Friday, March 26, 2010

I Didn't See This Coming... And It's OK

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them." - Isaiah 42:16 (NIV)

My name is Chris and I am a control freak.

Yes, I admit it. I am a controlaholic. I like life to be nice, neat and orderly. I like to know what's going on and going to happen. I make plans with certain expectations and goals, and expect those goals to be met.

Here's the problem: life doesn't work that way. Life is messy. Things happen outside of my precious plans that wreck my designs for how things should go. It's frsutrating.

Very frustrating.

Regardless of how thoroughly I prepare, circumstances beyond my control often come along and wreck things.

And that's OK.

The simple truth is that God is in control, not me. He is sovereign over all, no matter how thoroughly I plan or think I have it all figured out. When blind-sided by events (big and small) that derail my plans, I need to remember that my life is God's. He is sovereign over all. And He will see me through to His desired will and plans, not mine.

I don't need to understand. I just need to trust.

I just need to trust.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Think About These Things, part 2

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)

The Greek word translated here as "think" is λογίζομαι (logizomai). Logizomai means... well, "to think." Not merely to ponder or consider, but to recognize the reality of the situation. What Paul is instructing us to do is to look at life as God sees it, not through our own (frankly) out-of-focus vision. All we humans can see is through our own limited perception. God is the Creator and Sustainer of all! This is reality - not how we view life, but how God views life.

Logizomai requires two things: faith and discipline (oh! I do not like that word). Naturally, our minds tend to wander. We can sit in church on any given Sunday while the pastor delivers the most passionate, spot-on message he's ever given. Instead of engaging mentally, our minds might be floating all over the place:

Did I turn off the stove?
Did I pay the gas bill?
Is it Law and Order:SVU or Law and Order: Criminal Intent that's on tonight?
What is that under my fingernail?
Did I grab that Old Country Buffet coupon?
How does that woman get her hair to do that?
Boy, Law and Order sure isn't the same without Jerry Orbach...

You get the idea. The point is that we need to be thinking about God. Several times, the Psalmist instructs us to "meditate" on God's ways and Word. In fact, Paul is essentially echoing here the message found in Joshua 1:8: think about God's ways and put them into practice.

Next time around, we'll talk about where Paul says to focus our thoughts.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Where I Am Tonight (grateful, humble, thankful)

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." - Ephesians 3:16-21 (NIV)

I think that, if we were able to truly discern the fullnes and depth and richness of the love of God for each of us, we would never worry, never wander, never wonder where He is or why He isn't moving in our lives. The love of Christ truly overshadows any anxious thought or worrisome situation we face. Our focus should always be on Christ, not our troubles.

Now... I really ought to print this out read it over, and over...

And over.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Think About These Things, part 1

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)

There is not one wasted word in all of the Bible. Every term, every verb, every noun, every adjective... each one drips with meaning and depth and purpose and life. That's why I'm not a big fan of surface skimming over Scripture. There are facets of meaning in there that we can easily fly over if we fail to stop and dig a little.

The passage above is one of my favorites. It speaks to my heart in a very personal way. It says to me, don't worry about a thing. Follow God and His ways, and find peace. Don't fret and worry... think about God and His ways (after all, can you think of anything more true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy that God - the creator of all good things?)

This week, I want to dig a little deeper into this passage. I want to capture the depth of meaning to some of the key words (so much depth can be lost in translation). I realize there is no way I will mine this vein in one week. A pastor could pull a year's worth of sermons out of these two verses. There are a lot of factors, such as the frame of mind of the person doing the study.

For example, community has been in the forefront of my thoughts lately as I've been preparing a lesson for church on the subject. What is community and why is it so important? It goes back to the essential question: why am I here? What is my purpose? Our original created purpose is found in Genesis:

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." (Genesis 1:26a, ESV).

Notice the plural there: in our image and likeness. We are created in the image of the Triune God. And Father, Son and Holy Spirit do not exist in a vacuum. They relate to one another. So we, being created in God's image (the Hebrew word is "tselem," which means not only likeness, but indicates we are to be His representatives) means we are created to glorify God. And we do so in community. We are to relate to one another, to have fellowship with one another, to welcome others to believe and belong. And the one common factor drawing us together in this God-initiated community is God Himself through Jesus Christ.

So... what does this have to do with Philippians 4:8-9? We're human: faulty, failed and easily distracted. We need to remember why we are here, what our created purpose is. We live to bring glory to God. And we need to remember Who God is. We do this by keeping God and His goodness in the forefront of our thoughts, and acting on what we have learned from His word.

But it isn't just thinking about God. More thoughts on thinking and just what Paul means by that word when we pick this up next time.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Advice from Habakkuk

Circumstances may trouble you. People around you may bother you. Life may worry you. But take Habakkuk's advice: "I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength..." (Hab 3:18-19a, ESV).

Or as Jesus put it, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, ESV).

Relax. Let that soak in. Give thanks and praise. And go enjoy your day!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Course Correction

I started to complain because, as I was warming up my bowl of clam chowder, I realized we have no spoons in the lunchroom. I was going to have to eat my chowder with a fork.

Then I thought of Haiti.

And Ethiopia.

And Bangladesh.

And Afghanistan.

And Uganda.

I no longer care about the spoon. In fact, the soup is now far less satisfying.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." - 1 John 3:16-20 (NIV)

Monday, February 01, 2010


“And (Jesus) said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” – Matthew 18:2-4 (NIV)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)

“I can handle this.” Does that sound familiar to you? Often many of us try to fool ourselves (and those around us) that we have it all together, when, in fact, we do not. Life is tough. Health problems, work troubles, money shortfalls, child worries, the busyness of life…

What motivates us to hold our cards so close and put up a good face? Often it is pride. We don’t want to appear weak or needy. But, if we were all honest with one another, we would each and every one of us admit to a weak area – some place where things are not quite so good as we’d like to admit.

Overcoming life’s obstacles requires faith. And true faith in God requires humility.

This is the point Jesus – and Peter – are making. We need to become like little children. We need to come to God with our worries and anxieties and concerns and cares and sins and troubles and doubts… and cast them on Him. Don’t just lay them down. Cast them off! Throw them away with great aim and purpose. And let the peace of Christ fill the empty place once occupied by your burden.

Does it mean your circumstances will change immediately? Maybe. Maybe not. But our circumstances aren’t what matters. The God Who love us – who loves you – is far greater than our circumstances.

Pray. Believe. Serve. Rest.

And let me know how I can be praying for you this week.