Monday, November 23, 2015

In the Face of Fear, There Is No Debate

A couple of months ago I got into a pretty heated discussion with a friend of mine about a "hot-button" topic in the Presidential race. Truthfully, it was more like a Subway Panini -- only heated on one side. I'd say ten words, and she'd fire back with eighty; I'd express one point, and she'd start warming up the rocket launchers -- the kitchen sink was coming. As I began to realize this had gone far beyond a legitimate debate, I backed down. Because I'm a Christian, and that's what we're supposed to do. Because if I ever had a shot at showing Jesus to her, pressing on would end that. Because...yeah, no other reason. Let's face it, I didn't want to. She was being unreasonable. She was being inflammatory. And she was arguing like a four year old. No kidding! She was using racial and ethnic slurs -- no intelligent debate there. And that's what I wanted! A good debater wants to see both sides of the coin, wants to be challenged. And I wanted her to know I expected better of her than schoolyard name-calling. I thought she was capable of better.

But in my silence, it dawned on me -- and by "dawned" I mean, a thought straight from the Holy Spirit: She has not seen God do the things you have seen Him do. She cannot trust God because they barely have a relationship. I think she goes to church. She quotes Bible verses when she wants to point out everyone else's need for Jesus. But I don't think there's a genuine relationship. She doesn't walk with Him; I'm not sure she even talks with Him; and she doesn't allow Him to work. She is afraid. Fear is like throwing a stick in your bicycle spokes: My eyes are opened to what God can do, therefore I trust God, therefore I obey God, therefore my eyes are opened to what God can do, therefore I trust God, therefore I obe-- FEAR!! And it all comes to a screeching halt.

In 1 Samuel 7:12, Samuel sets forth a memorial -- he calls it Ebeneezer -- to remind the people what God had done for them. Remembering how far God has brought us, enables us to trust. Remembering the miracles we've witnessed, enables us to obey. This blog is my Ebeneezer. I look back from time to time and see what God has done for me and those I love. The good, the bad, the ugly -- but through it all, He has worked for my good.

I just celebrated my fiftieth birthday: the outpouring of love I received left me verklempt. In only ten years, God has widened my circle of friends -- true friends -- to ridiculous dimensions. My relationships criss-cross states and countries, occupations and lifestyles, beliefs and ethnicities, personalities and incomes. God has taken this cynical, anti-social-and-proud Queen of Darkness from depression, and legalism, and suicidal/ homicidal thoughts to a place of hugs and laughter, music and joy, love for humanity other than those within my four walls. Even in sickness. Even in betrayal. Even in poverty.

I have seen cancer cured, "fatal" injuries healed, former crack addicts celebrated for their philanthropy, homes rebuilt -- families and structures, the hungry fed, the hardened brought to tears, the aging serving youth, youth serving the aging, the poor serving the rich, the rich serving the poor, the spiritually and emotionally dead brought to life. I have seen God do amazing things! And that's just in my little world. The accounts my friends bring from overseas are nothing short of miraculous!

So, debate as you like, and close your mind as your fear directs. But my God is an awesome God, and He is working mightily in this world today. If you would open your eyes, if you would trust, you might just find He wants to use you.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

You, Sir, Are an Imposter!

When my son was about fifteen he got a job at a local auto repair shop. I would drop him off for work, and he would give me the usual peck on my cheek -- yes, I did say "usual." Steven never had a problem showing me affection or declaring his love for me; I admired his boldness no matter who was around. But things were about to change. In only a matter of weeks, my son had his license, had his own wheels, and was nothing more than a memory in the lives of his family. He returned, briefly, but he was like a caged animal; he wanted to be somewhere else, and would keep running off until he was. I understood some of the things that were going on in his life, but when did we lose our relationship? How long had he been planning this? When had he become an imposter? It felt like the ultimate betrayal.

So often I have contemplated the pain Jesus felt when Judas placed that kiss on Him; I wonder what was going through His mind. But more so, I wonder what was going through Judas' mind. Judas was part of Jesus' inner circle; he walked with Him, talked with Him, ate with Him. And don't forget this guy had been given the "authority to cast out all demons and heal all diseases." How did this happen?

Selling out the King of Kings is definitely one of the "biggies," but Judas' deception was merely a reflection of his heart. Judas was a lover of money. Who of us hasn't gotten a little "unbiblical" when we've gotten ripped off, or coveted the lifestyles of the rich and famous? cheated on income taxes? fudged a time sheet? handed our kid a coupon and a five spot to go stand in the other line? Being a money lover was a chink in Judas' armor, he would never allow Jesus to buff out.

Judas was disappointed. Three years with Jesus, and there'd been no revolution -- at least, not the kind Judas expected. They were penniless, itinerant, reviled by the religious elite; this is not what Judas had signed on for. Anyone ever disappointed you? It can be pretty tough to get over; especially when you've invested time, reputation, money, hope. You might find yourself consumed by disappointment at the price of your testimony, or your prayer life, or your attendance at church. Disappointment had become Judas' justification for the action he was about to take.

Judas was mired in the belief he was alone. "No one will understand." "No one else seems to be questioning their decision." "No one could ever forgive what I've done." Judas was never alone; we know Peter stood with him that night: only a short time later, distancing himself from his Savior for the sake of his reputation and physical well-being. Jesus went to the cross for the very purpose of forgiveness. Have you ever fallen into a snare called "shame?" Shame leaves us feeling alone and unworthy: of forgiveness; of our destiny in Christ. It can be a tough place to move past, and can turn lies into truth.

Judas, I'm certain, knew what he was doing was wrong; I am not saying, "Hey, that Judas -- he wasn't such a bad guy." What I'm saying is that we should never distance ourselves from him. We have all been imposters: smiling through pain; complimenting someone on their leathery pot roast; going through the motions on a Sunday morning. But being less than authentic -- even for a moment -- can cause us to harm others and ourselves. 

How much better off would we be if we were all just honest with each other? What kind of pressure might be eliminated in our lives if we never felt the need to be imposters? What kind of good could be done if we stopped pretending and just admitted we've been there, too?