JESUS MY ROCK

Sometimes I view my life as a dissipation of days in the routine of work, leisure, eating and sleeping.  I read my Bible and go to church.  I’m a Christian walking through life.  However, I have inkling that there ought to be more.  My relationship with Jesus seems to be lacking.

At other times, I feel excited about life, close to God, and useful in his kingdom.  I move through the day with anticipation. 

I realize at this point you’re thinking manic depressive.  Well not really, most of those around me seem to have the same mood swings.  Here at “the home”, we’re all the same.

Seriously, the fluctuations are mine regardless of the diagnosis, but I find comfort in this truth; “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).”  Jesus doesn’t fluctuate; He is my rock.  His truth never changes, and his love never fails.  I don’t need to be overly concerned that our relationship is faltering.  He will soon drop by to remind me that we’re okay.

Controlling the Future

I like science fiction.  I don’t know what that says about me, but I do.  The idea of projecting where scientific discovery might take us fascinates me.  I like the adventure and the jolt to my imagination.  Fantasizing future worlds, even alien worlds, has occupies a fair portion of my personal time.

Yet the science fiction stories, where man goes back in time to reshape the future, point to the complexity of manipulating the intricate details of the progression of time.  Change one little occurrence and the entire future of man is impacted.  We can predict, but there are too many factors for us to have complete control over the outcome.

Now, imagine someone able to create a universe, create humans to live in this universe, and set the ball rolling toward a planned outcome.  To add to the complexity of the task, he gives the humans freedom of choice.  During the unfolding of his plan, he intervenes occasionally knowing exactly how this will affect the outcome.  Remember, his interventions usually involve humans who are continually deciding about their actions and reactions to their situation. 

The greatest intervention this creator makes is sending his son to live among humans with the plan to redeem them.  They need redemption because they have violated the prime directive to act in love and, within their freedom of choice, have chosen to injure their fellow humans. They have also turned their back to the creator and denied his very existence.  He accomplishes his redemption plan right on schedule and continues on to his planned outcome. 

The outcome he plans is for all those who receive his redemption to live forever in eternity with him.  Not all of his humans will accept the offer, but every one of them has the choice to receive redemption.  The only one who could put together such an elaborate and complex plan is the all-powerful, all-knowing, creator God.

Read: Genesis 1-3, Job 38 – 41, & Revelation 21 & 22

[ This is a repost from last May.  I hope you enjoy it.  My wife and I are on a short trip celebrating the completion of 36 years of marriage.  I’d like to add that we owe our success to Jesus.]

LOVE = RESTRAINT

Last week I wrote about restraint.  Continuing to contemplate this topic I have found an interesting connection.  Restraint is a companion to love.  If I love my neighbor as myself it stands to reason that I will restrain myself and defer to my neighbor’s wants and needs.  If I do not love then why restrain myself.  I will simply pursue whatever I want without regard for others.  Therefore love provides a motivation for restraint.

When love motivates us to restrain ourselves we find those virtues rising up in us like the ones Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7,

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love produces restraint.  In love I restrain myself and become a better person, more God like.  I feel better about myself when I am patient and kind.  I feel bad when I trample over others because I’m in a hurry.  The people I push past and disregard don’t feel very well either.  Wouldn’t it be great if I restrained myself because I love others as myself?  Help me Lord!

God loves us.  He restrains himself from judging us because he loves us.  As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago God loves us all (see Another Perspective).  Every human is God’s creation and he desires the best for us.  The all-powerful God of the universe restrains himself because he loves.

Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to protect him from the humiliation, the brutal beating, and the horrible death of the cross?  He restrained himself because he loves us.  He carried through the Father’s plan for our salvation because he loves.

RESTRAINT

It is a tendency among us humans to want to throw off restraint.  From the very beginning, when we had only one restraint, don’t eat from this tree, we have chosen to see restraint as a hindrance to our freedom. The story in Genesis chapter 3 shows us clearly the fault of throwing off restraint.  We gained freedom but suffered the consequences. 

Restraints do hinder our freedom, but they are often good for us.  When driving down the freeway, we are restrained by the speed limit.  Speed limits are for our safety.  They are good restraints.  When the patrolling officer gives us a ticket, we suffer the consequences of ignoring restraint. 

When I was a vice principal in charge of discipline, I used to say to offending students, “You can choose to exercise self-control, or I will apply external control.  Self-control is much easier for you and for me.”   We are either restrained by internal restraint or external restraint.  Self-applied restraint, self-control, is always the better choice, and in the case of receiving a speeding ticket much less expensive. 

The only way we self-centered humans can manage in society is with laws and rules that restrain us.  As Americans, we have a great deal of freedom.  We should be thankful for our freedom and respect the laws and rules that keep us in line.  I find this difficult don’t you?  I always want more freedom.  This gets me in trouble.  There are always consequences when I step beyond the rules.

Isn’t it incredible that Jesus paid the price for my renegade behavior?  He took the consequences for me.  What amazing love and compassion he has shown me.  I should be constantly humbled with gratitude.  Yet I still want to throw off restraints.

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

My wife and I recently went to see the movie “The Shack”.  One of the stirring elements of The Shack is that it gives us insight into how God views his world.  Like many we had read through the book twice and were apprehensive about what the movie might do with William P. Young’s beloved novel.  The movie was a refreshing delight.  Directed by Stuart Hazeldine with the screenplay written by John Fusco, the movie omitted very little of the original story.  We both felt that the movie shared the full impact of the book’s message.

Important topics that The Shack explores are why suffering and evil happen in God’s world, and the roll repentance and forgiveness play in dealing with them.  The familiar question, why does God allow such atrocities, can be answered as we delve into what Young was tells us. God allows this because he loves us, all.  There will be a final judgement, but God is patient giving everyone the chance to repent.

From the scriptures the Apostle Peter shares in 2 Peter 3:8-9 an acumen that correlates with this insight:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God’s perspective is always guided by love, his love for all mankind.  He is love!

As Easter Week approaches, see the movie, kneel at the cross, and take some time to bask in his love.  Writing this has stirred me to remember how deeply God loves us, how he is no stranger to suffering himself, and how much he has given for our redemption.

WE ARE ALL WINNERS

The idea of winners and losers comes about because we humans operate in pride and self-preservation.  Pride and self-preservation put us at odds with each other.  Whether it’s a friendly game or an all-out war, we oppose our fellows.  The end result is a selection of winners and losers.  There is only one force that moves us beyond the pride and self-preservation mode.  That force produces all winners.

Now ask yourself, what would motivate me to lay down my pride and self-preservation?  What would get me to the place where I didn’t care about what I had to do or about what others thought?  What would cause me to give my life away?  Wouldn’t you agree that the answer is love?  I would throw myself in front of a bus to save my wife, or my children, or my grandchildren.  I believe I would even do the same for my students.  Why, because I love them.

Guess where we find the greatest demonstration of giving up your pride and laying down your life for others.  Yes, Jesus on the cross is the answer. When the one through whom all things were created humbled himself and gave up his life, everybody became winners.  Everyone is offered eternal life.  He saved us all because he loves us.

The challenge of the cross is before us.  Will we surrender our pride and lay down our lives for others?  Will we choose to love?  Will we help others to know the good news that they are winners?

FOCUS ON JESUS, NOT THE CIRCUMSTANCES

This morning I’d like to share a story from Matthew 17: 25-31.

            At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them (The Disciples) walking on the water.  They were scared out of their wits.  “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror. 

But Jesus was quick to comfort them.  “Courage, it’s me.  Don’t be afraid.” 

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus.  But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink.  He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate.  He reached down and grabbed his hand.  Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”  (The Message)

When walking along a high narrow ledge, one common instruction is don’t look down.  Looking down makes us aware of the danger we are traversing, and we begin to falter.  If you have ever been in a situation like this, you know that the temptation to look down is strong, but when you do, you lose focus.  Peter looked down, and he lost focus.  Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the circumstances of what he was doing.

Other than Jesus, Peter is the only man who has ever walked on water.  Walking in faith and trusting Jesus with the circumstances is a challenge, but we can accomplish amazing things when we do.