504 Java Profile

504 Java Profile
Two of my favorite things

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On God's Will and My Agenda

God’s Will and My Agenda

A while back, Henry Blackaby in his important book, Experiencing God said that the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” is the wrong question. The right question is “What is God’s will?” with the thought that if I figure out where God is working, then I can go there and join Him.

Dr. Blackaby’s words are true. We make a mistake in perspective if we insist that God design a plan for our life. God is God and we are not. His plans will go on without our participation. Implied in the belief that God has a plan for my life is that it will be something that is pleasant and agreeable and allows me some degree of control. Maybe the difference is praying in God’s will rather than praying for God’s will.

The danger is when our dreams are too small, our visions are too narrow and our version of God’s will for our life is man-sized instead of God- sized. We believe that God loves us. We believe He wants the best for us. However, as C.S. Lewis wisely observed, “We're not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be”

So there is the honesty of it. God’s will, but in a controlled environment. We want the tame version of God’ will that fits into our agenda. Pastor and speaker Wilbur Reese called it “Three Dollars Worth of God” in a classic poem:

Three Dollars Worth of God

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

I study Jesus in the Garden and I see Him praying in God's will. It is about the relationship and God's unfolding redemptive plan for the world, not the outcome or what it might mean for me. Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness. What a tricky concept. When we read of or experience injustice (especially if it is personal), the “get even” juices start to flow. We may say the words, “I forgive” but the emotional release is much more difficult. But hold on for just a minute. Forgiveness has at least three aspects:
1)Asking for and receiving forgiveness from God
2)Asking for and receiving forgiveness from another person
3)Forgiving someone who has wronged you

Let me visit them in reverse order. To extend forgiveness to another is still to keep “the power.” What? You mean we should release our right to be right? I might consider it if the person who offended me grovels a bit. An even trickier decision is to forgive even if we aren’t asked. Yet secular psychologists seem to grasp what the Jesus says about extending forgiveness.

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (NIV)

To be a person with an attitude that extends forgiveness is to be a person who does not harbor a lingering bitterness.

The second part of the equation is to ask forgiveness from someone whom we have offended. In order to do that, I have to admit that I was wrong and then approach another person with that admission. Even though it likely restores the relationship, the conversation is one of the more difficult ones that humans ever have.

Finally, the forgiveness that seems to be easy is to ask for and receive forgiveness from God. We just throw up a quick prayer and say “Sorry, God, I messed up again. I’ll try to do better.” Too often, I go to God for forgiveness without lingering on the realization of what it cost God to offer it.

John 3:16-17
16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. (NASB)

For me the really difficult part is to see the many verses that seem to link the three aspects of forgiveness together. For us to receive forgiveness from God, we have to see the connection between all of them. If we will not ask for or extend forgiveness, how can we embrace the tremendously powerful dynamic of forgiveness from the Heavenly Father. The uncomfortable truth about reciprocating forgiveness is the subject of many passages and verses. Let me include two as representative

Matthew 6:14-16
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NIV)

We also forgive so that our prayers will not be hindered:

Mark 11:25
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (NIV)

As I pray for forgiveness today, I might linger awhile. It is a divine transaction.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On the Sons and Daughters of Eve

I have just finished re-reading the C.S. Lewis classic, The Chronicles of Narnia. The entire set, including the prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a gift from my daughter Sarah. It is a hard back edition and she wrote a thoughtful note in the front. I love my daughter. We share a love for reading, for stories and for Jesus (or Aslan as Lewis called Him).

I cam away from reading the last of the books, The Last Battle with a sense of profound sadness. In previous readings, and throughout the series, I have been overjoyed with the promise of Aslan's land beyond which represents the heaven that awaits the followers of Christ. Lewis called it "the real Narnia" as opposed to the Narnia of most of the stories which represents earth.

I always see new things when I read something again, and this time I read of the apparent choice made by Susan, one of the children who visited Narnia in the early books in the series. In the final book in the series, The Last Battle Peter, Susan's brother, was asked why she didn't return to Narnia for the final battle. Peter replied, "My sister Susan is no longer a friend of Narnia." Eustace, one of the primary characters of the last two books added, "and whenever you've tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says, 'What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we sued to play when we were children."

Compare Susan to her sister Lucy who apparently made the connection between Aslan and the Christ of her world. The last battle takes place in a stable which is actually a door that opens up into the New Narnia. the Lord Digory (of the first of the Narnian stories) said of the stable, "Its inside is bigger than its outside." Lucy remarked, "Yes, in our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."

So Susan was not present at the end of things. She was not in the representation of heaven. She is the only character that is left unresolved. Apparently her faith in Aslan was only a child's fantasy and not one she claimed as an adult.

Powerful theology. The decision that Susan foolishly made to relegate all things faith to the fairy tales of children is like a refusal to acknowledge that Jesus is real and alive and a Savior for the young and old alike. There will be a day when all tongues will call Him Lord. Susan represents those who will call Him Lord but only from a distance. May we worship our King regardless of our age or place in life. He will be with us at the "end of things."