Seeing God

Psalm 27

Traveling back from Petaluma one night with our three kids in our tiny Mazda 323 hatchback, Janine was having one of those parenting moments.  Andrew was 8 at the time.  Justin was 15 and Lindsey was 4.  Andrew said he was feeling sick and along about Terra Linda, he felt he was going to throw up.  Justin didn’t even want to hear about it, because he knew it would make him sick and he didn’t want to throw up as well.  So he stuffed his fingers in his ears and began to scream out: LA, LA, LA, LA.  Janine was telling them to both knock it off, but it continued until there was a cacophony of noise within the compact vehicle.

It was then that Lindsey screamed at the top of her lungs:  “I see God!  I see God! He’s walking on the mountain!”  There was dead silence in the car.  The boys each had their faces at the windows.  “Where?”  “Where?”

Janine wonders if maybe God did show up, just to help a weary mother that had experienced enough.

If we could but see God in the day-to-day of living:  Transporting Kids, Grocery Shopping, On the job site.   In fact it is crucial that we do so.   Psalm 27:13 says:  “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

When we sense the presence of the Lord in our lives… life takes on a sweetness that transcends circumstances.  Without it, even with great prosperity, there can be a disparity we can’t explain.

Look around you today and witness the hand of God in your life.  You may stop complaining long enough to run to window and seek more of Him.

Love Isn’t Free

1 John 3:16 – This how we know what love is.  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our  brothers.

I recently read a blog on-line with an interesting title:  Why Free is Too Expensive (http://www.lisalarter.com/uncategorized/why-free-is-too-expensive/)  The premise was that, although giving of your time and expertise is nice… when you put a “free” price tag on it, it tends to become de-valued in the eyes of others.  She uses the example of offering some free business consulting to a friend who ended up canceling at the last minute because she was having a hectic day.  Because her services were being offered for free, it was easier to cancel… forgetting of course all the schedule shuffling and planning that went into the time they were going to share together.

Sometimes I think we devalue what Christ did for us by emphasizing how “free” it is.  Of course there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, it is the free gift of God, but it did cost something.  Jesus laid down his life for us.

And how about the love that you show to others?  Does it cost you anything?   We can’t escape the second part of that verse:  “We also ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

Lee Strobel shares the story of Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, the international Christian relief agency:  “Bob Pierce had advanced leukemia, but he went to visit a colleague in Indonesia before he died.  As they were walking through a small village, they came upon a young girl lying on a bamboo mat next to a river.  She was dying of cancer and had only a short time to live.  Bob was indignant.  He demanded to know why she wasn’t in a clinic.  But his friend explained that she was from the jungle and wished to spend her last days next to the river, where it was cool and familiar.

As Bob gazed at her, he felt such compassion that he got down on his knees in the mud, took her hand, and began stroking it.  Although she didn’t understand him, he prayed for her.  Afterward she looked up and said something.  “What did she say?”  Bob asked his friend.  His friend replied, “She said, ‘If I could only sleep again, if I could only sleep again.”  It seemed that her pain was too great to allow her the relief of rest.

Bob began to weep.  Then he reached into his pocket and took out his own sleeping pills, the ones the doctor had given him because the pain from his leukemia was too great for him to sleep at night.  He handed the bottle to his friend.  “You make sure this young lady gets a good night’s sleep,” he said, “as long as these pills last.”

Bob was ten days away from where he could get his prescription refilled.  That meant ten painful and restless nights.  That day his servanthood cost him greatly.  But even in the midst of his suffering, God infused him with a supernatural sense of satisfaction that he had done the right thing.”  (God’s Outrageous Claims, pp. 113-114.)

The love we give to others should have, as its model, the love we have received by Christ.  It should be given freely… but it shouldn’t be free… it has to cost us something.

Love in Action

1 John 2:5-6

A group of 4-8 year olds was asked, “What does love mean?” Here are some of their answers:

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore so my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca — age 8.

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl — age 5

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy — age 6

“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is okay.” Danny — age 7

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby — age 7

“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.” Noelle — age 7

“During my piano recital I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy — age 8

“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt.” Chris — age 7

“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” Lauren — age 5

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica — age 8 (from Mikey’s Funnies)

These are all great definitions… and there is some real wisdom found here from the mouths of babes. Now John in his first epistle has a definition as well.  Love is… doing what Jesus did!  He writes:  “…if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly in him; This is how we know we are in him; Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:5-6)

Witness the way Jesus loved… touching an unclean leper, talking to an outcast Samaritan woman, going to Matthew the tax collector’s party, praying for his disciples in the upper room (knowing full well they would soon forsake Him), taking up a hideous cross and dragging it through the streets of Golgotha, accepting freely the nails through His wrists, praying earnestly for His enemies as they gambled away his clothing…   That is quite a model.  Do we possess the “Jesus style” of loving?

Mother Theresa had a unique phrase to describe this Christ-like love.  She once wrote:  “We must grow in love and to do this we must go on loving and loving and giving and giving until it hurts—the way Jesus did. Do ordinary things with extraordinary love: little things like caring for the sick and the homeless, the lonely and the unwanted, washing and cleaning for them. You must give what will cost you something. … Then your gift becomes a sacrifice, which will have value before God. Any sacrifice is useful if it is done out of love. This giving until it hurts—this sacrifice—is also what I call love in action.  (A Simple Path, Ballantine Books, 1995, p. 99)

So this Valentine’s Day, walk as Jesus walked… love the unloveable… sacrifice something of value… go all out… and put your love into Action!

Coming Clean

1 John 1:9  

Referee Ed Hochuli is one of the most accurate referees in the game of pro-football.  In September of 2008 he made one of those calls that would be talked about for weeks.  Steve May recounts it:  “…in the final minutes of a game between the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers… Denver quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled the ball, Hochuli blew the whistle and called it an incomplete pass. He knew it was a mistake the minute he made it, but there was nothing he could do; an inadvertent whistle is a non-reviewable, non-reversible call. Instead of San Diego getting the ball, Denver was allowed to keep it. They scored a couple of plays later and won the game.  Needless to say, the San Diego fans were furious. They all but called for Ed Hochuli’s head on a platter. Many wanted him fired and banned forever from the NFL. His office in Phoenix was flooded with angry calls. His Blackberry was jammed with angry emails.”

Here is the interesting part.  Ed was the first person to admit his mistake.  He apologized on the sideline to San Diego coach Norv Turner.  Ed then confessed it publically to the San Diego Union-Tribune that week, saying:  “Affecting the outcome of a game is a devastating feeling. Officials strive for perfection — I failed miserably.”  He then, in an extraordinary next step, he responded to each of those angry emails, one by one.

He won over the hearts of many of the fans.  His response surprised many, but Ed didn’t think what he did was that surprising.  He messed up and he was the first to apologize. 

When we mess up it is important to confess to those around us that we have hurt.  If you are like me you have made a few bad calls in life that has affected the outcome of somebody’s game.  It is important to confess our wrong to them, but it is also important that we confess to the Coach… God Almighty.  He alone is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us.  Now it has to be an honest confession.

John Ortberg once wrote:  At the heart of it, confession involves taking appropriate responsibility for what we have done.  This is not easy to do.  We try to slip out of it.  What starts as a confession often ends up an excuse:  “I didn’t mean to yell at you; I was having a bad day.”  To confess means to own up to the fact that our behavior wsn’t just the result of bad parenting, poor genes, jealous siblings, or a chemical imbalance from too many Twinkies.  Any or all of those factors may be involved.  Human behavior is a complex thing.  But confession means saying that somewhere in the mix was a choice, and the choice was made by us, and it does not need to be excused, explained, or even understood.  The choice needs to be forgiven.  The slate has to be wiped clean.  (The Life You’ve Always Wanted, p. 124.)

Smudged from the mire of your deliberate sin?  Confess it to God…  Confess and Come Clean!

Walking in the Light is No Walk in the Park

1 John 1:5-7

Taking my place in the row of treadmills at my local gym I set my Ipod to high.  I hoped to block out the hiphop music blaring from the gym’s sound system.  Now content with the sounds of Lenny LeBlanc’s “Above All” I quickly face another problem.  The music in this gym is accompanied by video which assaults you from about any place you happen to be in the gym (even in the locker room).  I try not to look, but a television set on in any room catches one’s eye.  What I see, more often than not, is semi-pornographic.  I turn my volume up and look toward the outside window. 

After reading today’s passage from 1 John I could see this was an opportunity to CHOOSE to walk in the light.  John says we face such choices everyday.  Now if one claims to have fellowship with God and yet continually chooses to walk in the darkness they are only kidding themselves (v.6), but that does not mean that God’s children of light aren’t faced with the option to turn down a dark alley about once a day or more.

When I hear the phrase:  “Walk in the Light”  it is tempting to think it is a walk in the park.  I mean, those that walk the straight and narrow aren’t really tough enough to make it in the “real” world, right?  C. S. Lewis once weighed in on this topic:  “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.  … A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later… Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means – the only complete realist.”  (Mere Christianity, pp. 124, 125.)

The reward of this tough walk is fellowship with the father and with other believers (v.7), so… keep your ipod volume on high, keep your eyes straight ahead, and continue your walk in the light.