Friday, May 25, 2001

"From Where Are You Eating?"

Many years ago, when Andrew was just a toddler, we were visiting Sheila's parents in Toledo, Ohio. Her brother and sisters and all the out-laws, er, in-laws, were there. The adults were sitting around the kitchen table, talking, teasing, laughing, enjoying a good old time. Sheila's brother, Jim, got up from the table, walked over to the sink to put a dish away, turned back toward the group and suddenly stopped.

"Andrew! What are you doing? Don't play with that!" Not having children of his own at the time, he was appalled. "Don't eat that. That's gross." With that, Jim picked up Dusty's dish and told Sheila to wash Andrew's hands. Dusty was the dog. Andrew had been playing with and munching on the dry dog food that was in the canine's bowl. We'd heard the noise of the metal bowl scraping on the tile floor but we'd assumed it was the bowl's owner instead of his cousin.

Andrew was certainly in no danger. The dog food was as nutritious (maybe more so) than some the junk we eat. It's just that it was not the place or the food for a human type child to eat.

And it wasn't as if there was no food in the house for him to eat. Any time the family is together there is PLENTY of food. Leftovers from the huge meal the night before, frozen meat and vegetables, cereal, snacks, candy. Andrew's grandmother would have made the child anything he wanted. Her heart was his to control.

It was not that he was even hungry. He'd eaten only a short time before. He was just enamored with the shiny bowl and the different looking food. He did what came naturally to a crawler.

A virtual feast available and my son was eating out of the dog dish.

We don't do that, do we?

God has a banquet He invites us to share with Him. A spiritual feast that is better than anything we could experience on our own or imagine in our dreams. An offer of rest for our souls and strength for our minds, hearts and bodies. And way too often we insist on eating out of the dog food bowl.

Andrew was lured toward Dusty's dish because it was shiny and different. Billions of dollars are spent every year to convince us that we MUST HAVE the newest shiny and different thing. Promises are everywhere that they will provide fulfillment, or make us feel better, act better, look better, or have more success. Shiny and different and we end up at the dog food bowl instead of the heavenly feast.

Andrew was lured toward Dusty's dish because the food looked appealing. My friends in the nutrition field have taught me that often the best things for us look pretty boring, and that the worst things for us can look most appealing. Oatmeal versus chocolate cake. The Bible alerts us that temptations to do the things that tear us away from God will look VERY appealing. And lead us to sorrow after sorrow as we break God's heart and hurt those we care about. Appealing and we end up at the dog food bowl instead of the heavenly feast.

Andrew was lured toward Dusty's dish to taste what was there. "One little taste won't hurt. Everyone has to sow some wild oats. Boys will be boys. When we get older we'll change." There's a word in the Greek that describes those statements. Loosely translated, it is "Baloney!" Those are simply more lies to get us to the dog dish. For every time we take a bite of temptation, we pay for it the rest of our lives in consequences. Sure the sin can be forgiven and forgotten by God. The guilt is completely erased when we ask. But the consequences last a lifetime. In our lives and everyone the ripples touch. Just to taste and we end up at the dog food bowl instead of the heavenly feast.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that God will give us health, wealth and prosperity when we choose Him. I am saying there is nothing in this world that Satan or people can offer that can compare with the rest for our souls and the strength for our minds, bodies and hearts that God wants to give us at His Heavenly Table. In the middle of difficulties or when all of life is good.

As Andrew ate out of the shiny bowl on the floor, even the dog must have been thinking, "Boy – I do everything I can to get what is up on that table, the good stuff, and here you are eating with me! What are you thinking? Get up there and enjoy that feast! And toss some down my way once in while, will ya?"

Jim rescued Andrew from the dog food dish, Sheila washed his hands, set him at the table and gave him some real food. Better food. It wasn't near as adventurous, but it was much more satisfying. He did not eat alone, but with a whole table of people who love him.

I invite you to let Jesus rescue you from the dog food dish, wash you up and set you at God's heavenly table with some food that really satisfies – rest for your soul, and strength for your mind, heart and body. Much better food. It may not seem as adventurous, but it will be much more satisfying. And you will not eat alone, but with a whole table of people who also have chosen Jesus and who will love you, too. That is called "the church." How about it?

""Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."" Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

"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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

Friday, May 18, 2001

"Expectation Boxes"

It's been said more than once, "You get what you expect." In most cases that is true.

So what were Peter, James and John expecting when they climbed the side of the mountain with Jesus? Not much. They'd been there before. Jesus had a habit of going up the mountain to spend long periods of time in prayer. Talking to His Dad. At least once the disciples were so impressed with Jesus' times of prayers that they asked Him how to pray. He gave them what we call the Lord's Prayer. Should have been named the Disciples' Prayer. It's not real long, but fraught with meaning that will take us a lifetime to grasp.

Back to the mountain. It appears that the disciples were not much into long times of prayers and more often than not, fell asleep while Jesus prayed. It happened that day. We don't know how long they slept or how long Jesus had been praying before the significant occurred. That day, that time, that place became the "Mount of Transfiguration." Jesus' human appearance was completely changed into His heavenly glory. His face was transformed. His clothes became white as a lightning flash. If that were not enough, Moses and Elijah showed up to talk with Jesus.

The disciples missed the first part of this miracle. They were snuggly settled in to sleep. Something woke them. They groggily stirred until the sight shocked them into awakeness. They watched and listened for a while and finally figured out who the two glorified guys were talking to Jesus. When the disciples realized Moses and Elijah were about to leave, Peter did something that gives me great comfort. He started talking nonsense because, ( and here I quote the Bible. Check it out – it really is in there), "he did not know what he was saying." Man, how many times has that been my testimony!

And what did he say? "Let's stay here! This is so good. I like guys who are dead hanging around talking to us. Let's not go back down the mountain. There are loads of problems and difficulties waiting for us there. We'll build 3 shrines, one for each of you, and we can just stay here forever." I've felt like that. Had a great experience that removes my mind and heart from the world and wished I could stay there. But that is not why Jesus was on earth and it's not why we're still here. That is a description of heaven and why we must do all we can to get there.

Peter missed the point of the event. He'd been listening, but he had not been hearing. Moses and Elijah had come to Jesus to encourage Him because He was facing death on the cross. It was not to remove Him from the world and its difficulties, but to give Him the strength to face them. Peter didn't catch it because he was expecting Jesus to be the conquering Savior, not the dying Savior.

Finally the Father got Peter to shut up by enveloping the disciples and Jesus in a cloud and saying, "This is my son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him." When the disciples looked up the two dead/alive guys were gone, Jesus was back to His human appearance and the cloud was gone. The three followed Jesus back down the mountain, stunned and wondering what THAT was all about. They didn't get it until after Jesus' resurrection.

Peter, James and John didn't expect anything except another nap while Jesus prayed. They got more than they expected, didn't they? Or did they? When the scene changed, their expectations changed and they tried to fit what was happening into their "expectation box." "Ah, yes," they probably thought, "Now Jesus will free us from political bondage." Never could they imagine, even when they heard the conversation among the heavenly trio, that Jesus was going to be arrested and killed. Why? Because they were confined by their "expectation box." This was the most significant event in Jesus' life between His birth and death and these fellows missed it.

I believe we miss much of what God wants to do because we, too, have an "expectation box." Even if we are followers of the Master, we have been conditioned by years of life to see with our eyes instead of our souls. The unexpected happens and we don't even see it, let alone understand it because it doesn’t fit into our box. When we do see it, like the Pete, Jim and Jack, we change the box and still don’t comprehend what it is about. God wants to blow the walls out of our "expectation boxes" and we keep nailing them together tighter and tighter.

So what is the solution? There is no easy one. But there is one. Next time something happens, instead of allowing your mind to immediately shove you into your "expectation box," stop. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn't have to be easily or readily understood. Just stop and pray this prayer, "God, what do you want me to see here? Open the eyes of my soul to see with my soul." Don't ask to comprehend it. Just let God take off the blinders that life has placed on that place within you that connects with the God of the universe. God has so much, so very much He wants us to see and experience if we'll allow it.

""This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it--the LORD is his name: 3 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.'" Jeremiah 33:2-3 (NIV)