Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What's important

I just finished reading three books by Eric Metaxas.  The first, Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, on the life of Deitrich Bonhoeffer ought to be required reading of every serious disciple of Jesus.  His absolute commitment to living out a life that reflected the character and calling of Jesus is as convicting as anything I’ve read in the last 20 years.  Next came Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce’s battle to end the slave trade 200 years ago in England.   Then lastly Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness.  Two of the seven were covered in the other two books, but the scope of the seven men is astounding—from politicians (George Washington) to sports figures (Jackie Robinson), Metaxas shows the character qualities that made these men truly great figures.  I want my grandsons to read these books—these are character qualities that have largely been lost in our 21st Century culture, for which we are paying a very dear price.

            I have been doing a lot of reflection these past few weeks as I have faced a health crisis that the doctors basically have given up on.  (No, that is a good thing!  Now any improvement and the renewed health I believe God is going to give me can be credited to the right Source.)  During these reflections, things have come more clearly into focus than ever before.  What is important, what needs immediate attention, what can be eliminated.   Here is my short list:

            What is important:  My relationship with God.  My relationships with my family.  My relationships with other people.  Relationships!  That is what real life is all about.  We have had some wonderful, intense times with our family these last few weeks and I treasure every moment with these amazing children of God who are living out His call on their lives.  Nothing gives me greater pleasure or joy.

            Now every moment I have to speak to a neighbor is precious.  I pray every word will find fertile soil and that they will see Jesus in me.

            And my relationship with God.  I can’t say it has changed a whole lot.  I have been in the practice for more than 40 years of spending quality quiet time with Abba in the early morning which includes large doses of His Word, prayer, listening for His voice.  That hasn’t changed.  What has changed is the depth of the love I feel from Him.  The intimacy with Abba Father, and with my big brother Jesus, and with the indwelling Presence of Holy Spirit—all have taken on a new intimacy.  Just this week He revealed a facet of His love for me that was so overwhelming that it literally took my breath away and I have been basking in the glow of that insight ever since.  Maybe one day I will feel at liberty to share it here—but for now it is something I must treasure and meditate on.

            I would urge you, my friend, to take time to cultivate your relationship with Abba Father.  Don’t wait for a life-threatening illness to get your attention.  He is waiting there wanting that depth of friendship with you that will take you beyond the limits you have placed on your relationship with Him.  You won’t be disappointed.  If you seek Him with all your heart, you will find Him.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Rumble Strips

            Rumble Strips.  You know, those irritating grooves they put in the pavement just outside the white painted line that marks the edge of your traffic lane?  Yeah, I know they are put there for my safety and to wake me up should I dose off driving and to warn me that my tires are dangerously close to the edge of the pavement.  But they still bug me.

            I’ve been breezing down the highway with Jesus for a long time.  We are close and I enjoy my times with Him—when it is just us two and we can talk about a verse I read earlier in the day or I can just tell Him how much I love Him and how grateful I am for His tender care over me day after day.  Or I can listen for His voice and have my heart warmed as He tells me how much He loves me.

            But yesterday, flying down the road without a care in the world, I suddenly hit a rumble strip.  I heard it faintly in the late afternoon when I was with family, but when I got up around 2 a.m. to hit the bathroom, the rumble jarred me fully awake.

            I am sharing this here so that hopefully it will help someone else, but I also share it to make myself accountable to those closest to me.  What happened was that I read a joke on Facebook that struck me as hilarious.  Later I shared it with others in my family and their reactions ranged from “mildly amused” to “I could have gone a long time without that in my mind.”  Rumble strip.

            In the process of showing it to one of my children, one of my grandchildren got curious and wanted to see it.  It was an adult joke that I immediately realized was beyond this grandchild’s maturity, RUMBLE STRIP, so I refused to show it to this grandson.

            The look on his face was what Holy Spirit finally used to get my attention.  RUMBLE,RUMBLE,RUMBLE STRIP!!!  In the flow of the conversation, we moved on and I shut my Facebook down.

            Now, at 2 a.m., when I finally realized I’ve been driving on the rumble strip in my spirit and doing a pretty good job of ignoring it, I finally come fully awake and realize Holy Spirit is talking to me.

            Okay, Holy Spirit.  You are right.  That was sin.  (But it was just a harmless joke that I’m sure has already been forgotten by those I shared it with—they’ve moved on, so why can’t I?)

            The reason I can’t move on is because not only did I allow a defiling thought to take root in my own spirit, I caused others to be defiled by it also.  And even though I kept my grandson from reading it, he could see through my hypocrisy.  The damage was done.  He saw his Saba laughing at a questionable joke and excusing it as “maturity.”

            I have a filter in place that I let slip but am determined to reinstitute:  If a story or joke cannot be shared with my young grandchildren, as a disciple of Jesus I have no room for it in my own mind or heart.  That filter would have kept me from laughing at this joke in the first place.  This might seem too legalistic to you, but for me it is the way I keep every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

            So, I have gone back to my family members and asked their forgiveness.  This is my way of making sure my umbrella of spiritual purity and protection is firmly in place.

            “Thank You, Holy Spirit, for the rumble strips.  Keep me sensitive to Your voice.
Protect my family from the schemes of the evil one so that we may all share Your glory.” 

            Check out Hosea 6:1-3 and I John 1:9.