Monday, November 30, 2009

Value, Motive and Reason part 1

Over the course of the last few weeks and especially in the last few days spent with family, my mind and heart have meandered in and around the above few words. Not because they are words that hold any particular weight on their own, but because they are beginning to form what I believe could be my mid-life-mantra.

Each of us has thoughts and feelings that tend to motivate us for good or for ill? I might have said evil, but the circles of people that I hang with tend to shun evil people and things, so I chose the word ill so as to maintain my current social and religious posture and standing. Albeit evil tends to be the bane of this group, few can escape its influence.

Anyway, my thoughts on value, motive and reason have merged into the following stream of ideas.

Have you ever wondered about the power of value? Even at the least levels, value determines a great deal. Value determines relationships, value determines economic investments, value determines political decisions, value determines in many cases who lives and who dies.

Value is what causes families to bond and nations to war, or vice versa. Value is what advances causes and retards progress. Simply put, value is huge. Value could really be thought of as the fulcrum that all life pivots upon. And depending upon where one places the fulcrum, will determine the amount of load lifted or effort needed to lift the load.

Each and every day we determine our daily activities and direction, solely based upon value or the lack thereof. What one person decides has high value; another person determines it to be of little or no value. So what sets in motion a person’s value system?

That’s such a great question, I’ll ask it again. What sets in motion a person’s value system? If we can figure that one out, we can begin to determine a person’s motives, and from motives we’ll find pure reason.

Why is it that some people value one thing and others don’t? Why is it that some people reject wisdom and others don’t? It’s kind of funny when you think about it; a starving man has little need for a brand new BMW if he cannot redeem it for some food. In that case the BMW has no value except maybe to get the starving man closer to where the food is, if that’s even possible.

Don’t miss what I’m saying. Each of us comes to a place in our lives when we begin to sort out things that matter and things that don’t. At least that’s how we see it from a subjective point of view. But there again, it’s all about value. The older I get (and I’m only 49… that’s not very old) the less I care about the things I cared about when I was nineteen. That may seem trite and you may say “yeah so what?” But that’s my point.

Values or value tends to change as circumstances change. The person, who swears never to steal, yet suddenly finds they are starving and have no money, may change their value system about being a thief.

I’m not suggesting a value system that is relative, BUT I am saying that the American church has often operated in this manner, despite what God may say in His Word.

Consider if you will the idea that value intrinsically produces motive. And when motive is birthed, movement or change of some sort is set in motion, ergo the term locomotive. And once a body is set in motion, well you can just study that theory, but my observation is that it continues on, unless otherwise interrupted by an outside force.

Value, motive and reason; three very powerful forces so often over looked. More to come!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Man I'm Starving(Acquiring an Appetite for God)

Have you ever found yourself in a moment when hunger just overwhelmed you? Like those times at work when you didn’t eat breakfast or the right kind of breakfast and you find yourself at 10:30 AM ready to eat wood or anything you could get your hands on?

Or it’s late in the day and schedules collide and dinner is late and you find yourself coming to the table saying “man I’m starving”? If you’re like me you can relate.

Let me preface my thoughts with this: I have never been in a place where I was genuinely starving. I have always had access to food. I have only really known hunger, because meal time was delayed, but never actual starvation. I know there are billions of people on this planet that could express volumes about starvation and I’m not one of them. But my thoughts today go beyond simple lack of nutrition.

Jesus said; “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35 NIV)

I find it very curious, Jesus tells us that there is a place where we will NEVER experience hunger or thirst again. Some kind of place where the pang of hunger in our bellies will never be felt again, nor the dryness of thirst that so often overtakes one caught in some sort of vigorous exercise or labor parches the throat and tongue. But He’s not talking about something physical; He’s talking about something very different, yet similar in its impact on our lives.

Jesus is talking about an acquired appetite so fixed on God that one cannot live without it. So critical is this type of appetite, that Jesus tells us nothing is more important. So where and how does this appetite come from?

Firstly, this type of appetite comes from God alone. That’s right; God provides by grace an appetite that can only be satisfied in Him alone. God has designed everything in the cosmos to come close to satisfying our desires, all the while leaving us void and wanting something more. Kind of like the theory that eating bad carbohydrates causes you to want more bad carbohydrates. It becomes a vicious cycle that can only be broken by training your body’s metabolism to be satisfied with better nutrition. And that takes time and deliberate action on our part.

God set up the scenario, consume Me and never be hungry and thirsty again, or consume other things and continue in your quest for satisfaction. I hate to admit it, but Mic Jaggar was right… he can never find true satisfaction in anything apart from God. Especially useless information designed to spark imagination, funny how we’ve used that formula in the church.

Secondly, this type of appetite is more than just a head trip. It’s more than a simple understanding that certain foods are good for you and others are not. I say that because almost every person in the Western world understands the gravity of certain foods over others. Meaning, a bowl of potato chips has units of heat that the body can use, but they are the wrong kind and often produce ill affects on your system management. Whereas a bowl of whole grain oats also has units of heat that the body can use, but those units of heat have more value because of other elements in their make up. The illustrations of nutrition could go on and on, but the point is, God alone holds the key to proper spiritual nutrition and simply KNOWING that fact is not enough.

Just like knowing about proper nutrition is not enough to have any significant affect on health and well being, so too is faith or belief in what God is telling us. Jesus is more than a religious icon we look to for solace and comfort. He is the ONE AND ONLY source of life and coming TO Him is only half of the equation.

For God’s plan to function as He designed it, we must accept the fact that He alone supplies all our needs and even our wants. We must realize the grace in empty calories that ultimately will lead us to refuel.

“Belief is not merely an agreement with facts in the head; it is also an appetite for God in the heart, which fastens on Jesus for satisfaction. ‘He who comes to me shall not hunger and he who believes in me shall never thirst!’ Therefore eternal life is not given to people who merely think that Jesus is the Son of God. It is given to people who drink from Jesus as the Son of God. ‘The water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life’ (John 4:14). He is also the bread of life, and those who feed on Him for nourishment and satisfaction live by Him. ‘I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever’ (John 6:51). The point of these images of drinking and eating is to make clear the essence of faith. It is more than believing that there is such a thing as water and food; and it is more than believing that Jesus is life-giving water and food. Faith is coming to Jesus and drinking the water and eating the food so that we find our hearts satisfied in Him.” (John Piper; The Purifying Power of Living in Future Grace; p.86)

Do you get that? You can believe that coming to the table of the Lord is the right thing to do, but eating Him is a whole other thing. You can admire the beauty and presentation of a sumptuous meal, much like the pictures in food magazines, but eating is way better than just looking. Are you willing to consume the Living Lord with all your deepest desires and find true satisfaction, or will you continue to eat chips and candy in hopes to be satisfied and healthy?

My contention is this: How satisfied and healthy are we? I mean really, do we trust in our own resources to bring us satisfaction?

Jeremiah 9:23-24 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, (24) but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’
declares the LORD.”

This is where we miss getting our satisfaction from the Lord. All of us have, to some degree, wisdom, strength and riches. And that’s the problem. We are resourceful. We have access to all of the above, by birth or acquisition – we have access to wisdom, strength and riches.

So why do we need God, right? I mean really, let’s just do our Sunday church thing and get on with winning the rat race. Monday’s coming and we’ve got a plan. We’ve got a strategy to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN, with or without God, right?

Sadly I say, that’s right, because all too often we find our satisfaction, temporarily in the things of this world and the resources that tend to flow from humans (self) instead of God.

Let me challenge you. Do you trust in anything other than God? Trusting in God means faithfully putting Him first in all your thinking and doing (actually doing as He tells you by His Spirit and His Word), and then taking action based upon your experiences and resources. Together you’ll find great satisfaction. The sum of God’s resources and yours are greater by far than yours alone.

Why not get hungry for God? Why not make Him the desire of your appetite? Why not?

Could it be that you’ve been snacking before dinner? Remember what your mother told you; “Don’t eat that or you’ll spoil your appetite for dinner.” Mom was right, and so is Dad. Trust Him.

A Coming to Our Senses – Luke 15:11-31

One of my favorite stories from the Gospels is the one we fondly refer to as the Prodigal Son parable. It’s a great illustration of the grace of God shown toward the wayward sinner.

Finding THE GRACE OF GOD in all situations is not easy, but when we do, our perspective changes. Our view of life becomes hopeful and not hopeless. We find ourselves coming alive to the fact that God is working on our behalf and there’s not a single thing we can do that can stop Him.

Romans 5:6
“You see, at JUST THE RIGHT TIME, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”

Please take note, God’s view of our “right time” is when we are powerless, helpless, ungodly and far from being at our best. The right time for God’s grace to explode on the scenes of our life is when we finally run out of answers. Especially the answers we seek to provide for our own problems.

Like many of us, the young impetuous son falls prey to the wander lust. He somehow BELIEVES THE LIE that life outside his father’s house will be way better than life inside. So off he goes cash in hand, after demanding that he get his share of the inheritance now instead of later.

Ironically THE FATHER GIVES him the money and lets him go; all without an argument, as far as the text reveals. That’s right, he just lets him head off to do his own thing. Now most of us dad’s wouldn’t do that, but this dad did. This dad is a study in character of the nature and perspective of Father God. The story shows the freedom God gives us, despite how foolish we often become.

Now the grace expressed in this story can be found throughout, but the portion that has been on my heart for the last few weeks is the part where the wayward son finds himself smack dab in the middle of his self imposed crisis. And aren’t they THE WORST KIND OF CRISIS? You know… the kind of screw up or misjudgment that falls completely on your shoulders. Ouch!

Anyway, my thoughts are these: How often do we have to have a coming to our senses moment, before we don’t find ourselves in the pig pen once again? And, do you remember THE LAST TIME, if ever, you had a coming to your senses moment?

The reason I ask those questions is because I believe that many people find themselves in and out of crisis or going around THE SAME MOUNTAIN again and again, all the while they somehow believe that life is just that way. Because of THE PATTERNS they’ve lived in for so long have yet to be broken, it all just seems normal. And worst of all, because misery loves company, most of the friends and family that surround a person who passes in and out of the pig pen, tend to just accept the situation as normal.

Secondly I ask if you can remember the last time, if ever, that you had one of those coming to your senses moments, because those times can be BENCHMARKS OF GOD’S GRACE to you, but far too often we miss the power of the divine moment. We glaze it over with a rationale that’s based upon a self centered premise that somehow puts us in the driver’s seat and we forget how much influence the Lord actually has on our hearts and minds.

Keep in mind that we have the power of free will to choose wisdom or folly, but we do not have the power of redemption and grace. Both of which are gifts from God to us.

It’s like this, you didn’t have the power to be conceived and brought into this world, but once you got here, you progressively developed the power and ability to either live or die, to make choices that take you one way or the other. But ultimate once you die, that’s it, your part in any decision making processes is over.

Well much like our life cycle here on earth that contains choices and opportunities, so too does our spiritual life cycle contain choices and opportunities. Another question that’s on my mind is this: How often do we realize the grace and power that God is demonstrating even during the routine of making foolish decisions that lead us once again to the pig pens of life?

See the cool thing is this; grace is found throughout the parable of the prodigal son, especially at the point where he comes to his senses.

As I read this parable I conclude there are at least Five (5) Grace Findings that form a cycle of God’s applied grace, all of which should give us hope despite our failings.

Grace finding number one – the son experienced ACCESS – relationship with the Father (grace) vv.11-12. When was the last time you realized that you have access to Father God, but simply ignored that fact or took it for granted? All that we have to do is speak to the Father and then listen for His voice. Reading His word gives us access to His thoughts and intentions. Simply put, we have access to relationship and that is a GRACE THING.

Grace finding number two – the son experienced his own ACTIONS – freedom of choice (grace) vv.13-16. All too often we view our relationship with God as restrictive. We believe the lie that tells us He doesn’t want us free, that He wants us marching in lock step to what He alone dictates, but that simply is not true. God has given each of us free will. He has given us the grace to choose our own path and actions. The question is have you realized how much grace is in that freedom? The power of you making your own decisions is a GRACE THING. But beware, we tend to make stupid decisions when we stop listening to the voice of truth and embrace the seduction of a lie.

Grace finding number three – the son experienced an AWAKENING – made alive to realize pain (grace) vv.17-20a. When was the last time you came to your senses? You could say one of those V8 moments. Our problems often stem from the many times we get revelation or awakening on a matter, only to find ourselves rolling right past the moment and missing the grace of God’s divine alarm clock. A grace awakening is indeed just that, a GRACE THING. Did I see you just hit the snooze button again?

Grace finding number four – the son experienced ACCEPTANCE – restoration from the Father (grace) vv.20b-21. So often we stay at a distance from God, because we believe somehow that He wants it that way. How sorely mistaken we are. The beauty of this particular finding is that even when we are far away from God, home, sanity, purity, innocence or provision, God runs in our direction. That’s right, if and when we accept the grace awakening sent by God and turn our glance back toward Him, acceptance is immediate. One caveat though, this level of acceptance is only found when we admit our plight and realize our helplessness. Yet even in that moment of admission we must realize that too is a GRACE THING.

Grace finding number five – the son experienced ACCESS AGAIN – to the best the Father has (grace) vv.22-24. Finally, one of the least realized components of grace is the refreshment of access gained once again to the Father’s proximity, prosperity and promises. Ever since I’ve been a minister of the Gospel (20 years now) I’ve noticed something about sinners or wayward saints. They think that their place of restoration with God is somehow unattainable because they’ve been so bad. That’s right, they have such a prideful regard for their depravity that they believe the lie that they could never have a close relationship with the Father once again or ever at all. That is wrong thinking.

If we ever find ourselves at a distance from God for any number of reasons, may I say that grace and mercy have provided us access again to relationship with the Father, and it’s never because we repaired some breech, but always because of what He has done. So take heart, you can boldly come to Him and find mercy and help in time of need. That is a GRACE THING. No matter how far away you’ve been, access is possible and part of God’s desire and plan.

May you realize that the coming to your senses moment you are experiencing right now is all God and none of you. And may you realize that He loves you enough to come to the rescue and give you divine CPR, and you have nothing to do with that except you are dead and in need. Why, because it’s a GRACE THING.

Feel anything yet?