Monday, January 31, 2011

Running the Risk

For most of us, we think very little of everyday events that might otherwise be risky; like talking on the cell phone while driving. I know none of you guys do that, but I do sometimes. Or how about digging something out of the garbage disposal? Something that just won’t grind up, so you stick your fingers down inside and try to retrieve whatever it is that’s making such a horrible noise. Only to momentarily hope the switch doesn’t get turned on while your hand is down there.

Or the simple task of eating alone. Now I know that sounds kind of paranoid, but seriously, have you ever choked on something when no one else was around? It gives you that feeling of abject vulnerability and you have a fleeting thought that “Wow that was close I could have died”. Okay maybe I’m weird like that, but people do choke you know!

Or how about surfing the internet without proper protection software? Or shopping online with a credit card, while you don’t have Norton or some other protection software? Again, maybe you think I’m being paranoid, but just wait until someone tries to steal your identity. It happened to me and it took over a year to get things straight. Fortunately the guy doing it died.
Or run with scissors in your hand, I dare you! You know, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye; but all kidding aside.

These are everyday events that most of us think little about, as far as their risks, yet for many, there are far greater risks they take and don’t even consider the consequences or risks involved.

I’m thinking about the person who goes through life believing that they have a nice religious relationship with God, but He never really knows them on a personal basis. Or what about the person who says they’ve forgiven another, but deep in their heart forgiveness has not really occurred. What a rude awakening that will be when they stand before God and have to give an account of their failure to truly forgive.

Over and over in the Bible we see people presuming upon the grace of God. These folks run the risk of missing God’s truth and redemption, simply because of their presumption. That’s right, presumption. (Even King David prayed that the Lord would keep him from the great sin of presumption.)

This type of presumption is based upon the personal folly of thinking you know God and what He’s talking about in His Word, when in reality you filter the Word and Spirit through your own experiences, your own pains, problems and bigotry. Ergo the reason we’ve got so many types of “Christians” running around this planet. Many of which rarely if ever truly reflect the Living Christ.

So here’s the deal: We’ve all been wounded or offended from time to time. Usually by people that you’d think should know better by now, but they really don’t. And painful feelings, left unchecked, can ultimately produce a root of bitterness that keeps us from fully understanding the magnitude of God’s special grace; His willingness to save sinners such as us.

Meaning, we believe that everyone else is worse than we are. We believe that everyone else is to blame for our pain, so if they’d just stop hurting us (sinning against us) life would be good and we could get on with all the stuff God has planned for us; right? Yet we never do.

So are you Running the Risk of missing God’s special grace? Are you Running the Risk of affecting others with your foolish presumptions that keep you thinking you’re better than others?

Oh I’m sure most of you reading this have never struggled with this problem, but I know I have. And I know that Running the Risk of missing God in any given moment is simply not worth, my vain thinking that my pain in life is everyone else’s fault, but never mine.

At any given moment, I can give my pain to Him, if I will simply speak aloud to Him and ask Him to speak to me and show me what’s going on. He will, and yes it’s that simple. (Jeremiah 33:3)

But take caution, and be ready, for He will reveal things that you had no clue were causing your pain. He will show you things that are causing you to stumble, but you must be ready and willing to obey as He guides. For therein you will find the REMEDY and you will at that moment in time cease Running the Risk.

So go ahead; trust Him. Come on, you’d stick your hand in a garbage disposal, so why not trust God? He is on your side and He’d never flip the switch. At least not while your hand is down there; right?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Doctrine of Lonely

So often in the Christian life, we’re encouraged and bolstered by the reality of relationships. Church IS community, the Kingdom of God IS family, relationship IS at the heart of God’s redemptive plan. No question whatsoever. And that’s a very good and comforting thing.

But another often overlooked and avoided component of the Christian life is The Doctrine of Lonely. That’s right, the very real occurrence of being alone in the middle of a crowd. You see this situation emerging as far back as Genesis, when Adam was alone in the midst of all the animals and beautiful creation God provided. Nonetheless he was found to be alone; the lone member of his species. And God took note and said this isn’t good.

There are many places in scripture where we can find men and women of faith, isolated because of hatred and mistreatment, war and famine, growth and discipline or just plain life circumstances. And for each, I’m sure those times were not pleasant, but they were necessary for God’s best to be developed in there lives and character.

Here’s my thought on The Doctrine of Lonely. Never in my entire Christian life have I heard a preacher make an appeal to the lost or the hopeful disciple, that included the phrase; “You will experience dark times of loneliness because of your decision to follow Christ or grow in grace.”

On the contrary, our hard sell usually includes language that tells people they are coming into the “family” or the “community”. They are entering into a “covenant” with other believers. They are beginning a “journey” with millions of other brothers and sisters; implying that you’ll have plenty of friends and family to help you along the way. Yet everyone WILL go through that lonely knothole of development.

“I’m so glad… I’m a part… of the family of God… I’ve been washed in the fountain… cleansed by His blood”. Sounds good and feels good, but too often is only a small part of the Christian life; if it’s to be lived according to God’s truth – no matter what.

Jesus was very clear about the costs we undertake as we say “yes” to life in the Kingdom. And one very prominent cost is times of being alone. Times of being cut off from the crowd or even family, for all the apparent wrong reasons, all the while God has a purpose for the isolation.

And what might that isolation or time of being alone produce in us? Well, it could produce remorse, resentment, anger, accusation, self-pity or even self-destruction, because being alone, especially in a crowd doesn’t feel very good. And most of us really want to avoid those feelings, but it’s inevitable, if we desire to follow and live for Jesus.

Taking a stand for the sake of Christ will produce division among people. Taking a stand for what is sane, wise and just plain right will produce division. Deciding that you are going to grow and change with God’s help will meet opposition from those less inclined.

Face it – the life of a true disciple of Jesus Christ is fraught with deep periods of loneliness. Why? Because when it’s all said and done, and you stand before Father God, to give an account for your life, you and you alone (that’s right alone) will answer. No blame, no excuses, no justification of behavior, just you answering questions from God.

And that my friends will be the loneliest moment of your very existence. You will have no one in that moment, but God. So I would suggest you begin today cultivating a relationship and the ability to be alone with just you and God. That’s right embrace The Doctrine of Lonely, because in this very important, yet often overlooked doctrine IS THE PATH TO GENUINE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

Remember, it’s easy to “follow” God when everyone else is on board, but what if they’re not? What if you are the only one in the group that genuinely desires that relationship with God and the righteousness therein? Are you more than willing? Are you more than able?

Will you be okay IF YOU HAVE TO GO IT ALONE? My suggestion to you is begin that examination right now, for sooner or later we all have to “fish or cut bait”. Sooner or later we have to decide, based upon more than just aggrandizing language like Peter. You know – “Oh Lord I’ll die for you even if no one else will”.

Be very careful what you say or pledge, because you WILL BE SIFTED by The Doctrine of Lonely. But take heart – you’re in good company.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Starting Points 2011

One of the most amazing things about life is the many and random Starting Points we’re privileged to experience.

There’s the New Year, the new week, the new day, the new hour, the new minute, the next second. The list of Starting Points could fill this page. A birth, a death, a wedding, a race, a graduation; you get my point.

Life is full of Starting Points and for that I am grateful. Because where there’s a Starting Point there’s an ending point. The end of a life, the end of an era, the end of a chapter, the end of a war, the end of oppression, the end of a struggle and so on and so forth. Each ending positioning us on the event horizon of another Starting Point – like it or not.

As we enter this New Year, itself a fresh Starting Point, may God’s amazing grace be present in all you say and do. For in the grace of God lays the key to sustaining and completing what you begin. Be it one single day or a lifetime – His grace IS sufficient as a Starting Point and an ending point.

We’ll never fully understand the power of God’s grace until we get to that ultimate Starting Point of eternity, but until then, may you know that the Starting Point of His grace for you and I began just over 2000 years ago and has yet to succumb time and tension. It just continues to stretch throughout the centuries until its arrival RIGHT HERE and NOW.

There it is, another Starting Point, don’t miss it.

Happy New Year 2011
Russell A. Kinney