Thursday, July 2, 2015

“I see Jesus in a distressing disguise.”

A thought by John Ortberg (2015-05-05) from his book, Life-Changing Love: Moving God'sLove from Your Head to Your Heart (p. 36). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book.)

John shares, “Someone once asked Mother Teresa what she saw as she walked the streets of Calcutta where the poorest of the poor lived; what she saw when she looked at the orphans, the starving, the dying. This is what she said: ‘I see Jesus in a distressing disguise.’”  But the truth is that is not what we see.  Really to us too many times those people are invisible.  They aren’t even there. 

But God through Jesus sees thing so differently.  John says, “God pays close attention to us: Even the hairs of your head are numbered,’ Jesus said. We often take it as a sign of love if someone is able to notice a haircut or a change in hairstyle. (By the same token, the failure to notice a change in coiffure is one of the leading causes of conflict in marriage.) God has numbered every hair. If one falls out, he notices. (He may not replace it, unfortunately, but he notices.) God notices things your mother has never even thought about. And when we live in the love of God, we begin to pay attention to people the way God pays attention to us.”

John relates a story in the book of John in the NT.  He says, “as he walked along, he [Jesus] saw a man blind from birth.”  To everyone else he was an invisible man. 

Now John Ortberg says, “In relating the story of the blind man, John” (the Apostle) “wants his readers to know that Jesus has mastered the art of attending. Each of the characters or groups of people in the story saw in a different way. • When the disciples looked at this beggar, they saw an interesting theological conundrum — who sinned that he was born blind? But they did not see him with the eyes of the heart. Their seeing did not move them. • When his neighbors looked at him, they saw an eyesore, a ragged reminder of suffering and poverty that they learned to overlook. But they did not see him with the eyes of the heart. They too were unmoved. • When the Pharisees looked at him, they saw a violated Sabbath, a threat to their spiritual authority. They saw with dry, unblinking eyes — no tears, no softening. They did not simply fail to see, they refused to see. They tightly shut the eyes of the heart and would not open them. Spiritual blindness is not just ignorance. Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,” your sin remains.’ Eyes that cannot see might be healed, but eyes that will not see cannot be helped. God himself will not force them open. • When Jesus looked at the blind man, Jesus saw an opportunity to do the work of God. He saw a child of God who needed to be delivered from blindness. He saw and was moved. He saw through eyes that sometimes glistened with tears, flashed with anger, or danced in joy. But they never missed a thing, those eyes.”

He then shares, “A man who had been blind from birth can see; and he realizes that the sight he will prize his whole life, the best thing he will ever lay his eyes on, is the One who healed him. For now he sees that he has not been forgotten by God. Now he realizes, after a lifetime of being ignored, that God has not turned his face away from even the lowliest of rag dolls. God heard every prayer, counted every tear. Now this man had eyes that could truly see. And I imagine he spent the rest of his life learning to see the way Jesus saw. That’s what eyes are for.”

Oh that we would learn that.


So what do our eyes see?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

“The test of love is that it gives even when there is no expectation of a return.”

A thought by John Ortberg (2015-05-05) from his book, Life-Changing Love: Moving God's Love from Your Head to Your Heart (p. 24). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book.)

John shares a story by Anne Lamott. It was “of an eight-year-old boy who had a younger sister dying of leukemia. He was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents asked if they could test his blood to see if it was compatible with hers. He said sure. They tested, and it was a match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of his own blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight. The next day he told his parents he was willing to donate the blood. They took him to the hospital; he was put on a gurney beside his six-year-old sister. Both were hooked up to IVs. A nurse took a pint of blood from the boy, which was given to his sister. The boy lay in silence as the blood that would save his sister dripped from the IV, until the doctor came over to see how he was doing. Then the boy opened his eyes and asked, ‘How soon until I start to die?’” Somewhere he had thought that by giving his blood he would die but after a night of thinking about it he decided to give it anyway because he really loved her.   

You see “the test of love is that it gives even when there is no expectation of a return.”  John says, “Giving is to love what eating is to hunger. Giving is how love expresses itself. ‘God so loved the world that he gave…’ begins the most familiar statement in Scripture. Giving is love with character. Without acts of servanthood, love has no skeletal structure, nothing to support itself.”

So much of what we call love today is Eros love.  John says, “Eros finds giving easy in the early stages. Cards and flowers and foot rubs flow effortlessly as the Nile. The early rush of feelings supports this. These feelings are a kind of emotional training wheels, but sooner or later they have to come off. Eros may give, but only when it expects a fair rate of exchange.”

But you see, “Love is never so fully love as when it gives.”  Not out of obligation, not out of expectation, but just because you really love them.  That is just what real love does.


So how is your love doing today?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

“When we obey the light we have, God shows up.”

A thought by Larry Osborne (2015-04-01) from his book, Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture (Kindle Location 925). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book.)

There is the story of Sam Young when he was President of Eastern Nazarene College and of a confused young man who came to see him and who asked Dr. Young an important question.  He asked, “How do I know what is God’s will for my life?”  Dr. Young then asked him, “Did you ever know?”  And the young man said, “Yes.”  And then Dr. Young asked, “Did you do it?”  And he said, “No.”  “When we obey the light we have, God shows up.”

Larry goes on to say, “And every time he does, our hope grows stronger. We begin to experience biblical hope— the deep-seated optimism and confidence that comes from knowing that God can be trusted even when we have no idea what he’s up to.”

He then says, “We don’t have to worry about what we don’t know. Because when we obey the light we have, God will not only show up, but he’ll also give us more light. It’s what I call the dimmer-switch principle: when we obey the light we have, God gives us more; when we ignore the light we have, he gives us less.”

Proverbs 4: 18 & 19 (MSG) says, “The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine.  But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker—travelers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces.”

As Psalms 119: 105 (MSG) says, “By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.” 

There it is, “When we obey the light we have God shows up.  And every time he does our hope grows stronger.”


So are you obeying or ignoring the light you have?

Monday, June 29, 2015

“Our failures don’t have to define us.”

A thought by Larry Osborne (2015-04-01) from his book, Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture (Kindle Locations 813-814). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book.)

Do you do that?  It can be an easy thing to do but it can be something that holds us back from living the life God has for us.  But you don’t know what I did?  I don’t but God does. 

I like how John Ortberg puts it in his book, Life-Changing Love: Moving God's Love from Your Head to Your Heart.  He says, “God sees with utter clarity who we are. He is undeceived as to our warts and wickedness. But when God looks at us that is not all he sees. He also sees who we are intended to be, who we will one day become. We sometimes say love is blind, but it is not so. Love alone truly sees, sees with this double vision. And in the act of seeing, God begins to call to the surface the goodness and beauty in us that is now visible only to him, so that one day it will be visible to all. And that makes his heart glad.”

As Larry says, “Our failures don’t have to define us. It all depends on how we respond. If we curse our luck, blame others, and fail to take responsibility, we’ll continue to fail. But if we face the facts, accept responsibility, and humbly get back on the right path, our failures can lay the groundwork for future success… No matter what we’ve done or where we find ourselves— and no matter if our scars and failures have been self-inflicted or innocently obtained— he wants to turn us into trophy pieces, displaying the incredible depth and power of his immeasurable grace and mercy.”  He wants us to become who we are intended to be.   

And that is where the trust comes in.  Not only in yourself but also in God and the circumstances that he may be taking you through.  Life isn’t always fun. It can be miserable but it has a way of being used by a loving God to bring to the surface the goodness and beauty in you that may be only visible to him.  He wants it to one day be visible to all.

Our failures don’t have to define us. It all depends on how we respond. 


So what will be your response today?

Friday, June 26, 2015

“Endurance reaps great rewards.”

A thought by Larry Osborne (2015-04-01) from his book, Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope,Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture (Kindle Location 793). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book.)

But here is the problem. Larry says, “It’s no fun getting there. Perhaps that’s why Paul and James both made a point to encourage us not to give up when stressed or pushed to our limits. They knew what happens to those who cut bait and run away. They also knew what happens to those who hang on and let endurance finish its work. They knew they end up handling the kinds of trials that break most others.”

Now I know what we really want is to not have to even go through being pushed to our limit but that is not the way that the Christian life works.  Now maybe the cut bait and run away life works that way but not the mature Christ follower way of life.  And there are rewards for our endurance.

Larry then says, “Endurance produces the mental toughness we’ve come to call confidence and courage, both of which are desperately needed to survive in Babylon. Any time we overcome something we once feared or dreaded, we walk out with a new level of confidence and courage that comes from conquering something we once feared. False confidence and bravado are more hot air than reality. They tend to melt away the moment the real enemy shows up. But the genuine confidence and courage that come on the backside of endurance are different. They run quiet and deep. They don’t melt away when the enemy shows up or wins a battle. They settle in for the long haul, confident that a setback or two is no big deal.”

Here is what James 1: 2 – 4 (NLT) says, “When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”  That is a great promise but you have to do the premise which is the first part in order to get the promise.  Or to get the reward.

Larry finishes this section by saying, “So hang in there. No matter what you’re going through at the moment, God hasn’t forgotten you. He has a master plan. He may well be preparing you for a place called Babylon. And if he is, it’s not so that you can survive. It’s so you can thrive.” 


I want to thrive.  What about you?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

“Without perspective, everything gets blown out of proportion.”

A thought by Larry Osborne (2015-04-01) from his book, Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture (Kindle Location 760). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book.)

Perspective, without it Larry says, “Everything gets blown out of proportion. We catastrophize. The loss of privilege becomes harsh persecution. Opposition becomes hatred. And every legal or electoral setback becomes cause for anguish and despair. In short, we evaluate and extrapolate without putting God into the equation. Unfortunately, those who most lack perspective seldom realize it. Why does a two-year-old think waiting five minutes is an eternity? Why does a trust-fund baby think flying coach is the end of the world?  Why does a Little League parent scream and yell at an umpire’s bad call? In each case, it’s a lack of perspective.”

But once you have it, you have perspective, Larry says, “It changes everything. It allows us to see the bigger picture. Consider the amazing lens through which the apostle Paul evaluated the many persecutions he faced. It’s mind-boggling. Here was a man who endured repeated floggings, beatings, assassination attempts, imprisonments, shipwrecks, and a life lived on the run. Yet he came to the point that he viewed them as mere momentary troubles in light of the heavenly glories to come.”

So how did he get there?  He got there through living through hardship and struggles.  He survived and that built something into him.  He was a survivor.  You see, “Each trial left him stronger, more certain than before that he could handle the enemy’s best shot. He learned to rely on the strength and power that Jesus provided, and he learned that it was enough to allow him to cope with anything that came his way.”

So are you scared to death about the upcoming election?  Maybe you need some struggles, some hardship.  For sure you need some perspective.

As Larry says, “That’s what the backside of hardship and suffering does. It teaches us perspective. It takes the fear out of the things that terrify others. It keeps us calm when everyone else is panicking.”

Remember God will always be in your storm.  And he is never surprised.  Put that into your perspective.

So what has you in a panic?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

“It’s easy to obey God when we agree with him.”

A thought by Larry Osborne (2015-04-01) from his book, Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture (Kindle Locations 741-742). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book.)

That is so true isn’t it?  But that is not the end of the thought.  Larry goes on to say, “But that’s not really obedience.”  It really isn’t.

He then says, “But let’s be honest. When things go south, our theology often goes out the window. When the path of obedience doesn’t make sense, appears too costly, or doesn’t seem to be working, we’re quick to blaze our own trail.”

We know best.  Surely He doesn’t want me to do that?  But here’s the key, “We haven’t learned obedience until we do what he says despite our doubts, confusion, or concern that his way won’t work out…  A lot of the things God wants us to do don’t make sense in a spiritually hostile environment. They seem counterproductive. Consider some of his most basic and well-known commands: love your enemies, submit to authority, and forgive as we’ve been forgiven. All of these things are easy to pontificate about when our Christian values dominate the culture. But they aren’t so easy to defend when our enemies are powerful, those in authority oppose us, and the culture at large mocks the very things we hold most dear. But we must.  These are the things he commands. It’s what learning to obey is all about.”

His way is best.  Go read in the Old Testament the story of Joseph and then in the New Testament read about the Apostle Paul’s life.  Or how Jesus handled his last hours before his death. Really, did it make sense that Jesus should die?  But he was obedient.  He said, “Father forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”  He forgave them because God told him to.  Kind of like those people in South Carolina who saw their Pastor and other’s killed before their eyes but they reached out in forgiveness to the one who hated them and did it.

Oh we are obedient to the things that we agree with but what about those things that don’t make sense? 


How obedient are we then?