In the beginning, Adam and Eve had no hindrance to being in the presence of the Lord. After their disobedience, they entered a whole new perception. They had gained self-awareness. With self-awareness comes concern for self. How do I look? What are they thinking of me? What should I do? Concern for self hinders our ability to enter the presence of the Lord.
An internal battle commences each time I want to spend time with the Lord. There is always one more thing to do before I can start. Everything I forgot to do somehow miraculously comes to mind. (I should make a list.) When I finally do get situated, my mind scatters to a thousand thoughts. As I strive to get my mind settled, I realize I haven’t tuned my guitar in a while. I like to start my time with the Lord singing a few songs of praise. The guitar turns out to be in pretty good tune, but it’s always good to check. Then it’s, what song to begin with, and what key is that in?
Finally I begin to sing. Boy, my voice is getting old. That note used to be so clear. Wow, this is a great worship song. If I ever lead worship again, I’ll have to include this song. Then I realize I’ve sung through the entire song without a conscious thought about who I’m singing to. I cried out, “Help me Lord.” I sang the song through a few more times trying to focus my mind. Then the Lord spoke to me, “Write about this struggle.”
All along he knew what I was there for. I wanted to hear from him about what to write this week. In his humble way, he answered the question I didn’t ask. A rush of gratefulness entered my heart. My self-concern was put aside. I then enter into his presence and worshipped. God had made a way!
One of the difficulties followers of Jesus face in our current society is avoiding the consumer mentality. “Let’s go shopping” is the call. We get to buy things and spend money. There is never an end to what we can buy, but unfortunately there is an end to the money we have to spend. Running out of money is a definite downer. We are then driven to figure out how we can get more money. Living the consumer life never brings us satisfaction.
I have been reading through Matthew chapters 5-7, and as I read it occurred to me that Jesus is redirecting his disciples’ way of thinking. Jesus taught his disciples to think differently. He wanted them to put aside self-concerns and focus on the Kingdom of God. Paul restates Jesus’ teaching in Romans 12:1-2,
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (The Message).
If we allow him, Jesus will change our way of thinking. He will transform our minds. Let me recap what Paul is saying. We should take everything about our lives and place it before God as an offering. Then we should humbly accept what he has done for us. Our way of thinking is not about what we can do for him, but what he has done for us. So with a heart of gratitude, we fix our attention on him, and receive the new way of thinking that he works into us. This allows us to do what he sets before us without distraction. The result, “God brings the best out of us, develops well-formed maturity in us.”
I often talk about who I am and what I’ve done. You might say I lay out my credentials. I want to be distinctive in what I’ve done, or should I say I want to sound impressive. The other day, I began reading in Philippians chapter 3 where the Apostle Paul talks about his credentials. He presents a pretty impressive list. When he referred to this as “putting confidence in the flesh”, I was a little concerned. The further I read, the more I was convicted.
The Apostle Paul’s words get stronger. He says compared to knowing Christ Jesus his credentials are garbage. About this time, I recognized how often I bring up my list of accomplishments, or my garbage. I was beginning to understand that I was putting confidence in the flesh.
I pondered the Apostle Paul’s words, and I concluded that my human accomplishments are temporal. They are like dust that will be blown away by the wind. What I do in Christ has eternal significance. Accordingly, the most important accomplishment is belonging to Jesus. Knowing Jesus brings me into God’s eternal kingdom, and only the work of the kingdom has lasting significance.
It’s not about what I’ve done, but about who I am in Christ Jesus. Instead of talking about what I’ve done, I’ll talk about what the Lord has done. The fact that I belong to him is sufficient. In 1Corinthians 1:31, the Apostle Paul reminds me, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” I see that this is great advice.
I have often made statements like, “I’m ready to go as soon as God calls me home,” or “I wish I could go to heaven right now.” However, the result of a recent doctor visit brought home the reality that life as I know it could end. The vague idea that life will end came crashing down on the certainty that life will end. I saw the above statements as flippant and poorly thought out utterances. A new perspective has inundated my soul. This life is precious and should be cherished.
God gave me life, and I have experienced the delights of his natural world. Yes, there is both good and evil here, but I have never failed to explore and enjoy this world’s beauty. My wife, children, extended family, and friends have afforded me a life full of joy and love. Tragedies and losses have come my way, but they serve to round out the experience. This world is all I know. Everything that defines life to me has happened here in this temporal existence.
When I die, I will leave all of this and go to a new place that is beyond my experience. Someday, I will leave here to go to a new place – I can only imagine. Life as I know it will be over.
Faith now comes to the foreground. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Even though I will be going to an unknown place, I can trust God with the unknown.
So I will not take this life for granted, or belie its importance, but I will cherish it as a precious gift from God himself.
Last week I worked full days and had church and family activities that occupied my time. I had a very busy week. However, through the activities of the week I was awakened to Jesus’ undeniable love.
Maundy Thursday our church family got together to share dinner and communion. Jesus ate his last supper meal with the disciples, and then he initiated the symbolic practice of communion. We wanted to share in that remembrance in a meaningful way. We sat down together and participated in what Jesus did those many years ago.
Good Friday my wife and I went to a local church that provides the Stations of the Cross. If you’re not familiar with this presentation, it is a walk through the various experiences of Jesus’ day of crucifixion. At each station, you read the scriptures that pertain, and take time to pray and meditate. We’ve done this for several years, and each time is different. The Holy Spirit always leads us into another perspective of what Jesus went through on that day.
The effect of last week’s undertakings left me overwhelmed. As I walked through the gruesome abuses that Jesus endured, I encountered undeniable love. What led Jesus to the cross and what kept him there was simply love. I cannot say anything more definitive. I can only say I have now felt his love more deeply and personally than ever before. He loved us, and he died for us.
I close with this exclamation: I praise you and thank you Jesus for your love expressed so undeniably!
In the dark of night,
Filled with deep despair,
I sit here all alone.
I need to be rescued,
But who is there to rescue me?
Many of us represent God’s compassion by helping to rescue lost souls. After all we are God’s ambassadors. Yet every lost soul needs to reconcile with God. So to truly rescue the lost, we need to bring them to Christ Jesus. Our comfort and encouragement are helpful, but only at the foot of the cross can they find new life.
I am always delighted when I read a familiar section of scripture and find new insights. As I read through John 3:1-21, I was amazed at what I hadn’t seen before. I had never realized that Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus included the beloved and most memorize words in the Bible, John 3:16. I had also not recognized with what compassion Jesus spoke to Nicodemus.
Jesus explained to Nicodemus exactly why he was here on earth and what he was doing. The gospel was clearly laid out for him. Jesus gave more direct information to this Pharisee than he did to any others in his recorded confrontation with the Pharisees.
Jesus rebuked Nicodemus for not understanding him. I believe skepticism and ingrained presuppositions hindered Nicodemus from comprehending Jesus’ words. Jesus knew this, and he challenged him to clear his mind and see the truth in what he was telling him. He took time with Nicodemus. He apparently wanted him to grasp what God was doing. I’m sure Jesus knew that Nicodemus was to become one of his followers.
I read through John 3:1-21 a number of times in both the NIV and The Message. The more I read the more I was touched. I began to see love and beauty expressed in the words Jesus spoke. He spoke to Nicodemus from his heart. I believe he spoke with passion. I encourage you to read this passage, and let it minister to your heart this coming week.