Monday, October 29, 2012

Life of a Goldfish

Imagine a goldfish. There he is in his water filled glass bowl. Swimming along. When suddenly he begins to wonder what lies beyond his life in the fishbowl. What would life be like out in the world. He looks all around him and there is SO much, so many options, so many things. And so with that the goldfish makes his move. He decides he is going to leap out of his bowl and embark on a new life. He spins around quickly in a circle, gaining speed, and then jumps with all of his might. He soars through the air, lands on the table, and his new life begins. He leaves life as it was intended to be lived to try and make it on his own. But the story doesn't go on for very much longer, he flaps around on the table for a little while, and the world begins to suffocate him. He can only breathe, thrive, live when he's in his fishbowl of water. The world leads him to death. There is a world full of options and a world full of things, but no matter what, they will all suffocate him. There is only one thing that will bring him life.
We are that goldfish.
Matthew 7:13-14 - "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
 In John 10:9-10 Jesus says, "I am the gate...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
Many will walk down the broad road and through the wide gate that leads to destruction. A chasing after the world that won't satisfy us, rather, it suffocates us. But there are a few who will walk down the narrow road and through the small gate that leads to life. It's Jesus verses everything else. It's life with Christ or life apart from Christ. It's life outside the fishbowl, floundering about, being suffocated by the world or thriving in the setting that leads to life.
The encouragement is that we don't have to swim alone. Our God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). All we have to do is ask him, ask him anything, and he will answer (1 Kings 3:5).
Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

Monday, October 22, 2012

To Be Known

In today's Jesus Calling...
“Start talking with Me about whatever is on your mind. Rejoice in the fact that I understand you perfectly, and I know exactly what you are experiencing. As you continue communicating with Me, your mood will gradually lighten. Awareness of My marvelous Companionship can infuse Joy into the grayest day.”

The temptation is to ask for people to fill a role that only Jesus can fill. The temptation is to look to our "people"-  parents, siblings, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse - to meet our desire to know and to be known. When our "people" can't love us the way we need to be loved - we get mad at them. When our "people" don't say the right thing or don't understand perfectly - we feel disconnected. But that's exactly it, those PEOPLE were never supposed to fill those needs and desires. Only God can know us fully and intimately. Only God can understand us perfectly. Only God can help us entirely through a situation. God alone has all the answers. We were built to be in an intimate relationship with the one who created us and that was made possible by our Savior, Jesus, who granted us access to God the Father. 

We give ourselves away emotionally to others. We give ourselves away physically to others. We seek intimacy with people only to find ourselves feeling more alone. 

When it comes to understanding why we feel lonely after the physical I think this guy puts it really well.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Getting What I Don't Deserve

Getting what you don't deserve.
"What I crave most when my guilt is exposed. The very thing I'm hesitant to extend when I'm confronted with the guilt of others—especially when their guilt has robbed me of something I consider valuable." - Andy Stanley

John 8:1-11
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.  
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

According to the law, this woman was to be stoned to death. That's the way the world works. Someone has to pay the consequences. Say I drop your iPhone and the screen cracks. A $200 problem. Someone has to pay the penalty. Either I have to pay $200, you have to live with a cracked phone screen, or you have to pay the $200. Let's say you tell me, "Don't worry. It was an accident. I know you didn't drop my phone intentionally. I will get it fixed." Despite my trying to convince you otherwise, I walk away from the situation. I just got what I don't deserve. I deserve to have paid $200. I got what I didn't deserve. Grace.

This woman caught in adultery by law deserved death. Instead she received grace. This isn't a story about not judging others. This is a story about us. We are the woman. Daily we cheat on God. And we too deserve death. Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death." Sin has a consequence and it is death - spiritual death and separation from God both here on earth and for eternity. Romans 6:23 -  "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." I deserve death. Jesus took my place.  2 Corinthians 5:21 - "For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." Grace.

How can we not extend grace to others when Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice? He died for us. Let the grace that's been given to you allow you to give grace to others.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Justice of the Peace

I've been preparing for this Sunday. God has put the topic of grace on my heart and so I've been reading all different stories of grace. The one that has hit me the most is in the book of Hosea. In the first chapter, God asks Hosea to marry a prostitute. Hosea marries a prostitute named Gomer and after having 3 children together, Gomer continues to run around on him. He's fed up with having a wife who sleeps with other men. God is comparing Hosea and Gomer's relationship to that of his own with Israel. It astounds me, after everything the Lord did for Israel, the ENTIRE book of Exodus. God rescues Israel from slavery, feeds them when they have no source of food in the dessert, and yet Israel runs around on God. Trusting in fake gods. Worshiping and bowing down to idols. So what is God's response? What is Hosea's response? God tells Hosea to take Gomer back, just as God takes Israel back. The book of Hosea concludes with God telling how Israel is "finished with gods that are no-gods. From now on I'm the one who answers and satisfies him. I am like a luxuriant fruit tree. Everything you need is to be found in me. If you want to live well, make sure you understand all of this. If you know what's good for you, you'll learn this inside and out. God's paths get you where you want to go. Right-living people walk them easily; wrong-living people are always tripping and stumbling."
But it's not just Gomer and it's not just Israel. It's the entire human race. We have turned our backs on God, we have worshiped so many things other than God. The God who rescued us from the pit. The God who sent his only son to die for us. And yet we run away from him for our own wild living. My astonishment with the Israelites can be turned right back around on myself. May God never give up on me like he never gave up on the Israelites.
Ryan Long's song Justice of the Peace is about a woman cheating on her husband. A metaphor for how we cheat on God.
I got your message on our answering machine
You said you’d be late again but what does that mean
It means I’m lonely after all
So I’ll be waiting here in case you call

I guess our telephone ain’t gonna ring
I found the note he wrote he says he heard you sing
So I guess your out with him but what does marriage mean to you
Do you wear your diamond ring when you lay down

You drop your dress you turn your head
You hold him when I sleep at home alone in our bed

Didn’t sleep last night waiting by the window
But now the morning’s come with a night time glow
You told me where you were I said you lie don’t you even want to try
I’ll take that ring back cause you don’t wanna be my wife

Do you know girl about the justice of the peace
He’s gotta bring one of us to our knees
Now I’ll go down so that you can come back home
Even though I know you’re gonna keep running around

Thank God it doesn't depend on me. Our God will continue to love us, rescue us, and forgive us. Grace.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Eternal Gain

Why do we do the things we do? When we serve at Metropolitan Ministries is it for service hours, to feel like a good person, or to serve those who are overlooked and forgotten? Do we do things for people when we're asked and when we know we'll get recognition? Or do we serve others when no one is looking and when no one will praise us for what we've done?
Mark 12:41-44
"Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”
Jesus gave his all. On a cross. When we didn't deserve it, Jesus took our place.
Do we do things for selfish gain or for the gain of others and to the glory of God?
Here's a 4 minute clip from Francis Chan - one of the best videos ever.
Are you holding onto the beam for dear life? Or are you walking in a trusting relationship with Jesus? I don't want to go where the majority will go either.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Perfectionism ---> Perfect Savior

How many of us are perfectionists? We laugh it off and say it's because we are control freaks and want everything to turn out perfectly. But isn't there usually more? We act like everything is perfect on the outside, completely put together, spotless for the world to see on any given day. But oftentimes the outward appearance is our way of hiding. It is our mask so that others don't dare find out about what's on the inside - the brokenness, the hurt, the ache for approval. We put our all into sports and school - striving for perfection - striving ultimately for our parents approval and to hear the words "I'm proud of you." We put on a smile when we're dying inside...people wouldn't really want to hear about our problems, no one wants the broken me, they just want the fun and put together me.
And in turn, we give our hearts to perfectionism. Yes, if we just act like we have it all together, our problems will be solved. We can shove the hurt, shame, and emptiness deep enough that it won't ever leak out.
But is it working?
Look at this passage from Mark 2:13-17.... 
Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.
Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?"
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

That last line is the one that jumps off the page for me. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous. The ones that I came for, the ones that I want, he says are those who know they are sinners. Jesus says he knows that its just an act. Our trying to act like everything is good on the outside. He asks us - don't give your heart to perfectionism - instead - give your heart to a perfect savior. Jesus, our perfect savior, wants us to be real and honest with ourselves and with him. Saying - thanks, Jesus, but I've got this one, I'll figure it out on my own - gets us no where. Admitting that we don't have it all together and asking Jesus if we can just rest in Him - when we finally do that - we realize we always were the sick who needed a doctor. We just thought we could get away with putting a band-aid on it.