Thursday, May 16, 2002

A Question From God

I was lying in bed a while back, praying. Not the ordinary kind of prayer. Deep, passionate, heart prayer. I had disobeyed. No, I had not “stumbled” or “fallen” into sin. I had deliberately chosen to disobey God. I knew it at the time and was feeling it now. I was in agony. It wasn't just the guilt, it was that I had broken the heart of my Heavenly Father. My prayers went something like this…

“God I feel awful. I have sinned against you again. Why do you put up with me? I don’t deserve a relationship with You or Your love or forgiveness. I have turned against You and hurt someone else in the process. I am guilty. I feel so bad for disobeying You. Why do you put up with me?”

As I was wallowing in my self-loathing, I heard God’s voice as His Spirit quietly spoke to my spirit. I figured He would and expected something like, “You’re right! You are an idiot. Over and over and over you just keep blowing it. You make me sick, but I have to forgive because I said I would. But I’m putting you on probation. So get it right.” That’s what I expected. In the back of my mind I thought it could also go like this, “Now, now, now. I love you and forgive you. You are my child so crawl up into my lap.” That’s what I get for having preconceived ideas.

What I heard was a blunt question. “When your kids mess up, what do you do?”

"I love them. I discipline them if I have to. But I reach out to them, pray for them and care for them even more than usual. I do everything I can to restore them. I help them know they are accepted and cared for through words and hugs."

"Exactly! Now, if you do that for your kids, don't you think that's how I'll treat you? And more!"

"Wow!" I said through tears.

A couple days later, God spoke again, this time through a book. "God expects more failure from you than you expect from yourself." On the surface, that sounds strange and disheartening. But stay with me here. It is not that He WANTS us to fail; it's just that He knows us, that we will fall or fail from time to time. We have the idea that we should be perfect and when we aren't we are surprised at ourselves. God knows that we are not perfect. And when we fall or fail, He is not surprised, but ready to forgive and help us up. In fact, when we start believing we are perfect, He'll stick out His foot and trip us up so we'll come back to Him. Pride always causes a fall.

I know what some of you are thinking… "That kind of talking will cause people to think it's OK to do whatever they want to do. They'll take it as a license to sin."

No, not if they are grabbed by God's love. Rather than giving me license, God's words caused me to desire to live in deeper obedience than ever before. I don't want to disappoint Him, I don't want to experience the separation, I don't want to break His heart. Because I have experienced His forgiving Daddy love.

I am still overwhelmed by God's words to me. Out of His love and faithfulness He picked me up, dusted me off, sat me on His lap for a while, and then placed on His path again. He has engulfed me with His ungraspable love and I am more motivated to please Him than ever before.

Have you and are you? I hope so. If not, why not today?

Crawl up on to His lap to experience ultimate love. You can trust Him.

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

"And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God's very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, "Father, Father (Daddy, Daddy)."" Romans 8:15 (TLB)

Friday, May 03, 2002

You paid what?

Maybe you heard about this… A collector auctioned a chewed piece of gum on the internet that was supposedly thrown on the ground by Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Luis Gonzalez. A CHEWED piece of gum. Already used, spat out, discarded by the owner. The auction started a controversy. Well, I would think so. I mean, really, selling a chewed piece of gum! But that was not the source of the controversy. It seems a security guard reported that the collector had simply picked up the nearest piece of gum after a spring training game. The controversy was that it might not be the one chewed by Gonzales. The solution: Gonzalez has agreed to chew a fresh piece of gum and send it to the collector and the money will be donated to a high school sports program.

“That was a runaway train that needed to be stopped,” said the player about the controversy over the authenticity of the gum.

Now, you’re probably wondering how much the collector sold the piece of gum for, aren’t you? Are you ready? Sit down, take a deep breath. Three thousand dollars. That’s right. A 3 with 3 zeros. For a chewed piece of gum!!! (World Magazine, 4-20-02).

So I have an idea… let’s all chew some gum, auction it on the internet and raise money! Let’s see $3000 a piece... if we can get every one who receives this newsletter to participate we can raise over a million dollars. And if each one can get three others… Where have I heard that before?

Something is wrong here. We have a huge problem when someone is willing to pay thousands of dollars for a chewed piece of gum. I don’t care whose teeth mutilated it.
Think about it, every day clean up crews are paid thousands of dollars to REMOVE chewed gum from floors, chairs, tables, carpets, sidewalks and parking lots. What are we thinking?

We hear stories like that, shake our heads and ponder, “There are sure some stupid people in our world.” And we are right. And we are some of them! Some of OUR values are just as stupid. That’s right. Yours and mine and we are often blind to them. The greatest tragedy is that some are not just stupid, but eternally destructive and disastrous.

Listen to the words of Jesus…

"He (Jesus) said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight." Luke 16:15 (NIV)

Think for a moment about the things that are highly valued by our culture. The Apostle John captures 3 broad categories in 1 John 2:15-17 that include all of man’s highest values: pleasure, possessions and pride. They are amazingly consistent throughout history. The methods for getting them change, but the values remain the same. The types of pleasures change, but the value remains the same. Gluttony of natural food to exotic, junk food; homemade wine to hundreds of types of alcohol; illicit sex to cyber pornography. The types of possessions change but not the underlying value, “Nice cave…nice hut… nice cabin… nice house.” Or “nice walking stick… nice horse… nice chariot… nice wagon… nice car.” The types of power change, but the value remains the same, head of the tribe… head of the village… head of the kingdom… head of the office.

All of which Jesus said is not simply undesirable, but detestable in God’s sight. The Herb translation is that it will make God vomit. He can’t stand those distortions of His creation and WON’T. And will not forever put up with those who pursue them.

WELL, if God is that serious about this we need to understand and own His values. The good news is that we don’t have to look far to find them.

"Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."" Mat 22:37-40 (NIV)

There we have the broad categories of God’s values: Love God first with everything we are and have, and love other people just as much as we love ourselves. Those have not changed throughout history, and never will.

God’s values lead to life, man’s values lead to destruction.

God’s values prepare us for real life on the other side of the door we call death, man’s values lead us to real death in eternal separation from God and all that is good.

Here’s the great irony… If we live for God’s values now, we get pleasure, possessions and position beyond anything our minds can dream up. In all purity and godliness as God originally designed. It’s true. Check God’s owners manual. But if we live for human values now, we lose everything we really want.

SO WHAT YOU GONNA DO? I choose God’s values. And life, peace, joy, and contentment that come with God’s love. And I choose it BOLDLY!