The Things We Hold On To
I met someone who needed a Bible this week. I had one...but it was embossed. It was signed by a famous person. It was a memento from a mission’s trip. It had my notes in it for the Bible study I planned to write... And I didn’t want to give it up.
I had other Bibles at home. I could have transcribed my notes. I had other souvenirs. Who cares if a celebrity had signed it? That’s not what a Bible is for. A Bible is for winning souls. But I didn’t want to give it up.
Afresh, I was reminded of the physical things we can’t let go of. My favorite dress, coat, pen. Our expensive car, career, or abode. Often, we hold on to these things so tightly because we do not recognize the true purpose of my car – is to allow me to serve Christ. The true design for our money is to bring others the gospel of Jesus Christ. The true reason God gave us X, Y, or Z is to glorify Himself. Our furniture...it’s God. Our family...God’s. Our influence, our stuff, our everything...we have it for God’s glory. Mine doesn’t exist – it’s all God’s and only God’s.
When we cling to “our” things with a vice grip, we not only defeat it’s true purpose but our own as well. We are created to glorify the Lord our Creator, and everything we own is to help us do this!
New Lenses Required
Have you ever cracked a lens on your glasses? They still work...kind of. But everything looks oddly similar – broken. Around the star of glass splinters you can somewhat make out the faces of loved ones. If the dog isn’t in the middle of the fame, his goofy smiles is still visible. And the edges of the landscape show up without spider legs in the frame.
But all that doesn’t change the facts: Those glasses only display a fraction of the truth, a vague representation of what is. That damaged lens skews reality. That lens is our perspective.
We see pretty well...at times. But our view of the world is incurably twisted. It’s damaged, not by a stray rock or clumsy moment, but by our sin, our selfish interests and inherent flaws.
God’s lens is never cracked, never scratched. He sees everything the way it is. He reads every situation exactly the way it is. His evaluation of every heart is altogether true. His prescription for how to fix us, our neighbor, our country, and our sin problem is perfect. His perception, not our own, is the one we want to trust.
A picture is worth 1,000 words and yet it still cannot capture the splendor of the mountains, the beauty of a single desert blossom, or the wonder of a baby’s infectious laugh. If it could we wouldn’t take dozens of photos of the same things. We wouldn’t keep piles of albums and scores of digital files. One photo would do it. But it doesn’t because these things escape our cameras and our words.
How much more does the majesty of God defy our explanation? How much more does the glory of the Lord and the greatness of His works overwhelm our expressions? Our best efforts – though in and of themselves evidence of that glory – cannot come close to conveying to the reality of Christ, His kingdom, His heaven, His majesty. And when our tongues, our pens, our paints fall short when describing our Savior and King may we merely say, “All glory be to our God, who sits on the throne.” (Revelation 5:13)
Caution: Supermodels in Training
A supermodel's job is to make clothes look good and show them off to the fullest extent. So our job as Christians (or little Christs) is to display Christ. Comparatively our job should be easy -- have you seen some of the hideous creations supermodels wear? We get to put perfect clothes, Christ's righteousness. His sinlessness covers our sinfulness, and our rags are exchanged for His glory.
With this in mind, it should become more important to take a deep breath and count to ten before we bawl out the service person who is doing anything but serving us. Knowing we are Christ's showcase should make it easier to accept being cut off in traffic or the line at the DMV. Remembering that God has chosen us to make His Son known to the world should prompt us to engage in our communities for His honor and glory.
After all we are Jesus' supermodels -- supermodels in training.
Psst! Don't tell the supermodels, but... (whisper) they are there to make the clothes look good, not vice versa. Clothes are not designed for the model. The model is selected for the clothes.
When we speak of clothes spiritually, we are talking about righteousness or unrighteous. And our clothes are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Our deeds are evil. Our thoughts are impure. Our attitudes are selfish. Those are the clothes that "match" us. The problem is rags can't get us in to see the King and they keep us from having a relationship with Him. This relationship is precisely what the King created us to have. Yet, we are not even worthy to enter His presence.
So, His Son, Jesus Christ, whose robes are holy and pure, came to our wicked world and lived a flawless life. His clothes were never stained by sin, yet He died a sinner's death by execution on a cross. The Lord of Creation was buried in a tomb. Until three days later He rose again. Death had no authority over Him because death is the wage of sin. Having never sinned, Christ took our punishment on Himself and paid it in full. Having done everything His Father commanded Him, Christ was able to provide His righteous robes (Isiaah 61:10) to me and you and as many as would believe in Him so that we may live in relationship with God, forever.
Next time you see a supermodel, maybe think about the Only Real Supermodel -- Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).
The first time our family hiked the Grand Canyon, some of us were dragging. And then my father promised ice cream when we got to the top. I won’t say which of my siblings, but one of us became very motivated and was basically the first to the rim, because...ice cream, duh!
Somehow we think this is a childish attitude, to do something hard because there is a reward at the end. But really why else would we do something difficult? To help someone else – that’s a reward. To avoid punishment or pain (or a nagging boss) – also rewards. To make something else possible, to gain a sense of accomplishment or significance, to enjoy rest – all rewards.
So there is nothing unspiritual about God promising followers of Jesus rewards in heaven. There is nothing immature about anticipating eternity in paradise. Nothing second class about reminding ourselves and others that the trials of this world will be fade, pain will be left behind, conflict will cease, and we will be changed, fully healed. The glories of eternity will fully eclipse our suffering and all evil will be lost in the face of our Savior, Jesus. Those are the promises.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18 (And that was written by a man who was stoned, beaten, put on trial, imprisoned, and shipwrecked for the gospel of Jesus of Christ.)
The Same Old Advice
“I don’t know where God will take him. But I do know that God will lead us if we just do the next right thing.” I heard myself speaking and wanted to laugh. How many times I heard that exact advice when I was a young adult I couldn’t begin to count.
The amount of angst I suffered in my high school and college years trying to find God’s will was considerable. My mother, my father, my pastors, and multiple speakers gave me that exact piece of advice...and I didn’t want to hear it. I thought for sure that they were missing something, that there was some way to push God to go faster. It took me about two decades to figure out – there isn’t and that is a good thing. As much as we may want God to give us a blow by blow rundown for life, we can’t handle it. Because the just shall live by faith.
I can’t imagine how frustrated my parents, in particular, were with my inability to truly comprehend their advice especially since, now that I consider it, I don’t think there was a way to make me understand any faster than I did.
How patient God is with us. Repeating His instructions. Reiterating His promises. Restating His goals. And waiting for us to internalize what He has been saying all along.
Water runs downhill, as my engineer father often says. He’s right I realized yet again while sitting in my car watching a torrential spring downpour.
The rain always flowed the same direction...downhill (shocker!). But this storm system came with gusting wind and the wind happened to be going uphill. As furious blasts of wind rocked my car, I noticed that for a moment the water stopped running downhill. It paused and puddled until the wind receded. Then the rain went right back to doing what physics says it must.
Sometimes we live in those gusts of wind. Evil looks like it is winning. Wrong has the upper hand. The world is so dark and angry it looks like God is losing. But just as water always runs downhill. God’s kingdom flows downhill. The wind eventually loses speed and strength, and the water continues doing what the laws of physics say it must. Satan and his horde will be overcome. God’s plans will be victorious. Because the laws of spiritual physics say,
“The Lamb will overcome them, for He is the Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”– Revelation 17:14
At the end of the day, each of us gets one shot at life. What most people forget/never realize is that the way we spend our time is what determines whether that shot hits the target or not. Time is life. And if we love and obey Christ, our lives are His and, thus, our time is His.
Each time I wear my bullet necklace, I think about these truths and reevaluate. Am I making my shot count? Am I too fixated trying to make my life look pretty to those around me that I would refuse God's direction if He wanted something I considered "ugly"? Would I want God to pick up my life right now and examine it? And if He did, would He be pleased?
I know. All that from a lousy necklace.
Evidence of a Well-Placed Round
The ironic thing about my bullet necklace is that the only reason it is usable as a necklace is because that bullet didn't do what it was made to do. It was crafted to hit a target. But if it had it would have been deformed and ugly. That "ugliness" would have been proof it had done its job well.
In life, our days are exchanged for something -- money, fame, love conquests, career, entertainment, and so on. Sometimes those things make our lives look visually beautiful. Others may enviously gaze upon our expensive cars, nice clothes, string of significant others, job, acclaim, connections with the right people, or pop culture knowledge.
Too often we look at these "beautiful" things in other's lives as proof that they are in God's will. When in actuality it may be the opposite. Sometimes it is those things which make our lives appear ugly (or make our lives hard) that really prove we are doing what God created us to do. A smaller house or second hand car so the money can support international missions or stateside ministries. A name no one knows, because we are too busy clean the church kitchen or changing out the air filter for our neighbor. One spouse for life. A plateaued career because we turned down the promotion that promised a bigger paycheck (but also 70+ hour work weeks). Ignorance of pop culture because our evenings are spent in God's Word or prayer or discipleship.
But the bottom line is ugly can be beautiful. Are we willing to make our lives "ugly" if that is what God wants?
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.