Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I am not God - You are not God

I am not God. This may come to no surprise to anyone. Yet such a simple and absurdly obvious statement needs to be said everyday to remind me of the simple fact that I am not God. You are not God. Now I am just stepping on toes. I often need to say this to myself as a reminder that while I do not want to hurt or disappoint anyone, ultimately you are not God and so it is not my ultimate concern. I think it is healthy to remind ourselves that we are not God, and other people in our life are not God.

If I am not God, and you are not God, then it stands to reason that we should stop spending so much of our time trying to please our own whims and desires because these are simply vapor in the wind. Instead, I think it is time we find what is eternally and infinitely important to God.

We make a great mistake in pretending we are God. We assume that our happiness is what matters in the cosmos. We think we understand best what we want, what we need, and what our rights are. However, just because we say we have the right to bear arms does not necessarily make it true because we are not God, you are not God, and the Constitution is not God.

God does give us free choice. God does not give us free choice because we are God; rather God gives us free choice so that we may choose God.

Adam and Eve had free choice. Adam and Eve were not God. God gave them free choice so they may choose God. Instead Adam and Eve became concerned with their rights. Their egos (with help of a serpent) told them that they could make choices concerning themselves just as good as God could. They replaced God as God, and made themselves God (a big and undeniable mistake when they were confronted by God).

We make ourselves God everyday because we think our will, our wants, our sense of rights and liberties are of the utmost importance. We believe our ability to choose gives us the importance to choose for ourselves what is best. We make ourselves God.

Sometimes we recognize that we cannot make decisions and we either go into depression because we think ourselves weak, or we turn to someone else to control us and make our decision for us. We make others God.

If God is God than maybe God gave us choice so that we may choose whatever God would have for us. Perhaps our only real choice is to let God be God or to let someone else be God. What if God wanted you to throw away your dreams your 10 year plan, your wants, your desire, your sense of fulfillment and accomplishment? What if God wanted you to abandon all that and choose what God already has planned? What if God promised us a better plan and a better prize behind his curtain? Would we choose it?

I really think this is what God wants from us. I think this is what God means when he says “deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). I think God says your way is not the way (John 14:6), your life is not your life (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20, and your logic is not even close to being as brilliant as you think it is (Matthew 11:25-27, 1 Corinthians 2).

There is a real loud calling in scripture that tells us God is God (Deut. 6:4) and no one else. There is a divine reminder that our life does not belong to us anymore (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) that our choices cannot belong to us anymore because of our corruptible nature (Romans 1), that our only real choice is life or death (Deut. 30:19), and choosing God is choosing life (John 17:3). The plain and difficult reality of all of this is that God is God and it really all belongs to God. God is the beginning of it all and the end, God is the Alpha and Omega, and we are vapor. God loves and calls us children, but our decisions are vapor, dust, foolishness if they are not the decision to follow God.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

no more bad news

I don’t know about you but I am tired of bad news. Every time you turn on the television there are stories of rebels, terrorists, sinking economies, rape, theft, murder, and even worse. Now these are important things to know. I want to know about Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and the all other events, both foreign and local, that affect us. I know the world is a troubling place, but it seems that catching up with the news is a health hazard. The chaos and moral rampage raises my stress levels to such a devastating level that I may soon become a news story.

The terrifying reality of it all is that bad news sells. If there are two news stations airing their daily events and one is talking about a local murder, while the other is talking about a local homeless shelter, the former will get higher ratings. This is true even in our own lives. When people ask us how we are doing we have one of two answers. We either answer we are doing fine, or we begin to monologue about how rude our boss was, or how inconsiderate our spouse is, or how are children do not appreciate anything, how our mother is relentlessly nagging us, and how Peyton manning may not be ready for the opener so the season is down the drain. Either we tell people we are fine, or we draw out in story the struggles of our lives.

I am not saying we do not share good events with each other; I am saying we are more likely to listen, to care, and to share the minor and major tragedies in our life. In fact we are incapable to share the good in our lives narratively as well as we can share the bad. The ugly dominates the tip of our personal, local, national, and international tongue.

I want to know the dangers and tragedies that are happening in the world, but I need to be encouraged that we are not completely lost. I want to hear stories of the few and faithful ensuring justice, maintaining sexual integrity, providing for the poor, and healing the sick. I want to hear about the stubborn saints sweating out good works in a broken world, I want to see the lowly leaders creating peaceful changes; I want to hear of the Holy Spirit catching this city on fire! I want to hear of forgiveness, mercy and the Good News!

I suppose this begins with us. I want to share that our food pantry has fed over 70 families so far this month. I want to let you know that our community center has provided clothes and bread every day this week. I want to let you know that our preschool is working with families and kids through education, prayer, and any other assistance they may need. I want you to know that our after school program continues to tutor and encourage kids at the local middle school. I want you to know that this week we have prayed for and visited the sick. We have laid hands on each other and seen healings and miracles. Next week we have someone committing their life to Jesus Christ through baptism. We have groups such as AA using our building to find healing, Weight Watchers to establish healthy eating, CICOA to provide meals to those who are shut in, Bible Studies to help nurture the soul, and Restoring Lives West to find shelter and second chances. Finally, and most importantly, we have worship to give thanks to a truly good and wonderful God every Sunday morning at 10:15 am.

This is the good news we need to hear from each other, so now it is your turn. This may not be life shattering news, but I like to think it is dent making news. I like to think we have made a dent, and together we can continue reforming this world one dent at a time!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The unfare skies of the Indianapolis Fair

Saturday August 13th there was a crowd of people gathered around outside at the Indiana state Fair to hear a concert. In the news there were warnings of lightening and strong winds. Some people in attendance saw the looming storm and decided to leave the concert, however most stayed. A straight wind of over 70 mph blew and knocked the stage over, snapping it like a toothpick. Thousands of pounds of equipment toppled over on top of the gathered crowd sending many to the hospital and killing five.

Many people immediately were left asking “why?” Why did so many people stay with a looming storm threatening, why was the concert not canceled, why was the fair not evacuated? These are questions that many officials are still trying to answer. But in the midst of such tragedy we even find ourselves asking “why did such a terrible thing have to happen, why would God allow this?”

Death and tragedy always lead to questions. It is our natural instinct not only to grieve and mourn, but to also try to discern why something had to happened, why it couldn’t be prevented, and whose fault is it. Our questions are an attempt to make some sense out of senselessness. Why it is good to ask questions to try to prevent similar tragedies, and even sometimes to find guilty parties of crimes or negligence, too often are questions simply are unanswerable.

I was at the Fair a few days before this tragic event. I knew some people who were in the grandstands waiting for the concert (none of which were hurt) and I even knew two police officers who were at the scene to witness the destruction, hospitalizations, and deaths. I feel a strong connection to this city, and a strong emotional connection to those who have lost loved ones in this event. Currently I am in mourning without city as we feel the senseless loss of our own brothers and sister. And I even find myself asking “why?”

I think back when Jesus lost his friend Lazarus. Jesus knew his friend was sick, and when he arrived to his home he discovered he was dead (and for three days). Jesus went to Lazarus’ grave and wept bitterly. Jesus wept because of the suffering and death of his friend, and Jesus also wept because of the power of evil. Jesus knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but Jesus still wept. He wept because even though Lazarus would live again, evil still causes suffering in this world. In the midst of our loss in Indianapolis I know that Jesus is weeping right alongside our city. Jesus is weeping at the power of evil, at the suffering and pain that exists. But even in the midst of weeping Jesus knows something that he has shared with us. That even though there is death, even though there is suffering, and even though there is loss, evil does not have the final say. Death does not have the final say in our life.

The story of the cross is a story that allows us to maintain hope even in the worst of times. This is our peace as Christians that no matter what is taken from us, Jesus can and is willing to bring it back to life, not in this world, but in the place he has been preparing since the beginning of time. He does not look to bring us back to life for another period of time, but for all of time.

Instead of trying to find our comfort in assigning blame or trying to find reason, let us weep knowing that this is not the end. The evil cannot take our life, or the life of our loved ones a way forever, but that through Christ we will raise from the dead, we will be reunited with Christ, and we will be reunited with those who have gone before us. Let this be our identity, let this be our song, let this be our hope even as we weep now.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Where's the rain?

It is dry. I have not cut my grass in four weeks. If it rained for the next 7 days straight I think it would be too little too late for many lawns. The fact is I know longer have any grass, I only have hay. I walk onto my lawn and I hear crunching sounds. I water my plants twice a day (tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers) just to keep them barely alive. I am pretty sure I even saw a cactus growing in my front yard when I pulled into the garage yesterday. The city has issued a water preservation warning to stop watering our lawns to conserve water for our Fire Fighters in the midst of the driest July on record in Indianapolis.

It is easy to easy the benefit and necessity of rain. Without rain grass dries up, vegetable plants stop producing their crop, and eventually everything will shrivel up and die. It is amazing how when rain comes it can revive even the saddest looking of plants. However, there is a point when a plant is so far gone that no amount of rain can revive it.

We are a spiritually dry people. Too often we go too long without the refreshing living water who is Jesus (John 4:10). How many times do we go days without quiet prayer, or careful scripture readings, or worship? How many times do we complain about our dismal spiritual life when we have failed to absorb the spirit into our roots? Our spirits have become a dry and weary land. We have no life and we have no fruit because we have not allowed Christ to penetrate the dirt that surrounds us.

We need to pray for God to rain his spirit upon us. We need to open ourselves to the pouring of his grace; we need to immerse ourselves in life giving water so that we may be healthy to produce fruit. Our good works are a natural blooming of fruit in our lives by allowing ourselves to be water by God. Dry ground and empty wells have neither fruit, no life. If we go too long without God’s raining spirit we shrivel up, and eventually we will die, and it will be too late. The good news is God is ready to send the necessary rain. The prophet Isaiah and Hosea remind us of the Lords willingness to transform us into a fruitful life giving land:
till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest. - Isaiah 32:15

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. - Isaiah 44:3

Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” - Hosea 6:3

May you receive the Holy Spirit being rained upon you, may you be nourished and bloom, may you bear fruit through the watering of God’s love.