Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What AM I to God?

If a person doesn't feel all that great about themselves, the phrase "God loves you" may not have a lot of impact. As Rich Mullins said at least once, "That don't make me special. That just proves that God ain't got no taste."

So maybe there are different ways to think about my relationship with my Creator.

The Scriptures employ a wide scale of metaphors to capture the many facets of our relationship with God. If you consider them in a sort of ascending order, there is a noticeable and breathtaking progression. Down near the bottom of the totem pole we are the clay and he the Potter. Moving up a notch, we are the sheep and he the Shepherd, which is a little better position on the food chain but hardly flattering; sheep don't have a reputation as the most graceful and intelligent creatures in the world. Moving upward, we are the servants of the Master, which at least lets us into the house, even if we have to wipe our feet, watch our manners, and not talk too much. Most Christians never get past this point, but the ladder of metaphors is about to make a swift ascent. God also calls us his children and himself our heavenly Father, which brings us into the possibility of real intimacy  -  love is not one of the things a vase and its craftsman share together, nor does a sheep truly know the heart of the shepherd, though it may enjoy the fruits of his kindness. Still, there is something missing even in the best parent-child relationship. Friendship levels the playing field in a way family never can, at least not until the kids have grown and left the house. Friendship opens a level of communion that a five-year-old doesn't know with his mother and father. And "friends" are what he calls us.

But there is still a higher and deeper level of intimacy and partnership awaiting us at the top of this metaphorical ascent. We are lovers. The courtship that began with a honeymoon in the Garden culminates in the wedding feast of the Lamb. "I will take delight in you," he says to us, "as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will I rejoice over you," so that we might say in return, "I am my beloved's and his desire is for me." (John Eldredge "The Sacred Romance")

Truth is...God DOES love me; not because of, nor in spite of, anything I've done; not as a response to some chemical reaction in his cosmic brain or a combination of pheromones and circumstances, but because I am his Beloved. He loves me because he chooses to love me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thug 4 Life Speaks Truth

It's not often a person looks to a self-professed thug for theological insight. Even less often does that thug-spoken insight come from a comic strip.

Surprise, surprise...Darrin Bell's Candorville has pulled it off with amazing clarity, and while he intends it for a laugh, there is a deep truth that rings out from these four little rectangles.

Truth is...If I've agreed with God that something I've done is a sin and I want to be done with it, it's time to stop feeling guilty about it. Our perfect Father has compassion on us. He treads our sins underfoot and hurls all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)

Or, as Audio Adrenaline once put it...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How to Survive Sermons

A small percentage of church-goers, I suppose, would say The Sermon is their favorite part of the weekly worship service. These are the geeky (or perhaps Greeky) few who salivate at terms like Systematic Theology and Hermeneutics.

They are a dying breed.

If you are NOT on the short-list of Those Who Love To Sit And Be Spoken To, I've got good news for you. There is a way to improve the quality of your pastor's messages and increase your level of interest.

My own pastor, Dave Burkum, recently posted to his blog, Altered Faces, a list of practical steps down the road to sermon appreciation. Click here and start looking forward to making your Sundays better.

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Truth is...when a preacher asks you to pray for him, it's best to perk up your ears and get on your knees.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Son of Don't Give Up

Rocky Balboa as motivational speaker: "It ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."

Truth is...If I don't step into the good works God has planned out for me (Ephesians 2:10), I've got nobody to blame but myself.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Don't Give Up

Doing good things ought to be energizing, right?

Each time we make a positive choice or perform a selfless act of service, there ought to be a rush of good will and positive self-image that works like adrenaline on our mood and well-being and ability to continue to make even more good choices...oughtn't there?

According to the following quote from Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick, by Jeremy Dean, the answer is...probably not. 

Everyone's self-control is a limited resource; it's like muscle strength: the more we use it, the less remains in the tank, until we replenish it with rest. In one study of self-control, participants first had to resist the temptation to eat chocolate (they had a radish instead); then they were given a frustrating task to do. The test was to see how long they would persist. Radish-eaters only persisted on the task for about 8 minutes, while those who had gorged on chocolate kept going for 19 minutes. The mere act of exerting willpower saps the strength for future attempts. These sorts of findings have been repeated again and again using different circumstances. 

We face these sorts of willpower-depleting events all day long. When someone jostles you in the street and you resist the urge to shout at them, or when you feel exhausted at work but push on with your email: these all take their toll. The worse the day, the more the willpower muscle is exerted, the more we rely on autopilot, which means increased performance of habits [especially bad habits or habits we are trying to change]. It's crucial to respect the fact that self-control is a limited resource and you are likely to overestimate its strength. Recognizing when your levels of self-control are low means you can make specific plans for those times.

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Truth is...it now makes total sense to me why God moved Paul to write "Let us not become weary in doing good." (Galatians 6:9) This encouragement is especially needed when we aren't necessarily getting positive feedback or immediate results...which is, no doubt, why Paul goes on to say, "at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."