Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
One of my favorite verses is one written by Peter, and in it he exhorts us to continually be “casting all our anxieties upon him, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). What an encouragement in all times, but especially in seasons of stress and trial.
However, sometimes we unintentionally read the word “cast” like a fisherman, when we should read it like a garbage man. In other words, we want to tie a knot on the end of our anxieties and “cast” them out with our proverbial rod and reel, knowing that if we need to we can wind them back in again. And while none of us would ever admit to wanting – or demanding – them back, often our insecurities and fears spiritually bribe us to either hold on to or retrieve these things, thinking we can manage them better than our heavenly Father, God.
Here’s a better understanding of the text: throw them away for good! Where? To God! He is fully able to handle all our worries, and we have no need of them. Instead of approaching God with pole and lure in hand, bring him your big, green rolling trash cart. Tip it over and leave it all with him, no strings attached, for He is the Master recycler and restorer.
Monday, March 22, 2010
I got a most intriguing question from a friend the other day: “Do you think I have to go to church?”
Several things weren’t included, so I was left answering a very general, “no way out” kind of question (which was his goal I think). Did he mean 1) the church building, 2) the actual service, or 3) the 2nd grade class? Furthermore, my answer depended on the intent of his question, which he never voiced. What was he really wondering – does he have to go to church to be saved? To be spiritual? To have a good reputation? To win the lottery? To feel connected to and encouraged by others in the body?
But, to keep the conversation going and make things interesting, I just simply answered “No.” And “Yes.” He smirked and rolled his eyes.
We continued talking, especially about the many “have to’s” he was glad weren’t really “have to’s.” Like attending church. Or giving financially to those in need. Or helping in the toddler room. Or even the Jr. High room. And boy was he glad! I eventually asked him my own “no way out” question: Why do you want to find a way to get by spiritually? “It seems your desire to squeak by says way more about what’s really in your heart than any kind of external record or badge of buttons may say about your image,” I commented, quite sure he might not want to continue the conversation.
An experience I had with my dad helped me as the discussion continued. Ironically, there was a day I asked my dad that very same question. If I remember correctly, had just turned 16, maybe 17, and, from my vantage point, had a good grasp on life (can you spell p-r-i-d-e?) So when I asked him my “have to” question, he answered with a surprisingly simple, “No.” He never even blinked. Wow, that was easy I thought. But then he finished his answer: “You don’t have to do anything; but you do have to accept the consequences of your decision.”
That drastically changed my next question, which I never actually asked. Why? I already knew the answer. And that answer – the one I instinctly knew – amazingly changed my “have to’s” to “want to’s.”
As my friend and I kept talking, I shared this experience with him. Though he was more amused at my dad’s parenting prowess, I still think he got the point. And that’s when I pulled out my iron-sharpening tool and responded more truthfully to his initial question. “Yes, I believe you should go to church. But not because you have to. Instead, because you need to, and, consequently, want to. When you sense it is about a ‘have to,’ there are usually deeper, personal things you need to wrestle with. Namely, your wandering heart.”
“I have to go,” he said.
“Have to?” I asked, chuckling.
We both grinned and said our goodbye’s for that day.
But even as I left I thought about how the “have to” mentality creeps into too many areas of my own thinking.
Like when it comes to giving. When I think in “have to” terms, I usually think of how little I can give and still “get by.” I wonder when I can stop instead of where else can I give. Sacrificial giving knows no such thinking. It is rooted in a “want to” mentality and enjoys being lavish, not selfish.
Or serving. When I’m in a “have to” mindset I count hours and track slots. I look for applause and credit. But that’s not how Jesus served. And that’s not the way a “want to” server goes about his duties. “Want to-ers” are content with opportunities and open doors, no matter what lay on the other side.
And there’s more than those two areas. But the Holy Spirit had already arrested my attention. Frankly, I was no different in many respects. So as much as my friend may have benefitted from our conversation, I profited more. And not because I had to. I got to!
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
It is becoming more and more apparent to me as we tie our knot deeper and longer that Julie loves me, not because of my worthiness, but because of God’s “Wordiness.” In other words, she doesn’t love me because I deserve it; she loves me because God commands it. Granted – I don’t think she looks at it like this or dichotomizes her feelings in this way. But a “below the water line” look testifies to God’s love in her life as a fundamental motivation for everything she does. And the benefit? I see her love in my life.
Why do I mention this? Well, first, because I’m grateful. I am deeply thankful for my wife. She is the epitome of Titus 2 and Proverbs 31, living out her God-given responsibility to create a God-centered home for our family.
But also because I’m hopeful. I have watched Julie’s love for me grow proportionately to her willingness to obey Christ uncompromisingly, and I'm convinced there is a direct relation between her ability to love me and her commitment to obey her Savior. That gives me hope in the face of things that Jesus calls me to do that are sometimes tough. Hard. Difficult. Practically and biblically, obedience in spite of my feelings will open the door to obedience that accompanies my feelings.
Essentially, it’s “Jesus-first” to Julie. He is more important than her hobbies or her husband. More important than her feelings or her family. More important than her likes and dislikes, opinions, preferences, and personal tastes. And because he is more important, what he says is most important. So when he says, “Love your husband,” she’s in! Thank you, Jesus, and thank you, Julie!