No Big Deal

When the doctor told me that I was losing my right arm to cancer, it seemed like a death blow to normalcy, productivity and enjoyment of life. Visions of fecklessly attempting everyday things filled my mind.

Four months later my hand became an object of interest to medical students and I started learning to deal with a new reality.

A year and a half later I look back at my thoughts and fears and have no choice but to laugh at my naivety. Normal looks a little different but it’s back to normal. Productivity has improved because I’m better at delegating and my enjoyment of life has never been fuller.

Business is good, life is better, and I’m realizing that in the grand scheme; the loss of my arm is no big deal.

Renewing the mind

The transformational process of renewing the mind is elucidated by the analogy of teaching a kid to work. Becoming a productive citizen and becoming an obedient Christian both require a major shift in thoughts and actions.

A child has no desire to work, a short attention span, a hundred better things to do and a strong inclination to see what he can get away with. Transforming one of these indolent creatures into a young man with a good work ethic requires monumental effort. Thousands of rewards, punishments, hard knocks, realizations, and instances of obedience overriding feeling stand in the way. Gradually, hard work becomes enjoyable as values change. Foolishness seems unworthy because the focus has turned to an objective. Slothfulness looks like an ugly barrier to accomplishment. In the end, everything has changed about both the thinking and actions of the child.

Just as a parent teaches their children to work; so God in his grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.

Php 2:12   -13 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

We do well to notice that this process requires obedience and work. God supplies both the will and the ability to do his good pleasure. Many repetitions of rewards, punishments, hard knocks, realizations, and instances of obedience overriding feeling stand in the way. Gradually, doing right becomes enjoyable as values change. Sin looks like an ugly barrier to enjoying Jesus. Everything changes when our desires are the same as His.

Disabuse yourself of the notion that growing in grace and knowledge is effort free. Yes, God gives us the will and ability but we must obey.

Authenticity

Modern society seems to define authenticity as being true to your personality in defiance of cultural norms. The value pop culture places on authenticity is directly proportional to how offensive it is to cultural Christianity.

A while back I heard the word authentic used to describe a transgender individual. Last time I checked you can’t surgically or psychologically change your chromosomes. I fail to see how denying what you are makes one anything but a pretender.

Al Gore personifies the antithesis to authenticity. He claims that man made climate change is an immediate and real danger, yet he has the carbon footprint of a small city. Evidently carbon footprint sins can be expiated by buying carbon credits (read indulgences) from his exchange. Somehow, if everyone gives him money the earth will be saved. It amazes me how many people lend credence to this charlatan,

I am no philosopher and no Merriam Webster but I do know that a man of character who lives what he believes, and humbly forgoes pretense; defines compelling authenticity and becomes more admirable the better you get to know him.

Wearing a mask and pretending to be something I’m not are the result of knowing what needs to be done and not being willing to do it. Hypocrisy is the quick fix for the problem of being sinful.

Not Needed. Loved and Wanted

The human desire to be needed can taint our theology. The misapprehension that God needs us, seems laughable if you think about who God is, but sincere people don’t always think things through. I’ve enjoyed a couple conversations about this topic recently and decided to write down my thoughts.

God is truly self sufficient. He wouldn’t be God at all if He needed anything. Col 1:17    “And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.”

God doesn’t need people in order to accomplish His purposes either. Even if we resist His will we cannot foil His plans. We are invited to take part in what He is doing but that is for our benefit, not God’s. We have nothing to offer Him but what He gave us; yet our lives are wonderfully enriched when we surrender to Him.

To God, my conversation must seem as petty and uninformed as a toddler’s conversation seems to me. All the intellect, wit and charm I can muster is thoroughly incapable of impressing Him.

However, like a father listening to his toddler; my expressions of love, gratefulness, and admiration please Him. As a parent, it is wonderful to hear “I love you Daddy”, and an obedient child is truly a joy.

I don’t need my kids; but I love, want and enjoy them. Being needed is for the birds! What a better and more beautiful thing it is to be loved, wanted and enjoyed.

We were God’s enemies when He sent Jesus to save us. He loves us and wants our fellowship!

Psa 18:19    He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

Sacrifice of Praise

Why is praise a sacrifice?

As I’ve pondered this question the last few weeks, the answer has begun taking shape. I believe that praise comes from a recognition of who God is. When we see Him, praise is our necessary response.

Our best attempts to magnify Him fall woefully short of capturing reality, so it’s incredible that He values our feeble responses to His magnificence but He does.

When we catch a glimpse of God, our true state is illuminated. His glory reveals our wretchedness, His omniscience shows our ignorance, His power our weakness, His grace our unworthiness and His sufficiency our incapacity.

Praise is a sacrifice because it costs us our self satisfaction and tears holes in our self sufficiency. Only God is worthy to be considered enough.

Praise cements the recognition of our need to be in Christ.

Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

My Word

Louis L’amour provided hours of entertainment for me as a teenager and young adult. Many of his books feature gunfights because someone was called a liar. Evidently, people used to believe that it is better to be dead than to be viewed as unreliable. Obviously, things have changed.

The old saying, “My word is my bond” has been replaced by “Get it in writing”: but, even if you have it in writing, you will still need a better lawyer than the other guy.

Honesty and trustworthiness are becoming rare commodities. Even Christians attempt to justify lack of followthrough with excuses. Jesus says, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” This seems so simple and straightforward until trouble strikes and it becomes costly or inconvenient to keep your word.

The only person who thinks an excuse is worth anything is the one making it.

Recently, I’ve had a couple situations where reneging on my word would have been wonderfully convenient or substantially less expensive and Psalm 15 has come to mind; “He that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not.” It is a substantial comfort to know that God notices, cares and places great value on trustworthiness and that whatever the price on earth it will pay dividends for eternity. Maybe…one day…I will learn to keep my mouth shut.

Proverbs 25:19 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.

Fairness, Justice and Mercy

A few months ago I wrote: Yesterday someone said to me in a mournful tone that life isn’t fair. I replied, “Isn’t that wonderful?!” We have a chance to excel at something without reprisal. We each have unique advantages we are free to pursue and unique challenges to overcome. Lack of fairness is a big part of why life is interesting.

Someone who wins a game doesn’t complain of unfairness. Those who feel disadvantaged or are lazy want fairness because it would obviate the struggle to succeed. Fairness is lethal to individual effort.

If life was fair we would all have the same talents, look the same, be the same, earn the same, think the same, live the same amount of time etc. Fairness sucks!

I was discussing socialism with an employee the other day and he claimed that he would work just as hard even if most of his wage went to supporting people on the dole. It was difficult not to laugh because he avoids overtime, claiming that the government takes too big a percentage in taxes.

Everyone says they want things to be fair, but they are looking for an advantage to exploit.

Justice is another thing everyone wants. We hate being wronged, but we love to see people pay for their misdeeds. When sin is exposed, we pile on, calling for retribution. We long for the day that Jesus the Righteous Judge will set things straight. This longing is good and proper but we tend to forget that we too will be judged. Everybody wants justice for everyone’s actions but their own.

Mercy is what we need. Mercy is what we should show others. Mercy is what we will receive from Jesus if we accept His payment for our sin.

In Christ we find both mercy and justice.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Pinewood Derby

The Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby is interesting to watch because such a broad spectrum of parental involvement is represented there. Some boys do everything themselves, some dads build the whole car including a professional paint job and some kids show up with wheels mounted on a square, unpainted block of wood.

My philosophy is that the derby is about spending time with the boys and making something together. This seems noble and good until I find myself yelling into an empty shop for a boy to hold something while his car is being shaped. My ADHD boys have short attention spans so their cars have to be done in very small increments. By the end, they will have done as much of the car as they were capable of and will have suffered through helping me do the rest.

Race day is fun as there are ample opportunities to watch intense parents and lackadaisical youths interacting and competing. I end up watching the people instead of the cars.

My hope is that even though the boys are so zoned in on fitting in with their friends that they will look back on these races with fond memories; realizing that it is individual effort and personal relationships, not group conformity that is important.

Holy?

For a while now I’ve been pondering the concept of holiness, which according to my Bible dictionary means “set apart.”

When looking for a container to catch fresh squeezed apple cider, the bathroom trash can never crosses my mind as a possibility. Unless there is a new container, or one set aside for foodstuffs the search ends with a trip to the store. You just don’t bake a cake in a bed pan, or serve a salad in a compost pail.

Holiness is being set aside for God’s purposes alone. When we pursue our own designs we become defiled and require the cleansing of Jesus blood. Our sin is such a grevious affront to God that He sent Jesus to provide us with forgiveness and new life.

God is holy. He has singleminded purpose; everything He does is for His glory. His heart is not divided by a love of money, concern for what others think or by hedonistic pleasures.

Happily, in Christ we find eternal and significant purpose along with the grace to fulfill His calling.

I’m convinced that one of the best measures of my walk in the Spirit is the degree to which anything in life is about me.

Relationship or Checklist?

Marriage provides a useful picture of the Christian life. The ridiculousness of our tendency to turn following Jesus into a set of rules, is revealed by a quick comparison.

The subject here is not the moral law that addresses: adultery, lying, stealing etc. as that is universally applicable. The moral law applies as much to life today as it ever did. However, God gives us grace upon grace so that we can obey Him.

This is about our personal walk with the Savior and our tendency to make a checklist.

Consider the man who turns his marriage relationship into a set of rules:
-Speak to her five minutes before eating breakfast.
-Look away from the TV, or put down the paper when she talks to me.
-Answer her phone calls during the day.
-Say how tasty supper was.
-Ask about her day.
-Tell her how nice she looks.
-Take my dishes to the sink.
-Don’t use all the hot water when showering.
-Take her to supper once a month.
-Speak to her five minutes before lights out.

These actions are great if they are done because of your relationship but are pathetic if they are your relationship. We do this with Jesus! We make a checklist and call it a relationship.

Worse yet we apply our Jesus relationship checklist to others. This is akin to me telling my neighbor that he is a bad husband because he mows the lawn. My wife wants to mow the lawn, so if he doesn’t let his wife do the mowing he has marriage problems.

It is easy to see how even a very complete checklist cannot in any way take the place of a relationship, nor can I rightfully expect anyone else to live by the things that God has asked of me. I know for example, that Jesus doesn’t want me to work on Sunday. That doesn’t mean that I should look askance at a fellow Christian who has not been convicted of the same thing.

Enjoy the freedom of a relationship with Jesus. Throw out the checklist and be obedient to the Holy Spirit.