A DAY OF HUMBLING

Yesterday was a day of humbling.  I made a big mistake at work, had to fudged a little on a recorded time, and to top it off, when the left turn lane started to move on the turn arrow, I started forward from my straight lane.  Catching my error, I slammed on the brake.  There I sat in the middle of the cross walk in my driver’s instruction car for all to see my error.  The haunting realization came over me that even under my scrupulous vigilance I can’t attain perfection.  The illusion of perfection was no longer possible to maintain.

I’m a perfectionist!  I live under that faulty idea that I need to do all things perfectly.  How imperfect is the pursuit of perfection?  To think that I can do anything perfectly is ridiculous -not to mention it’s hard work.  I’m reminded of the guy on the Ed Sullivan show twirling plates on top of poles.  He had to run from plate to plate to keep them spinning so they wouldn’t fall.   In my yesterday’s experience, plates fell.  One fell then another.  It was a disaster.

So here I am, in the aftermath of humiliation, trying to make sense of it all.  I ask myself,” What causes me to be a perfectionist”?  My answer is twofold.  First, I am created in the image of God, who is perfect.  It’s inherent in my nature to want things perfect.  Secondly, I have a sinful nature, so I’m full of pride.  I inherently want to be better than the next guy.  I also don’t want to be criticized by the next guy.  Perfectionism can also set me in a place where I judge others as less than me.  How ugly is that?

I now rejoice in my day of humbling.  It brings me down from the throne of superiority and places me right back where I belong.  I will continue to give my best effort at work and in all my endeavors because it is the right thing to do, but I will also make every attempt to keep a humble place and avoid letting my desire to do good work tempt me into a prideful place.  I will trust God to give me days of humbling when I need them.  After all, I am a sinner in need of a savior.

LOVE IN THE WORLD

While reading and meditating on Matthew chapter 24, a memory from my early twenties came to mind.  I was at a party sitting on a couch hovering on the inebriated side of too much wine. Gathered at my feet was a group of teenagers.  I was sharing with them how love was the answer to all the world’s problems, and that God was the source of love.  Ah, the gifts and callings were there even in the early years.  So why am I sharing this?  To my surprise, the message in my heart hasn’t changed. 

Jesus in Matthew 24, when telling his disciples about the end times, made this statement. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”  Can you imagine what it will be like when the love of most has grown cold?  I see a lack of love every day, but I also see a lot of love being displayed.  What will happen when most of it is gone?  Love is the stabilizing factor that keeps our world in balance.

The good news is that we who know love are encouraged to stand firm.  Keep on loving.  Jesus said that during this time, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world…”  In the darkest of times, love will still exist in the hearts of those who believe.  Love will still be the answer to the world’s problems.

I pray for love to ever increase in my heart and for all of us who believe.  As wickedness increases, let us counter with a greater expression of God’s love by the power of his Holy Spirit in us.

CONCEPTION TO ETERNAL LIFE

When we die life as we know it is over.   Now think about this.  When we are born life as we know it is over.  In the womb we live in a dark fluid filled container.  This is the only environment we know.  It is our existence, and we have no idea of change.  Then one day the plug is pulled, so-to-speak, and our fluid world ceases to exist.  Our head is jammed into a tunnel at the end of which is a shocking never before experienced thing, light.

From the trauma of this transition we enter into a new world of existence.  This world now becomes our place to grow and explore.  There is good and evil in this world, and we experience varying amounts of both, but it becomes our home.  This is what we know.

Would you like to change from this world to a new one?  The other way to ask this question is would you like to die?  The new world is vast and peaceful where the struggle between good and evil no longer exists.  Most of us want to stay in this life.  We want what we know to continue even though a better existence is ahead.

When we are conceived, birth is inevitable.  Once we are born death becomes inevitable.  Our time in the womb, as well as our time here on earth, is important for our growth, but we were never meant to stay in the womb, and we aren’t meant to stay in this life.  I think that this life is like another gestation period leading to the eternal life that God intends for us.  What does God intend for us?

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

HE IS THERE FOR US

I have been reading through the book of Matthew in “The Message”.    Matthew has always been a compelling book for me, but I must confess that Jesus’ teachings and parables are frequently disturbing to me.  In chapter 19 verse 25 the disciples ask a question that frequently reverberates in my mind, “Then who has any chance at all?”  The question was in response to what Jesus had just said to them, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom?  Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.” 

I, like the rich young man in Jesus’ teaching, find it impossible to qualify for God’s kingdom.  I can’t keep the entire list.  I fall short every day.  What can be done?

Jesus’ answer to the disciples question shocked me from my self-imposed state of worry.  He replied, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself.  Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”  As I thought through this passage, I realized that Jesus, ever aware of the sacrifice he was about to make, was drawing us to himself.  His teachings and parables all point to our need for him, our need for a savior.  His teachings aren’t meant to condemn us, but to show us that though we can’t do it on our own he is there for us.

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.