Saturday, March 31, 2012

Where Dreams And Reality Meet

This was a traveling week for me.  This is a picture of the St. Lawrence River.  You can see Canada across the river.

I was far north in New York state. Small towns and a landscape of old farms were what impressed me.  Places of dreams and hopes that had come to an machinery that was for sale and the landscape seemed littered with the remains of what had been.

There are times that I feel a bit like that used farm machinery sitting there in the rain. I find myself at the end of my hoarded resources...saving for the rainy day is finished and the rain has come.  Dreams come to an end and reality sets in with a vengeance.  The bills have to be paid and responsibilities have to be lived up to.  That is the time when the simple things of the gospel seem to make the most sense to me.

No great philosophical statements help me half way between Ogdensburgh and Plattsburgh.  What helps me is the reality of your work in my heart and life, Lord Jesus...such simple things, really.

Luke 10

He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

I got to admit that sometimes I am a smudge short on the passion...and I am left with prayer, muscle and intelligence.  That is when your Spirit speaks to me in words soft yet clear..."Kurt, Keep it Simple Silly man...grace remains alive within you...hope comes when you least expect to find it.  The journey is not over in the middle of the rain watching old farm machinery rust."

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

So ok...sometimes the journey moves on from rusted tractors in the rain, one step at a time knowing that the Spirit of the Living God continues to move in our hearts even when we are tired beyond description.   Mercy coupled with action,  walking in the light...that sounds like a plan.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1855). NavPress. Kindle Edition. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Note to the Lord: Love Letters Come in Many Forms

Mark 3

[3.22-27] The religion scholars from Jerusalem came down spreading rumors that he was working black magic, using devil tricks to impress them with spiritual power. Jesus confronted their slander with a story: “Does it make sense to send a devil to catch a devil, to use Satan to get rid of Satan? A constantly squabbling family disintegrates. If Satan were fighting Satan, there soon wouldn’t be any Satan left. Do you think it’s possible in broad daylight to enter the house of an awake, able-bodied and walk off with his possessions unless you tie him up first? Tie him up, though, and you can clean him out.

Lord Jesus--This was a basic error that the religious establishment was making. Deciding what is the work of God and what it the work of the evil one is pretty basic. Yet, we miss it all the time.They saw the miracles and they could not figure out where they came from.

The questions of the religious integencia were exactly the right ones.  How is this person, this rabbi from a backwater town like Nazareth able to do what he is doing?  Good question.   People can do amazing things from exactly the wrong source.  So, it wasn't the questions that were wrong...they were discerning questions...good questions.

The problem is they can to the exactly the wrong conclusions.  They understood that you were pointing out with clarity the discontinuity of their religious practice and from their core religious values.  That was something they could not face.

Simple values...core values scared them silly.  People are more important than things.  Relationship with God is more important than ritual. Access to God was not based on works but on grace.  Our relationship with God is not a legal contract between business partners, but a marriage contract between lovers. It is really very simple: the healing ministry and the preaching to the oppressed and the poor were not meant to get attention they were the reason that you came.

You were showing for all time the heart of God lived out right in the middle of messy humanity.  Unwashed, without excuse, littered with the results of sin right out there for everyone to see, and yet you love us.

They were tripped up by the miracles and thought they were the point. They saw the miracles as a way to illicit the support of the ignorant poor and to deceive them into thinking God was acting when he wasn't.   In reality they missed the meaning of the miraculous by about a million miles.  Instead of a love letter from God written on the bodies, minds and hearts of the people, these men saw the beginnings of an insurrection movement that would bring Roman power down on them.

It is amazing to me but the really important things in life are many times so simple we miss them.  More honesty, more truth, more hope, more love is always the direction toward you.  Walking toward the light and the shadows fall away from us.

Lord Jesus keep me walking in the direction toward light...toward humility, toward grace, toward hope, toward healing.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1796). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Notes to the Lord:Good Intentions Misdirected Or Some times Submission is Scary

 Mark 3
Jesus came home and, as usual, a crowd gathered—so many making demands on him that there wasn’t even time to eat. His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him, by force if necessary. They suspected he was getting carried away with himself.

Lord Jesus--It sounds like a family and friends intervention.   The timing is very interesting.  Just as you have organized to be more effective, the family and friends from Nazareth are thinking you have lost track of who you are.  Well intentioned people can be just plain wrong. Remind me when I need to know it, that many times people have good intentions that are miss directed. Why do I forget that so often, and go off on a rant about what ever the crisis of the day is? When really it is just miss directed good intention spilling out all over my little world.

Remind me Lord in the middle of the mix that some of my greatest successes were mistakes that you some how blessed.  I am still not beyond missing the point in the middle of a Divine moment of grace, just like your family and friends did on their attempt at a family intervention.

The needs of the masses were pressing on you.  There was the power of God evident and people wanted to see God's intervention in their lives.  It was a revolutionary event that normal people were able to sense the power of God available to them.  The needs of people were more important than food and you were willing to skip meals to meet their needs. There was a need to let the Spirit of God flow through you and touch those the surrounded you.  Even if they did not understand it, or grasp the implications of that work being released into the world.

That is such a reversal of the way that organized religion usually works right now in America.  We are such a consumer driven group of people.  Programs and the right kind of music and the right enviroment...nothing wrong with any of it.  Yet, the most important thing is the presence of the Living God which is not always what we are most concerned with. Am I willing to miss a few lunches and dinners in order to see the power of God released within your people and within my life?  Absolutely!  Or said another way, am I willing to be viewed as being "carried away" by your work in my life to the point where my grasp of reality is called into question?  Ok, that hurts...but that is exactly where you found yourself when confronted with your family.

All that to say, Lord Jesus, I don't want to miss a moment of your work in my life because I am afraid of what others might think.  I don't want to draw back even when the edges of what I see as normal is being pulled away by the kind and gentle pull of the Spirit of the Living God.  Don't let my limited vision and fear of falling keep me from trusting the Holy Wind of the Spirit of God.  Some times submission is scary. I have to admit I am glad that I wasn't the one in the bunny suit, but if that is where you ask me to be...I am there.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (pp. 1795-1796). NavPress. Kindle Edition. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Notes to the Lord:An Invitation to the Journey

Mark 3

He climbed a mountain and invited those he wanted with him. They climbed together. He settled on twelve, and designated them apostles. The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out to proclaim the Word and give them authority to banish demons. These are the Twelve:(Jesus later named him Peter, meaning “Rock”), James, son of Zebedee, John, brother of James (Jesus nicknamed the Zebedee brothers Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, Judas Iscariot (who betrayed him).

Lord Jesus--These were ordinary people that you gave authority to act on your behalf.  Nothing special about these ex-fishermen, tax-collectors, and political rebel-rousers.  I wonder about how this first journey together up that mountain went.  How did they handle the shared adventure together? It must have been interesting. Did they complain about the heat, the sweat and the dust?  The irony of  complaining to the One who was there when it was all spoken into existence makes me chuckle. They were really beginners learning from the ground up.  I wonder if there were colorful words used by these ruff and tumble men...

There was plan and intention in your choice and in your delegation of authority. Each of these ordinary men were called by you to be a part of your Kingdom work. The impact of their work would be a multiplication of your efforts.  People lives would be changed, oppression would be lifted and there would be restoration in thousands of lives. Yet from their view point it was a bit like driving down a superhighway with only the view out the front window with scenes passing before them and not knowing all that they meant.  The images were quick and fleeting at best.

They had limited knowledge of where their journey would lead them...many to places where they would not have chosen if asked at this point. But what they saw even from their fleeting perspective was life changing. They grabbed their things and followed.  That is much the way this life you have called me to is.  I see only a very limited perspective, ground level moving sometimes way too fast to understand all that it means.

Lord Jesus--In this day I want to follow your invitation to the journey.  I want to continue to follow you where you lead. The scenery changes with time but you are still leading and your way is always best.  Keep me between the guardrails and headed in the direction of your grace...toward mercy, toward honesty, toward humility, and toward your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1795). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Notes to the Lord:Room For God Work

Mark 3

Lord Jesus--I want to think that I have it all put together and that the pieces all make sense...but really I find myself in the place of need often. I am in the place where need is pushing me to see glory worked out in the real world.  It leaves me knowing that I can not change what needs to be changed only you can. So often the lesson is a simple one: I can't and you can.  So I need to let you.

[3.11-12]Evil spirits, when they recognized him, fell down and cried out, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus would have none of it. He shut them up, forbidding them to identify him in public.

Lord Jesus--There are times when I view miracles from the wrong end of the binoculars...I focus on exactly the wrong place and so miss the essence of what you were doing. The miracles that you performed did in fact validate your authenticity, but that was not the point of the intervention into this world's function.  So what was the point?  You touched the lives of ordinary people to demonstrate in ways that transformed lives that you care us intimately.  You care about our physical hurts, our oppression, and our spiritual need

You did not need to hear the acknowledgement of demons because you have known them from before they were fact the battle may have been joined before with these same forces.  If the point had been validation of authenticity, then it would have been logical to let the demons speak.  But validation was not the point, nor was authentication.  The genuine does not need validation it just needs opportunity for expression.

The very people that were bound by Satan and who had been the distractions during synagogue, and the people who were problematic at worship time at temple became opportunities for God's grace to be shown in the real world. You showed God's love to those who were open with their need.   Or maybe they weren't as sophisticated in their ability to hide their need?

I am acutely aware of my need for your continued work in my life,  Lord Jesus.  There is not the need for validation of who you are by doing tricks with fish and bread...or of walking across my swimming pool like Herod sings in Jesus Christ Superstar.  You need to do some much more than that!  So why do I try to put you in that box again and again?

Lord Jesus--You lived out God's love to the very people who were the misfits and the clearly visibly needy people. I seek to see you work again in the real world of where need meets love and lives change.  So really the question is: Am I willing to begin to see, needs as opportunities for you to work?  Am I willing to look for you to work just outside my front door?

That means from my end that it may not be comfortable...that there may be ambiguity and times of waiting on you to act, times of prayer and seeking, longing for you to work...prayer that knows desire so deep that words can express it adequately.  That is the growing edge isn't?

Work Holy Spirit in power and grace towards the ends that will bring glory to the Father.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1795). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Notes to the Lord:Drawn By Need Changed By Grace

Mark 3
[3.7-10] Jesus went off with his disciples to the sea to get away. But a huge crowd from Galilee trailed after them—also from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, across the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon—swarms of people who had heard the reports and had come to see for themselves. He told his disciples to get a boat ready so he wouldn't be trampled by the crowd. He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him.

Lord Jesus--You intervened in people's lives in a clear and vital way. They longed to get close to you so that they could know the power of God at work in their lives.  Things haven't changed much.  Where we sense that you are moving and working we continue to be drawn to your power and grace. People are attracted to your movement and work in their lives.

That is what I long to see.  You work in power and in such a way that it is clear that there is no other way that it could have been done except by the power that comes from your name.  Not by marketing, or by great programs, but because of a movement of your Spirit in such power that no one can mistake it.  I have the sneaking suspicion that is just what you want and are about to do here in this place when conditions are ripe.

In fact, as I look back on the last little while there is a growing sense that you have been at work all along.  You have been weeding and nurturing in ways that I don't always notice or understand.  Some of your work has been inside of me. Some of what you are doing is in tilling the soil and making sure that the seed planted has all that it needs to grow.  That is the movement of the Spirit...either by moving me, or moving the mountain.

You are the one who said to your prophet...
Ezekiel 37
Dry bones, listen to what the LORD is saying to you, 5"I, the LORD God, will put breath in you, and once again you will live.6I will wrap you with muscles and skin and breathe life into you. Then you will know that I am the LORD."

Sometimes I am the dry bones that you are speaking to Lord...forgive me for my lack of faith that you can do it one more time within call these dry bones to life.  Submission and openness to the nudge of grace is what you have put in my heart so I will wait for you to work in power.

Just like those crowds who were running after you beside the sea of Galilee I am running after you. Work in  heart, mind, soul, and body create the conditions where your Spirit can move in power to the glory of the Father. Do whatever it takes...nothing else is worth it.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1795). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

Notes to the Lord: Glory And Need Meet

Mark 3

[3.1-3] Then he went back in the meeting place where he found a man with a crippled hand. The Pharisees had their eyes on Jesus to see if he would heal him, hoping to catch him in a Sabbath infraction. He said to the man with the crippled hand, “Stand here where we can see you.”

Lord Jesus--This man wasn't perfect and yet he was with God's people on Sabbath.  There were those who thought that he must have sinned or possibly even his parent to be born crippled. So he came to synagogue but he would sit in the corners out of sight.  What did he get from that room full of judgmental people?  He heard your word and ultimately found you there on this Sabbath day.

For the religious elite, this man was not an individual with a need.  He was a pawn to be used against this new rabbi who would not toe the party line about Sabbath observance. His pain, his life and his spiritual struggle was not something that interested them.  To you Lord Jesus, this man was an individual with hopes, and dreams that a hand that was almost useless did not help.  This man in the shadows of synagogue was a person in whom the glory of God could be revealed.  I wonder if a part of the reason for his need was to meet you that day?

 [3.4] Then he spoke to the people: “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?” No one said a word.

Lord Jesus--These are the same kind of questions that get asked every Lord's day to this day.  How do we use this day that you have given us?  From your vantage point helping people is always something that is the right thing to do.

[3.5-6] He looked them in the eye, one after another, angry now, furious at their hard-nosed religion. He said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” He held it out—it was as good as new! The Pharisees got out as fast as they could, sputtering about how they would join forces with Herod’s followers and ruin him.

Lord Jesus--By your example everything is trumped by need.  The need of this person for healing was more important than your personal safety or for that matter being politically correct in the eyes of the religious elite.  Hope and the work of the Spirit of God in this man's life was more important than rules about Sabbath observance.

Where are the places I am missing this lesson Lord Jesus?  Where do I need to allow for the glory of God to break through on a normal day and meet the needs of a person who has an appointment with the Lord Of Glory?  When will I come to the place where needs are seen as opportunities to see you in you were at synagogue that Sabbath?

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (pp. 1794-1795). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Notes to the Lord:New Light On Your Day

 Mark 2

[2.23-24] One Sabbath day he was walking through a field of ripe grain. As his disciples made a path, they pulled off heads of grain. The Pharisees told on them to Jesus: “Look, your disciples are breaking Sabbath rules!” [2.25-28] Jesus said, “Really? Haven’t you ever read what David did when he was hungry, along with those who were with him? How he entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, with the Chief Priest Abiathar right there watching—holy bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat—and handed it out to his companions?” Then Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath. He’s in charge!”

Lord Jesus--You brought new light to old ways of looking at the law and grace.  A new way of looking at the day that had been set aside for worship and praise.  Sabbath had become such a pain by the time you came here.  Since you came we have succeed in making it a pain yet some of the same ways that you ended up confronting.Why it is that something that was meant to be a blessing can so quickly become a place where we bring hurt and damage.The pattern keeps repeating.

This light house was built to tell ships where the rocks were and to keep them safe.  The Sabbath was meant to help us keep our focus on the things that really matter...worship, praise, hope and you.  How do we get it so twisted at times?  Confrontation was a part of your ministry.You confronted the darkness that had over taken the day that you had given to mankind in the first place.  Confrontation is the only thing that darkness respects. Forgive me for the times when you confront the darkness inside of me and I run away and hide. Shining the light into the dark places of my heart and life are signs of your great and enduring love.

I like the fact that at Living Springs during fellowship we take the time together to package the bread that goes to be given out to those in need.  It is a good statement of what Sabbath is meant for.  It is a day when good should be done.  Every Lord's Day when I am a part of that group, I remember the battles that you fought so that the sick could be healed, the withered restored to use and the lame allowed to walk again.  I know that I am just packaging bread, is the Lord's work on the Lord's day. It reminds me of new light that you brought to a day set aside since creation for worship and rest.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1794). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Quotes about Social Action

“Is it not the great end of religion, and, in particular, the glory of Christianity, to extinguish the malignant passions; to curb the violence, to control the appetites, and to smooth the asperities of man; to make us compassionate and kind, and forgiving one to another; to make us good husbands, good fathers, good friends; and to render us active and useful in the discharge of the relative social and civil duties? ”
― William Wilberforce