Friday, December 24, 2010
One statement I have noticed of late in the Christmas story is: "...because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7). It occurred to me that Jesus was intended to be born in a specific place identified as 'the' inn but because the owners didn't make room for Him, his birth happened in another place, a stable. That speaks of God's intentions for one person being deflected to another. He intended one person to bear Him in a certain manner but that person wasn't open, so God went to the next one. He intended one church to have a certain deposit of glory in it but there was no room so He went to another location. I have often wondered how much of God I have missed by being too closed, too full, too busy, too smart, too religious, too distracted...
How much have you missed? How much of Him do you want? How open are you? All of these questions we should ask ourselves and answer as honestly as possible so that we can be ready next time.
Who are you now, inn or stable?
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Humility, the remarkable characteristic of the God who has every reason and right not to be, is embedded in the details of the birth of Christ Jesus. He was born in a stable! Much of what C.S. Lewis communicated resonates with me. He wrote in The Last Battle, "In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world". He also said of the Lord, "God is not proud...He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him." As I consider obscure scripture not often read or considered but just as authoritative as John 3:16 I marvel at the God who would take up residence, not just visit, but take up residence in a burning desert thorn bush. Moses blessed the offspring of Joseph with these words:
"Blessed...with the precious things of the earth and its fullness, and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush. Let the blessing come on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers."'Dwelt' does not mean to visit temporarily, but is defined in just the opposite way -'to lodge', 'to reside or permanently stay'. You may think that God got to the bush 15 minutes before Moses did that day, but that is not the case. He dwelt there! All of us want, yea even need, the favor of God, but how many of us are willing to receive the 'favor of Him who dwelt in the bush'? That kind of favor helped deliver 2,000,000 Jews from terrible bondage under the control of the most ruthless despot of their generation. But that kind of favor comes in the context of foolishness and humility. A talking bush? A burning talking bush who claims to be the uncreated God? Try explaining that kind of blessing to those who are so tied to the realm of the earth, so tied to their own reason and religious concepts that they would consider such an encounter as coming from 'the dark side'.
Jesus was born in a stable which was likely just a cave, a room carved into the side of a hill. Animals lived there. It was dirty. The bible records it this way,
"And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7).You could translate this verse another way,
"And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in rags and used a feed trough for his bed, because there was no room for them anywhere else".The Christmas story has been so gilded with religious sentiment that sometimes it is difficult to grasp the profundity of what happened. The One who created everything became a man and was born in a dirty place and first slept in a trough from which animals fed. The most stable person in the universe was born in a stable...this play on words has within it a wonderful truth. True stability in life comes from true humility. But many shy away from the kind of foolishness that can deposit that kind of true humility. That is another one of God's paradoxes. He uses foolish even unstable situations to create stability within us and to impart His glory to us. God is serious about revealing His glory and imparting His glory, but how many of us will embrace the odd way in which God does so?
God still resides in a burning bush. That means that even until this day our God reveals Himself in unusual ways, ways easy to disregard, ways that offend our religious sensibilities, ways that we would never choose. Why? God is humble. Men are proud. He does it to help us change. We need to.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
C.S. Lewis reflected on the Psalms this way, "The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance."
I love -the presence of God, the wonderful emotional responses that God invokes in my heart, the colors I find in creation, the joy of the Lord that renders a man speechless, the kind of joyful infusion the Holy Spirit can bring that causes a man to laugh repeatedly-ridiculously-hilariously-unashamedly-loudly-obnoxiously, the profound hope-fullness the gospel brings when fully believed and unhesitatingly trusted, the tears that flow and the melting of the heart kind pathos of seeing the mercy of God and the redemptive sufferings of Jesus, my children enjoying 'their' God, the presence of God, my wife when she looks at me a certain way and when she talks baby talk to her grandchildren, the fragrance of the early days of spring, the 'fresh aired' first days of fall, the changing colors of the leaves on Carolina trees, hitting a home run in Little League, a Five Guys bacon cheese burger, Thanksgiving dinner, losing weight, preaching when anointed, seeing sick people healed, riding my bike, printing a mysterious picture I have photographed, the presence of God, talking with friends about God, corporate high-level worship, the God who so delights in us that when we see Him as He is it makes old, fat, out of shape, men in suits and ties want to dance in public even with their bosses watching. Those are just a few of the things I like, not in any particular order and written for no particular reason other than I wanted to, this is my blog after all, and so that others could think about theirs and praise God so long and loud and hard that they pulled a muscle or popped a blood vessel in one of their eyes or got hoarse...just because Jesus is Wonderful.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Many people struggle with bitterness. It is one of the most pervasive problems in the American church. Bitterness is often the result of un-forgiveness. Many who are bitter are long term believers, probably because they have been around the church long enough to suffer some of the inevitable consequences of living in relationship with other flawed folks. Someone once told me they weren't going to church any more because the church was filled with hypocrites. That's a classic conclusion of a bitter person. I responded, "Well, the Super WalMart is filled with hypocrites too but you go down there twice a week!". My personal opinion is that everyone is a hypocrite, maybe not a practicing one, but at least a former one and very potentially, a future one as well. We should treat our own hypocrisy like alcoholics treat alcoholism. "Hello. My name is Robin. I am a hypocrite!" Actually it may be true that the only people who emerge from hypocrisy are those who own their own hypocritical ways. That means then that I'm not a hypocrite! (...oops. I think maybe I fell back into it again. Oh well.)
How do you forgive and overcome bitterness? We know we should forgive, Jesus said so:
"And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses."
We know God won't forgive us, to some degree, if we don't forgive others:
"...but if you don't forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses"...(Mt. 11:25).We know we will be subject to torment if we don't forgive others (see Mt. 18:34-35); but how do you do it? To the best of my knowledge Jesus revealed only one 'how to' when it came to forgiving someone when He said,
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).His statement reveals a hidden key: Getting free from un-forgiveness lies in not assigning intent to another person's actions. If people don't know why they do what they do, then we should stop assuming we know as well. Think about it. How many of us truly understand why we do what we do? So, if we don't understand why we act as we do, and we know ourselves much better than we could possibly know anyone else, then why should we assume we know the motives of other people. Judging other people's motives is rooted in pride and that is exactly what God resists...even in us. That assigning of intent locks us into our judgment of them and the bitterness that follows.
Here is a great idea. Realize that people don't know what they are doing and stop taking life so personally. You may find that you get a 'get out of jail free' card as a result.