Archives for the month of: May, 2015

squirrel

I’m doing battle with a squirrel, and I’m losing. I chase him out of the “squirrel proof” bird feeder and away from the mealworms, and he comes back. I even brought the seed and worms inside to keep him from eating them, and he actually sat on the ledge outside the window staring at me, taunting me, clearly irritated that I’d ruined his breakfast. He’s not afraid of me. I open the window 18 inches from where he’s gorging himself and he just looks at me, assessing my level of irritation to see if I’m just going to threaten him, or if there will actually be a chase involved.

The problem is, I don’t want to hurt him; I just want him to go away. I want to enjoy the birds, not chase squirrels. My intention to feed the birds and not to hurt squirrels is good, but good intentions are seldom enough. You have to actively defend and protect what is good from anything that threatens it.

Too often, our good intentions are ruined when we ignore or tolerate things that threaten them. We can’t just meander through life thinking happy thoughts, hoping for the best, and expect any progress. Good results don’t magically bloom from good intentions. Any good that you hope for or attempt will require follow through and intentional effort, strengthening and protecting what is good, actively separating it from what can corrupt or destroy it.

We have to be as diligent in separating ourselves from what is bad as we are in pursuing what is good. If I want to eat healthier, I not only have to eat more fruits and vegetables, I have to stop eating potato chips. Knowing that I need a stronger prayer life or a deeper understanding of God or even really wanting those is not enough. I have to actually dedicate time to make that a priority and set aside those things that distract me. So many in our culture believe a relationship with God matters. They want their weddings and funerals to be in a church, but too much of the rest of their lives are consumed by anything except the church. They want a strong marriage and children who are grounded in good morals…but their good intentions are not translating into actions that make those possible. We can’t continue to tolerate what separates us from God and expect that things will improve. We have to actively protect what is godly from all that calls us away from God.

As long as I just hope the squirrel won’t eat the birds’ food, he has hope that he can sneak in and gorge himself. As long as the people of God just hope that things will get better and the bad guys will just go away and Satan will just leave us alone, we will continue to suffer defeat.

Jer 29:12-13 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

“All your heart”. Not just good intentions and half-hearted efforts. My squirrel is not half-hearted; he is tenacious. Feeding the birds in my yard requires that I provide food and make sure the birds are the only ones who eat it. I need to stop chasing my squirrel and buy a better feeder. We need to stop chasing the things that distract us from God and start following Him with all our hearts…toward what is holy, away from what is not

tabernacle 4

I like the comfortable places in life. I like knowing God’s blessings and feeling his peace and joy. It is easy for me to be obedient and positive when I’m getting my way and I can see God’s plan working like I want it to. I intentionally try to avoid the hard, painful places in life.

 The problem is that our relationship with God is not about getting our way or avoiding the hard parts of life. God calls us to follow him even when we can’t see the path and obey him even when we don’t like the plan.

 God rescued his people from the slavery of Egypt and led them into the desert. The people wanted to immediately move from being abused to being in charge. They wanted the abundance and blessings God could provide, but they were less interested in knowing the God who provided them. So God required that they spend time in the wilderness before they got to the Promised Land. They had to build a Tabernacle in the desert so that God could dwell among them, so that they could learn to know him, so that they could worship him. What they learned in the wilderness prepared them for victory in the Promised Land. Their time in the desert was God’s plan for their ultimate good, not punishment or accident.

 My times of wilderness are not punishment or accident either. When I find myself in the desert places of my life, I can choose to “do time” there until that time is done. I can feel sorry for what I don’t have; I can wallow in the pain or the frustration of what I’m facing; I can resent the God who won’t do what I want him to. OR I can build a tabernacle. I can intentionally make a holy space for God to dwell in the midst of what I’m facing and feeling and allow his power transform my situation into his presence.

 When they built a tabernacle, they got to use their gifts to honor God. They came to know the holiness of one who wanted to dwell with his people. They saw God’s glory, and it led them to worship. And when they did, their wilderness was transformed into a holy place.

 I need to “build a tabernacle” more often. I need to give God space to help me see him and trust him no matter what my circumstances look like.

 May we use our talents to serve the One who wants to dwell with us…even on the hard, frustrating, painful days. And may we intentionally create space to know the holy presence of the Almighty God who seeks relationship with us and wants to transform our wilderness into a holy place.

glory 4

It came down from heaven, and the people watched as it filled the Tabernacle and the Temple. David wrote that heavens declare it in every language. It reflected from Moses’ face. The angels proclaimed it on in their greeting to the shepherds, and it transfigured Jesus’ appearance. Gospel songs remind us that we’re going there. In Jesus’ last prayer before he was arrested, he asked God to reveal his glory to his disciples and to let his glory be manifested in those who believe in him.

We use it to describe some things that are too big or too deep for words. It is a mystical blend of magnificent and holy and precious and important. But seeing the glory of God comes at a cost. The Hebrews had to consecrate themselves and their camp before God’s glory would dwell among them. Moses had to hide in the cleft of the rock as God’s glory passed by. Isaiah’s view of God’s glory cost him an honest assessment of his sin.

The mundane comes cheaply and easily, and too often we learn the hard way that “You get what you pay for”. When we take the easy way out, we miss the glory of great achievement. When we refuse risk doing something new or different, we will achieve nothing new. Seeing God’ glory right here on earth will cost us the control we pretend to have, and will require our obedience. And it will give an unquenchable thirst for more of his presence. God’s glory is free to all, but it is not cheap.

My pastor reminded us a few weeks ago that we are going to “spend our lives”. What we choose to “spend” our lives on determines what they are worth. Jesus willingly “spent” his life for you. On that last night of his life, Jesus could have gone somewhere Judas couldn’t find him. He could have left Gethsemane as he saw the Romans and Jews coming down the hill from the city to get him. He could have skipped Passover in Jerusalem that year. He could have called down angels from heaven to destroy those who wanted to execute him. But he chose to pay the price….because you are worth that to him. He spent his life earning your spot in glory – now and in heaven.

How you spend your life can bring Him glory. Choosing to reflect His glory into your world will bring you magnificence, holiness, and precious purpose. Don’t settle for cheap and easy. Those things seldom matter, will not last, and almost always end in disappointment. Aim for His glory. It absolutely matters and will last an eternity.

outrage2

I was in a meeting with some people I very much respect when they began to criticize the police and the justice system because of the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. I was shocked at their complete condemnation of the police and the courts and even the American people in general. They ignored eye witness testimony and the facts. They were disdainful of any opinion or media outlet that did not support what they wanted to believe. They believed that racism controlled the police reaction and in no way held the men who died accountable for their behavior.

Where was their outrage at the mobs who looted and burned stores and businesses? Why didn’t their compassion extend to the business owners who lost everything they had? Where was their outrage at the injuries and deaths of the police who were just doing their job? How does rioting advance their cause? How can it possibly change the minds of those who oppose or respect them? When is it ever justified to pick and choose a social cause here or a political agenda there and exclusively pursue it at the cost of the rights and freedoms of those who disagree with you?

The deaths of those young, black men are tragic. I stand with those who believe that black lives matter. So do the lives of Asians and Latinos and Caucasians. I’m impressed by those who go into the streets of Baltimore or Ferguson or New York and clean up the mess left behind by those who use unrest as an excuse to steal and destroy or increase their power base. I’m inspired by those who seek justice, even when their personal agenda is threatened. When we pick and choose which lives matter more, we are racists, no matter the color of the skin of those we support. I might be more inclined to respect the opinion of those who fight for equal rights for all if they actually meant it; they seem to only mean equal rights for their chosen group.

Arguing with people seldom changes their mind. But if we choose to live in a way that proves to them they are wrong about us, there is hope. How many understand the danger the police see every day and treat them respectfully? How many police have suffered from the abuse of those they deal with, and choose to treat them fairly anyway? If we believe that life matters, they we need to protect all those who are threatened in every way we can. If we believe that people should be held accountable for their behavior, then we need to enforce our laws to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, irrespective of race or class or gender.

Selective outrage has nothing to do with moral superiority; it isn’t about our deep belief in what we believe is right. I wish the civil rights leaders were as troubled about the murder rate among young black men in the black community as they are in villainizing the police. Where is their outrage over the gang murders in Chicago? Where is their outrage over the drug abuse that robs so many of potential and freedom?

Too many of us are defined by what we oppose, rather than what we believe in. Choosing one portion of the big picture and pretending that it is the only part that matters is only about proving ourselves right and destroying those who disagree with us…that is hypocrisy. Jesus said Christians should be defined by their love…even for people we disagree with.