image of a relational three-in-one Triune God, to love Him and one another.  Not only was man created from good “stock,” but he was created to manage his Maker’s creation (Genesis 1:28) and to do those good works that He specially and specifically designed him for (Eph. 2:10).  He calls His people—the church—to manifest His claim on us by loving one another (John 13:35).  And we are taught that as the Lord does His work in us, we will be fitted together into His temple (Eph. 2:21).  It is beyond my scope here to discuss the Bible’s comprehensive treatment of Godly relationship, but I would like to offer a “shortcut” summary that I have found helpful in maintaining a Godly relational perspective.

We all associate “HR” with human resources.  I would like to take this acronym and use it as a reminder of two critically important attitudes in relationship: Humility and Respect. 

Humility is, in essence, an acceptance of who we are as creatures of the Lord of the universe, image-bearers of Christ, without attempting to artificially add to that value by self-focused efforts at performance and self-righteousness.  It is the recognition that we are sinners in need of a Savior.  Humility is not about thinking of ourselves as low, unworthy, or worthless.  It is rather about thinking correctly about ourselves.  We are God’s glorious creatures, marred by sin and selfishness, and redeemed by the blood of Christ.  There is nothing we can add to Christ’s work on our behalf.  We have no grounds to boast in ourselves.  Bond-servants of Christ have nothing to earn and nothing to prove.  I very much appreciate C.S. Lewis’s perspective on humility.  In Mere Christianity, Lewis suggests that the helpful way to avoid pride and maintain humility is to not think much about ourselves at all.  And indeed, if we are keeping our eyes on our Master, we will not have the time or inclination to focus on ourselves.

Respect is, at least in some sense, a fruit of humility.  As we bask in who we are as image-bearers of Christ and heirs of heaven, and as we accept that we cannot add to what Christ has done for us, we have no need to compare ourselves to or compete with others.  We can accept them as fellow image-bearers of Christ, we can appreciate their God-given gifts, and we can love them for who they are.  We have no need to approach from a superior or inferior position.  Instead, we can offer genuine respect that enables and encourages relationship.

Christ is our model as well as our Lord.  The Apostle Paul teaches us that Jesus emptied Himself and humbled Himself in becoming man and dying for us (Philippians 2:5-8).  And Jesus’s approach to even the lowliest and most sinful members of society manifests an incredible respect.  So as we follow our Lord and Master and internalize His humility and respect, we become wonderful administrators of God’s HR department.