Breakfast Is Served!

I’m reflecting this morning on the end of the gospel of John and a few key points seem particularly relevant to me today:

1-Jesus met the disciples where they were and in their then-present circumstances (he knew where to find them and what they’d be doing: out to sea fishing);
2-Jesus provided for them (a catch of fish too large to haul back into the boat);
3-Jesus prepared for and served them (cooked a meal of fish and bread and gave it to them).

Then, after doing so, He said, “Follow me.” The bible seems to indicate that He was just speaking to Peter, but, John got up and followed Him, too. Martin Luther, in his commentary, indicates that there are two lessons to learn here. First, even Peter, one of the greatest apostles, immediately after having been engaged in conversation with and called by Jesus, lost his focus. He took his eyes off Jesus and became concerned with what those around him were doing. Second, Jesus may have different plans for each one of us. In essence, Jesus responded to Peter’s question by letting him know that it was none of his business what His plans were for John.

So, what do I get out of this? First, I was reminded that Jesus loves me personally, where I am, right now. He knows what I’m dealing with on a daily basis. He knows what is swirling around in my head from one moment to the next. Second, He is more than capable of providing for my needs in my present circumstances. Third, what He has in mind for me is far greater than anything I can come up with on my own. I’ve never had fish for breakfast, but, if prepared and served by Jesus Himself, it would be far better than anything that I could pull out of the pantry or refrigerator to make for myself in the morning. Finally, we are not all called to live out the same story or to serve in the same mission or ministry in our lives. We shouldn’t model ourselves after other people that we think are good. We should model ourselves after Jesus. This is His story and He knows where we fit into it.

Have a great day!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

Perspective: His vs. Ours

I’ve been reading through a year-long devotional written by Billy Graham on YouVersion and one notion that keeps showing up again and again in Graham’s commentary is the concept that our minds are finite while God is infinite. Our days are numbered, but, He is eternal. Our perspective and understanding of other people and events that happen all around us is limited, but, God is omniscient and, from His perspective, He sees and knows everything.

Too often in my life I’ve determined my position, in relation Jesus, in relation to my soul, and in relation to other people, based on my own personal perspective which, one moment, can be one way, but, a moment later, based on any of a number of variables out of my control, or even something as fickle as my mood,  can be completely different.

It wasn’t until I surrendered, after having everything in my life fall apart in a manner that I realized went far beyond anything I could ever repair, to the reality that my only hope begins in a God can that make sense of things that I can’t, that I truly found peace. But, to be able to surrender I had to exercise faith – a placement of trust in that which I can’t see. I had to trust that there is more to this world and this life than what I can see, hear, feel, taste, touch, and process with three pounds of gray matter in my skull.

Everybody has faith. The difference from one person to the next, though, is where each person places theirs. We either place our faith in our own understanding and ability to figure things out and make sense of the world around us or we place our faith in something bigger. For some, this might mean the ever-evolving knowledge of science in which the accepted scientific “truths” of today are turned upside down by the discoveries of tomorrow. For others, the trust that they place in something bigger might be in a form of religion or politics that places one race or group of people on a higher pedestal than another.

My faith is invested in the One who is Love (1John 4:8), the God of Jesus Christ who, while here in the flesh, taught, healed, served, and fed those in need and instructed his believers to, above all else, love God and to love others as themselves (Matthew 22:37-40). He did not come to judge and persecute. He didn’t come to mistreat those who didn’t understand or agree with Him. He came to love, serve, and save and He instructed His followers to do the same.

I am not the most articulate person when it comes to defending my faith by quoting scripture off the top of my head (I had to look up everything mentioned here for the proper scriptural references). I don’t think I posess the quick wit of a person who is apt to win a debate with somebody else they’re sitting across the table from, either. But, I realize and find comfort in the fact that I don’t have to be. My trust isn’t in my finite self, but, instead, is invested in He who is infinite.

“Father, although my finite mind cannot understand all the wonders of the Gospel, I thank You for the assurance of my salvation through Christ.”
-Billy Graham

“Whatever you think is love, whatever you think is peace, whatever you think is good, whatever you think is right, whatever you think He is, He is infinite.”
-Kevin Max

Other posts I’ve written related to the topic of God’s perspective vs. our own:

Randy Alcorn, Kevin Max, and Infinite Providence

In Our Lives: The Glorious Unfolding

Fear In The Face Of The Unknown

The View From The Valley

Here In This Moment, The Sun May Not Be Shining

A couple of great songs that celebrate God’s providence:

“Infinite” by Kevin Max – His new album, BROKEN TEMPLES, celebrates the fact that when we are broken, we are freed to find our peace in Him – the album is due 3/10 and available for pre-order through Pledge Music at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/kevinmax

“The Glorious Unfolding” by Steven Curtis Chapman – One of my favorite albums, now, specifically because so many of the lyrics on the album, including the title track, focus on this concept of faith in our God who can see so much more than we can.

The View From The Valley

Today I read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in the eleventh chapter of the gospel of John and gained a greater appreciation for the manner in which our schedule (as human beings with limited perspective) often fails to line up with God’s. Concerned and worried, Mary and Martha, friends of Jesus, sent word that their brother Lazarus was sick. But, when Jesus received the message, He responded in a manner that gave no sense of alarm or panic. Instead, He seemed to have a sense of peace with the situation, despite the fact that Lazarus and his sisters were close friends of his, saying instead, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it. (John 11:4). As verses five and six state, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.”
So, not only was He not alarmed or panicking, but, he didn’t even leave for Bethany until two days after he heard that Lazarus was sick. Having heard that He was finally coming, Martha went and met Jesus, who was still on his way, and declared, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But, upon arriving in Bethany, Jesus, sure as He was in what was yet to happen, was emotionally shaken by the mourning and grief evident in the friends and family of Lazarus. As John states in verse thirty-three, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled,” and it was then that Jesus asked them to take him to where Lazarus was buried and proceeded to raise him back to life.
I was struck by two main points while reading this passage this morning. First, we have a lot to gain if we can learn to trust God’s plan and His timing. We may not understand it all. It might make no sense. The dying loved one we’re praying for may not heal. The big job promotion we’re hoping for may not happen quick, or at all. But, sometimes it takes time for the growth that God knows we need to go through to happen.
But, I also learned that, while it is true that trusting Him during challenging times is, most certainly, critical, He is not unmoved by the trials that we face and the pain that we sometimes must endure in the midst of those trials. He is with us, more than ever, in the darkest moments. Whether we feel His presence or not, He knows that it is our choice to trust that He is there and that it is that choice we make, in faith, that provides the fertile soil out of which even stronger faith and the purest, eternal joy can be born, “for God’s glory.”

Fear In The Face Of The Unknown

I spent a few minutes this evening looking over different definitions and explanations of what fear is and the most common explanations focus on the perceived thread of danger. Danger, of course, can present itself in many forms, from imminent and extreme danger (e.g., coming face to face with a large, angry bear while hiking) to perceived danger which may or may not actually be a threat (e.g., discovering a lump on your body is may or may not be cancer).

As humans we sometimes suffer under the tremendous weight of fear. On the other hand, we also seem to be addicted to the sensations that come by entertaining a small measure of fear and allowing our attention, emotions, and imagination to be carried away by stories, movies, and sports — when we invest our interest in a particular character or team and allow our emotions to rise and fall with the limited uncertainties of either a happy ending, a sad ending, a win, or a loss.

And that’s all fine and dandy as long as we know the movie will end or the game clock will wind down to zero and the stress will be gone. But, what about in our real lives? In reality we don’t necessarily know when or if the job demands will let up. We don’t know what the biopsy results will be or if therapy will be effective. We can’t be there for every challenge that our kids will face as the grow up to support them through to a safe and happy end.

Fear grips our hearts hardest when we don’t necessarily have any input on the outcome. The weight of burden becomes too much for our finite brains to process and we break down under the weight.

In the March 21, 1944 audio clip from the BBC Series “Beyond Personality,” C.S. Lewis entertains a question that many, apparently, asked him regarding how God could possibly give appropriate attention to millions of prayers being prayed to Him simultaneously:

…I’d like to deal with a difficulty some people find about the whole idea of prayer. Somebody put it to me by saying: “I can believe in God alright, but what I can’t swallow is this idea of Him listening to several hundred million human beings who are all addressing Him at the same moment.”

And I find quite a lot of people feel that difficulty.

Well, the first thing to notice is that the whole sting of it comes in the words “at the same moment.” Most of us can imagine a God attending to any number of claimants if only they come one by one and He has an endless time to do it in. So what’s really at the back of the difficulty is this idea of God having to fit too many things into one moment of time.

Well that, of course, is what happens to us. Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along, and there’s room for precious little in each. That’s what Time is like. And, of course, you and I tend to take it for granted that this Time series — this arrangement of past, present and future — isn’t simply the way life comes to us but is the way all things really exist. We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from a past to a future just as we are. But many learned men don’t agree with that. I think it was the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in Time at all. Later, the Philosophers took it over. And now some of the scientists are doing the same.

Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life doesn’t consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He hasn’t got to listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call “ten-thirty.” Ten-thirty, and every other moment from the beginning to the end of the world, is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has infinity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.

That’s difficult, I know. Can I try to give something, not the same, but a bit like it. Suppose I’m writing a novel. I write “Mary laid down her book; next moment came a knock at the door.” For Mary, who’s got to live in the imaginary time of the story, there’s no interval between putting down the book and hearing the knock. But I, her creator, between writing the first part of that sentence and the second, may have gone out for an hour’s walk and spent the whole hour thinking about Mary. I know that’s not a perfect example, but it may just give a glimpse of what I mean. The point I want to drive home is that God has infinite attention, infinite leisure to spare for each one of us. He doesn’t have to take us in the line. You’re as much alone with Him as if you were the only thing He’d ever created.

When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you’d been the only man in the world.

The human brain is a physical organ that is limited in it’s potential to comprehend just as much as it is limited in its mass and size. The notion of having every aspect of our lives and, particularly, our futures under control is an illusion that we will never be able to actually grasp in reality.

Consequently, the peace that we seek in security and control is also an illusion. We cannot achieve peace in our lives. We can’t know all that the future holds, but, we can know He that holds the future. We can’t acquire peace in our lives on our own accord, but, we can trust the One who, in His infinite existence, is able to attend to each one of us fully and at all times. He alone is peace. He alone is hope. He is love. He is infinite.

“Infinite” is a song from the forthcoming album Broken Temples by Kevin Max. In it Max celebrates the fact that God is so much larger than human thoughts can hope to conceive and so much greater than human words could ever hope to articulate. We must trust His word, but, should be wary in trying to limit Him to our own personal human conceptions and constructs. It is a perspective not often articulated in music, Christian or otherwise. Feel free to check out the Pledge Campaign purposed to aid in the release of his new project Broken Temples so that it, like his past projects, can serve as a beacon to those seeking peace and truth in an open manner so that we can all dig deeper and rest in the peace that can only come when we trust Him with the purpose and direction of our lives.

A Way With Words

I write poems from time to time and, obviously (since you’re reading this), blog posts, too. I’ve been doing this for quite a while now and, while I’ve won no awards and don’t think I’m good enough or have enough passion to try to make a living through writing, I have been told, on more than one occasion, that I have “a way with words.”

I certainly appreciate the compliment and the affirmation that I feel each time somebody responds positively to something I write whether it be a notification that somebody clicked the “Like” link under something I posted or whether something I’ve written elicits a much more significant response (one example happening during my dad’s sixteen month battle that he eventually lost to brain cancer when I walked in on him as he was reading a post I’d written in tribute to him and he was wiping away tears – emotion that he rarely showed under any circumstance).

But, more and more, lately, I’ve become aware of just how worthless words can be. Even if I had the ability to phrase words in such a way that could inspire masses of people, if I don’t have the substance in my personal life to match the love and compassion that I claim to possess, my words are empty and could, quite possibly, do more harm than good.

Multiple scenarios have come to mind in my personal life, of late, in which I have completely dropped the ball. During the summer, a time when teachers such as myself have more free time (though, deservedly so I might add!) than at any other time of the year, I let my priorities fall out of order. I found many reasons, from one moment to the next and from one day to the next,  from the beginning of the summer to the end, to just continue doing whatever self-focused task I was involved in instead of getting up to go and visit someone who is struggling, instead of calling to see if I could come in for a shift at the local homeless shelter, or, sometimes even to get up and play with my own kids.

Undoubtedly, I have been blessed with a great deal of compassion and love from those around me and, certainly, from God above. But, the biblical principle that those who are blessed greatly should, in turn, bless others greatly has taken a hit in my personal life this summer and now it is time to start a new school year.

With the start of this new school year, my prayer and my mission – the focus area in my life where I need to step aside and let God’s grace shine – is clear: I need to live with humble integrity by recognizing my shortfalls, emptying my hands, and taking steps forward, one at a time, trusting that God will plant them in the direction He has planned. There is too much at stake in this life and our time here is too short to just exchange pleasantries and talk about doing what is right.

A Note On Integrity: “4 Reasons Christians Need to Quit Sharing Hoaxes”

I came across a blog article posted on a friend’s Facebook page today, read it, and realized its implications for my life fairly quickly( read the article at: 4 Reasons Christians Need to Quit Sharing Hoaxes). Its been easy for me, at different times and in different scenarios in my life, to lose touch with the direct connection that we all have the opportunity to make with those around us who are in need. It’s easy to sit back, offer up an obligatory prayer when reading about somebody’s loss, click the ‘like’ and ‘share’ icons when we read something emotionally compelling, or, worse yet, just keep scrolling. But, as this article suggests, as Christians, I could stand to be a bit more thoughtful about exactly what I’m reading, what I’m sharing and, most importantly, what I’m doing to help those within my reach, and then beyond, to know the love, hope, and peace that I know. Tonight I will pray that I can wake up in the morning, make an intentional decision to seek out Christ in others around me, and not take for granted the opportunities afforded to me to engage with them in a manner that is uncharacteristically selfless.

“When a disciple’s every response, word, and decision is motivated by compassion, he has put on Christ and walks in the way of integrity.”  -Brennan manning

“God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.”  -C.S. Lewis

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”  -Proverbs 11:3

Inconsistency

“The Christian life is a life characterized by true and spontaneous creativity. Consequently, a disciple is subject to the same charge that was leveled against Jesus Christ, namely, the charge of inconsistency. But Jesus Christ was always consistent in His relationship to God, and a Christian must be consistent in his relationship to the life of the Son of God in him, not consistent to strict, unyielding doctrines. People pour themselves into their own doctrines, and God has to blast them out of their preconceived ideas before they can become devoted to Jesus Christ.”

-Oswald Chambers

Consistency is certainly a problem for me. I used to ride to school with a friend who had an AMC Eagle and she complained about how if you let off the accelerator just a bit, even on a downward slope, the car would bog down to a halt. My life is a lot like that car. I find, at times, that inspiration, faith, and spirit is burning brightly in my life, but, given the opportunity for a distraction, I lose all focus and momentum. This post isn’t one in which I share a lesson I’ve learned because, the truth is, I’m still trying to figure this out. By God’s good grace, I pray that I will.