Gnawing On God
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8
I like the word “meditation.” Although some Christians are truly scared to meditate – thinking it is something done by cultic Eastern religions while forgetting that Judaism and Christianity ARE Eastern religions! – Scripture is full of injunctions to meditate upon the Word and Law of God.
The word for “meditation” in this passage comes from the Hebrew haghah, meaning to murmur, to mutter, to sigh, to moan, to roar, to meditate, to muse, to speak, to whisper. The word also describes the low moaning sound of a dove (Isa. 38:14) or the “growl” of a lion (Isaiah 31:4). Eugene Peterson uses the analogy of a dog gnawing on a bone, getting everything it can out of it.
This got me wondering: what is my heart gnawing on? What causes me to moan and growl, to be so totally consumed with God that I’m unaware of any thing else? Continue Reading
Without A Single Fault
“Now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” Colossians 1:22
“Me? I’m standing before God without a single fault?” I’m thinking to myself. “Who’s Paul kidding?” But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’ve been studying the book of Colossians for a few weeks. I like to read the book in one sitting a couple of times a week from different translations, and I’ve enjoyed getting familiar with its theme of Christ’s superiority.
On about my tenth reading of Colossians, I didn’t even get through chapter one when I had trouble getting wrapping my mind around this idea: I stand before God without a single fault.
I thought to myself, “Not me, baby.” I have so many faults I sometimes wonder why my wife doesn’t change the locks on the door while I’m at work. Besides, if I have no faults, then why am I a forty-eight year old ordained minister with a Master’s degree working in a lumberyard selling plumbing and electrical parts? Why isn’t there a church somewhere that wants my God-given talents and abilities? Why am I still opening my mouth and saying inappropriate things? Why do I still struggle with selfishness, pride, impatience, joy, love and self-control? How on earth or in heaven can Paul tell me I stand before God without a single fault?
For four years I was an Assemblies of God minister and a monk with the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at the Little Portion Hermitage. This is an excerpt from an unpublished book I’ve written called Talking Off My Comfortable Clothes.
When I was a pastor, I used to tell my congregation that I wanted to be known as “Pastor Permission Giver.” I wanted to give people permission to use their gifts, talents and passions for God, regardless of what they were. I figured if God gave a person the gift to paint pictures, then there was some way for that person to glorify God through those paintings. Others might have the gift to learn languages, enjoy working with mentally handicapped adults (my mom has that gift), or write music. Whatever gift you have, it has not been given to you by mistake, and the Creator of your gifts has granted you permission to use your gifts and passions in His Church. And if your church can’t find a place for you and your passions, THEN GO FIND ONE THAT WILL! I did.
The Church has too often become a place where amateurs and beginners have no place to practice their gifts and talents. That’s a shame, because the Church should be the safest place in the world to practice our gifts, make a mistake, know you are safe, and try again.
Am I Blocking The Light?
“Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others” (1 John 2:9-10, The Message)
I saw a former member of my church yesterday. It has been about a year since she and her husband moved to another state to pursue their careers, and the church really missed them and their family.
After a bit of small talk, she finally told me, with her hand over her face and her head turned down, she was getting a divorce. Her marriage had lasted about six years.
Once again, Bible College didn’t teach me how to respond to this. I simply looked at her and said, “I’m sorry.” Apparently, it was enough, because she continued to share her heart with me.
Unfortunately, not every reaction she’s received has been so gracious. The youth pastor’s wife at her new church actually got right up in her face and screamed at her. Other Christians have shunned her. How tragic. I’ve spent some time reading the New Testament, and I cannot remember an instance where Jesus screamed in someone’s face or shunned them because they were in a difficult situation. Instead, He always allowed the love and light of God to shine.
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” Deuteronomy 8:10
If you’ve been involved in Christianity for more that two weeks, you’ve probably sat around the dinner table with other Christians and prayed before you ate. This is a good practice, for reminds us that God is the source of all the good things in our life. However, I think our practice of praying before a meal can become nothing more than a religious habit, especially when we are in the presence of other Christians. To be honest, the only time I ever pray over a meal is when I’m with someone else. Otherwise, I just jump right in and eat.
Although I believe that gratitude for the gifts of God needs to be a 24/7 attitude, I find I’m usually grateful on a ½ /1 basis. That is, about a half hour one day a week. Then I go and stumble upon Deuteronomy 8:10 and I feel like a worm.
Who Owns Your Thoughts?
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
I must admit that when I read this sentence, the first thing that comes to mind when I think about possessions is my “stuff.” And I’d be correct. Jesus said this in reply to two brothers who were having a not-so-friendly family argument over an inheritance. He then went on to tell a parable about a rich man who built bigger barns to hold his crop, only to die and leave everything he had hoarded to someone else.
But I want to extend to you the possibility that not only is the property we own to be held lightly, but so are our thoughts. Every one of us tends to be as jealous over the control of our thoughts and ideas as we are of our possessions. I know I am. I’m usually of the opinion that if I have a thought, it is probably a good one and therefore worth keeping. Continue Reading
Walking Among The Dead
“Meanwhile, a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead” – John 12:9
This passage encourages and challenges me at the same time. I’m encouraged because the masses are still attracted to Jesus, who remains the main event and primary crowd pleaser. That’s good. However, the people are also interested in seeing Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. That’s the challenging part.
This challenge leads me to a difficult question: If people are naturally attracted to a resurrected life, are they attracted to my life? Furthermore, if people are not attracted to me, I have to wonder if I’m living the resurrected life Jesus came to give. Maybe this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Philippians, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection . . . and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”