Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Loving Like Jesus...Yikes: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #8

I'm not sure what I expected when I started writing about the top 25 quotes about Jesus as listed at azquotes.com, but I certainly didn't expect to be challenged to the extent that these words of Ravi Zacharias challenge me.

"Love is a commitment that will be tested in the most vulnerable areas of spirituality, a commitment that will force you to make some very difficult choices. It is a commitment that demands that you deal with your lust, your greed, your pride, your power, your desire to control, your temper, your patience, and every area of temptation that the Bible clearly talks about. It demands the quality of commitment that Jesus demonstrates in His relationship to us."

You might read that and think that Jesus has an easy job of loving us. He doesn't HAVE any lust or greed or pride that he has to deal with.

Think again.

He has to deal with OUR lust and greed and pride and, and, and....

And that can be a pretty tough row to hoe.

Let's put it in terms you can relate to: What if your special someone came and admitted that they have been cheating on you? How easy would it be for you to forgive? How easy would it be for you to swallow your pride and your sense of being betrayed? How easily could you die to all those feelings of hurt and keep on loving them?

Not easy...but worth it.

Worth it because the alternative would be to continue living in a stagnate pool of low self-esteem and high expectations; wallowing in the muddy sludge of holding a grudge; drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.

Truth is...Jesus loves us in spite of how we treat him. His commitment to desiring what's best for us never wavers. And we are called to love each other the same way. Paul wrote Ephesians 5:25 to husbands, but it can certainly apply to wives as well:
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Surprising Darkness of Peter Rabbit and Friends

If you remember the literary work of Beatrix Potter as cozy little children's books, you may want to rethink your memories.

From The Heroine of Hill Top Farm by John Lanchester:

"Potter's work was always tinged with a bleak realism about death, right from the opening of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, in which we learn that Peter's father has had 'an accident' and ended up in one of Mrs. McGregor's pies. ...

"Even in the lighter stories, such as Two Bad Mice, the main characters experience 'no end of rage and disappointment,' and that is before we encounter the outright evil of the fox in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, who encourages Jemima to pick the flavorings and seasonings in which she is to be cooked — a gesture of macabre cruelty which would give pause to Hannibal Lecter.

"This darkness and violence is a central reason to why children like Beatrix Potter. Her bright, brisk, no-nonsense sentences, her sharply observed and beautifully tinted images, and her strong feeling of coziness and domesticity are all underpinned and made real by underlying intimations of darkness, cruelty, and sudden death."

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Truth is...Something similar can be said about the Bible. It's not just a collection of interesting stories about talking donkeys and floating menageries. If we were to make an accurate movie with Scripture as the script, it would certainly be rated R.

In the words of Rich Mullins, "The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart -- it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that befits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice -- it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask."

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Jesus Seems a Little Needy: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #9

At first glance, a lot of what Jesus says seems kind of narcissistic and self-serving.

I mean, "If you love me, keep my commands," (John 14:15) is just a churchy way of saying "Come on, prove you love me by doing what I want," right?

Wellll...I guess I can see why a person might think that way. It is certainly what came to mind the first time I read this quote from the 19th-century bishop of Liverpool, J. C. Ryle:
"Abide in Me says Jesus. Cling to Me. Stick fast to Me. Live the life of close and intimate communion with Me. Get nearer to Me. Roll every burden on Me. Cast your whole weight on Me. Never let go your hold on Me for a moment. Be, as it were, rooted and planted in Me. Do this and I will never fail you. I will ever abide in you."

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Truth is...The second half of that quote is when Jesus' true intent starts becoming clear. Pretty amazing that the creator of the universe invites us to give our burdens to him and to use him as a firm, trustworthy foundation for our whole existence. It's not about feeding Jesus' ego. It's about living our best possible life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Lion, the Zoo, and My Father

It was a warm, sunny, summer day in Northeast Indiana. The factory where my dad worked was having a company-wide picnic in the city park next to the zoo.

Part of the festivities was free admission to the zoo, and we gladly took advantage of the situation; strolling past exhibits of spider monkeys, prairie dogs, and venomous snakes.

In one cage, all by itself, was a mountain lion. In front of the small group of people gathered at the cage, a teenaged boy was locking eyes with the cat and quickly moving back and forth, with the mountain lion jumping side to side to keep up with him.

I turned to my father and said, "That's sad. He shouldn't be teasing the lion like that."

My dad said "Nah, he likes it. That cat's having fun."

Fast forward 20 minutes or so. I was walking through the zoo on my own, having convinced my parents that animal-watching was far more beneficial than having seconds of now-warm potato salad.

I found myself in front of the mountain lion's cage and decided it looked bored and needed some of that chase-the-boy-back-and-forth action.

Less than 60 seconds later, I was being firmly reprimanded by a zoo employee for teasing the big cat.

"But my dad said -," I choked out before quickly walking out of the zoo with tears on my cheeks, feeling embarrassed and ashamed and somehow betrayed.

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Truth is...there comes a time in most folks' lives when they realize their parent is only human, after all. It's shocking and disappointing, but it's also part of growing up and a step toward appreciating that parent in a new way.