Thursday, September 26, 2013

PREPARE...to fail

 
 
Wow, when I decided to insert this video, I had no idea I would wind up with a ginormous picture of Francis Chan at the top of my entry.  Anyhoo...

A while back I heard a radio interview with Chris Plekenpol, a former Army Captain who began ministering to a homeless man, and eventually offered him a place to stay.  His book Stumbling Souls, explains the transformation he experienced.  A short time after that, my Bible study read Crazy Love, by Francis Chan.  If you haven't yet clicked on the life-sized link, the foundation of Chan's book is the incredible, crazy love God has for us, and what happens when we begin to demonstrate that love toward others.  Other challenging books I've recently read were Same Kind of Different As Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, and Radical, by David Platt.  The message I get from all of these books is: Are you ready to go out and do something different, do something obedient, do something out of real love?

Since then, I've read C.S. Lewis, John Piper, Tim Heller, Steve Brown, etc., etc.  I've listened to countless sermons by Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, Dr. Oliver B. Green and of course, my own pastor.  The message I get from these folks is: Are you ready to fail?

I don't think anybody stares face to face with a challenge, prepared to fail, but I believe those of us who are indeed trying to live by the direction of the Holy Spirit, need to seriously consider this outcome. 

For instance, Jesus never called folks to go buy some sheep on credit -- live in victory!  He never said, "The public is really gonna love your stance on not cheating the poor."  His very own cousin wound up a party favor -- his head anyway -- a victim of Herod's drunken machismo.  And what was with the outfit?  I'm sure GQ or Oprah would not call John the Baptist for interviews, were he around today.  Maybe Springer.  By the world's standards, many of Jesus' followers were losers -- exiled, beaten, stoned, beheaded, boiled -- and those are just some of the ones recorded in the Bible.  What about those in less than ancient history? Jim Elliot, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, victims of the Nag Hammadi massacre, those sitting in prisons today!  Untold numbers imprisoned, discriminated against, disowned by families, starved.  Following the way of Jesus is not easy, nor is it popular.

As a kid, one of my favorite shows was Batman.  Every episode, Batman or Robin would find themselves victims of some loathsome villain and his or her despicable, but imbecilic sidekicks.  As Batman struggled to get free, the villains would laugh maniacally and nod to one another, assured of success this time.  But this was Batman; he was a super-hero; he could do anything.  And in minutes he would be free, BIFF-ing and BAM-ing his way out of the crooked lair and setting everything right for the citizens of Gotham City. 

Well, this is no Gotham City, and sometimes "heroes" fail, and sometimes "heroes" suffer.  If I truly desire to obey God's will, I have to accept whatever He has in store.  Reputation, image, popularity, and success are ideas that depend on human existence to even have any value.  The results of humility and faithful obedience are much larger than my life in the here and now.  As Jesus demonstrated almost 2000 years ago, the victory of the Christian life is not always the victory of today.  Sometimes it comes later... 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What Do You Meme?

I've noticed this rash of memes among my Facebook friends.  I get it.  They're funny; they're cute.  They sum up the entirety of your existence in eight words or less.  However, if everyone on my extensive list of friends (currently, 112; funny, last week I thought I had 115) posts 2 memes each day, that's 224 -isms and -ologies I must wade through simply to ascertain the outcome of your trip to Disney, or the sex of your first grandchild.  Chances are, I am already quite aware of your stance on Obamacare, gun control, cheesy chicken, or dumb people.  I really would just like to know how your day is going.  I like the pictures of you and your niece at the park.

But, since you have subjected me to your philosophies, you have opened the door for my OPINION!

Let's take this one:

Probably coined by some well-meaning individual, looking to simplify the issue of doubt and the remedy of prayer.  Cute.  Truth is, sometimes when I experience doubt, it's because I have been looking up.  Because I have been wrestling with the serious issues of my faith, God's plan for me, contradictions I see and hear daily that make me wonder what, on earth, God is doing.  Jonah was not happy that God decided to spare Nineveh.  To the people of that city, Jonah must have looked like he hadn't a clue.  And, if God is going to give out free passes to those who don some potato sacks and dust, despite their vile actions in the past, what am I doing by trying to walk the straight and narrow?  The Christian life is not such that it can be summed up in clipart.  It is difficult, and not for the self-sufficient.  God's plans are not so easily revealed that a quick prayer or peek into the pages of Scripture will "clear things up in a jiffy."  Some times our greatest doubts can spring forth from seeking God at the greatest heights.

Or my personal fave:

 
NOT true, and NOT biblical.  1 Corinthians 10:13.  It talks about temptation.  It talks about the Lord giving us a way out -- HIM -- not handling it ourselves.  That's all I'm sayin.'
 
Lastly:
 
Of course I can't actually find one at the moment.  No doubt, there will be several when I get up in the morning.  But those adorable little promises that by simply sharing a picture of Jesus, He will do something wonderful in your life.  The chain letter of my youth without the letter.  Well, if Jesus is going to make me wealthy, or pretty, or successful just because I share on Facebook, I'd better get crackin.'  After all, I didn't do a blessed thing and still got saved! 

God's Grace for a Back-Stabbing Skeez

Those of you who have spent more than fifteen minutes in a local church, are probably on a committee.  Church committees were probably the poster children for recruitment long before Uncle Sam ever pointed a finger.  It seems to me, though, they have to be.  I mean, let's face it, the pay isn't great -- "$0? Hmm, $0.  Let me think about that."  No experience necessary.  "So, what you're saying is, I know nothing about architecture or structural integrity, and I'm perfect for the job?! What's that? And so was the guy before me? Hey, would you mind if we stepped outside?"  Your selflessness and exceptional efforts will be carefully scrutinized by a committee of folks who do little more than sit around and carefully scrutinize the volunteer service of others, and then tell their friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on...

So, when the church I was attending was desperate for committee members to organize a local event, I figured I would do my good deed, and sign up.  The chairperson was a friend of mine as well, so I wanted to help her out.  The event was five months away, and though it wasn't a huge endeavor, I'm one of those people who cannot stand waiting until the last minute.  (Funny how the girl who did her homework at 2AM, or in the bathroom as she was brushing her teeth, or on the bus, or in homeroom has become this neurotic individual.)  Plus, as far as I could tell, I was the one and only person to put their name on the dotted line, so to speak. 

Three weeks later, I had heard nothing.  So, I figured my friend, the committee chairperson, was having a difficult time getting the ball rolling.  I emailed her a list of ideas -- creative ways to make our event a huge success!

A week later, when I asked her if she'd received the email, "yes" was her response. 
"So, what did you think?"
"I have to run them past the pastor's committee."
"OK!"  Headway!  I can be so na├»ve.

Two weeks after that, the answer was the same.  And two weeks after that?  You guessed it.

So, I took another look at those suggestions.  In silence, self-evaluation, right?  I tweeked, and cut, and embellished, until those "creative ways to make our event a huge success" were "ingenious ideas to bring the house down!"  Ok, maybe not, but they were a little more user friendly, not as daunting or work intensive, but just as fabulous.

Reality set in when, eighteen days after that, I received the email stating that the following Sunday, the committee would be rolling out the plans for the event, and one of the other members had, at the last meeting, graciously offered to do the presentation.  At the last meeting?!  What meeting? What other committee member? I thought we were friends?  Suffice to say, it all went downhill from there.  I confronted Ms. Chairperson, my friend, "my sister," who constantly talked over me through the entire ordeal, who completely dismissed my feelings, and deftly turned it around to make it seem as if I were out of my mind and somehow, very pathetic

"Why didn't you say something sooner?" 
"Oh, my fault, I didn't assume the worst about you weeks ago."

Come event day, I was placated with a job in the kitchen.  Friendship over.  "Sister," a backstabbing skeez.

SO, here is the question -- one with which I too often struggle:

Fast forward to Glory.  The crowd is going wild.  Jesus is in the house!  Everybody is dancing.  Hands up!  Happier than a camel on hump day.  I look over, and there she is.  Does my face instantly drop?  Do I feel the urge to rip off her nail tips, welling up inside me?  "How did she get here?!" 

Of course, I know the answer to all of the above, this is a God thing -- NOT a Judi thing, after all.  But we all so want to think we act the part, all the time -- and others should, too.  The answer is grace.  God's grace for me.  God's grace for backstabbing skeezes -- even though I can be one.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Facing the Reality of a Heart Transplant

As I fired up "Bible Gateway" to do my devotions today, I was met with the "Verse of the Day:"

Romans 15:7 ~
"Therefore receive one another just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God."

"Receive."  Such a unique way of putting things, but what would that really look like?

 That's a little "much" for me...

Couldn't do the beard...

REALLY creepy...

The Amplified Bible says, "welcome into your hearts."  Bad enough I should "treat" others as Christ treats them -- as Christ treats me (see Fruits of the Spirit, for instance).  You can treat someone well, and roll out; you can bite your lip through your entire service to them.  But to truly welcome someone into your heart is a full-time venture, a real experience, a heart transplant -- mine to Christ's.