Going Away Sad

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. – Mark 10:21-22 Our souls crave wholeness. Within us, at the core of our desires we know there is something more. That is why a man described as having “great wealth” was found running up to Jesus, falling at his feet, and begging to know what was the “something more” he needed. Knowing what is within all of us, Jesus does tell the man what the one thing is. As you can read in the passage above, Jesus focused on the misalignment of the man’s heart. This person at the feet of Jesus had his identity and dignity rooted in his wealth. Unwilling to release his grip on his financials, the man went away sad. All of us sense there is more. This hunger expresses itself as loneliness, anxiety, exhaustion, stress, inadequacy, etc. These are the symptoms that we attempt to relieve. The attitude that this man had is within all of us. Growing as disciples requires us to develop an ever deepening awareness of what we are clinging to besides Jesus. Jesus treats us in the same way. He shines the mirror on us and says “you want _______________ more than you want me.” And you may be going away sad saying “why can’t I have both?” We can fill in that blank with almost anything: relationships, sex, money, work, raising kids, leisure, power, church...

Making Preparations

Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at a church in the Daytona Beach area. At the front of the meeting room they had the four candles of advent. Advent means “coming” and each week reflects on and builds anticipation for the one those who follow Jesus are waiting for. Together we lit the candle for the second week – the week that focuses on preparation. Christmas is the perfect season for evaluating our lives in Christ. As the world bustles along putting their hope in external things such as gifts and family and parties, we can gauge if we are hoping in anything different or not. So in this week of preparation, here are some questions to consider… For whom are you preparing? Isaiah 9:6 gives all of us a picture of the One we are preparing for… For to us a child is born,     to us a son is given,     and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called     Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Our tendency is to focus on the child being born. Baby Jesus in the manger. This is important, of course, and is the physical sign of God’s love for us and the vulnerability and humility He demonstrated in the great lengths gone to in order to come to us. But that is not where Jesus remained. This child is also a son – a term tapping into his royalty. This baby is meant to be king. The clear picture of this son is given by his throne names: Wonderful Counselor – this king is going to be a...

Hating this Life

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – John 12:25 As Jesus is preparing his disciples for his upcoming sacrifice and resurrection, he describes what a follower of his looks like. Like a grain of wheat, that must fall to the ground and die in order to bear fruit. A follower of the Christ must be willing do die to the false self in order to begin to experience the blessing of new life. We must all be willing to go through the same Paschal transformation in this life that Jesus stepped into through the cross. But within this passage, Jesus also uses a contrast between one who loves his life and one who hates his life in this world. He likens the grain of wheat that dies to one who hates his life in this world. What does it mean to hate this life? Is it a sin to enjoy a sunset? To delight in a good meal? Look forward to sexual intimacy with our spouse? Does this teaching mean we are to avoid things that are pleasurable? Must the one who follows Christ become an ascetic – abstaining from all forms of pleasure or enjoyment? Historically, this is just what some have done. Practicing asceticism, moving to the wilderness, living in isolation and in intentionally hard circumstances to avoid enjoyment. Yet, we see a lot of this in our churches too. Not that it would be called asceticism, but those whose mindset is that to experience happiness is spiritual weakness. But Judaism is filled with...

Our Forgetful Self

We have been created in the image of God. We are also to live in that image, keeping our eyes turned toward HIm for renewal and reminder of what our true identity is. But, we are forgetful creatures. Our identity leaks, and so often we are lead astray by a world that focuses on “what have you done for me lately” as proof of loyalty. As a result, our eyes look elsewhere for our sense of identity to be filled; looking to roles, results, and relationships to define who we are and why we matter. God knows about our propensity toward pride; it is not a mystery to Him. That is why in the Bible, there are repeated commands to ‘remember’. If we are going to take captive our thoughts and create a narrative of truth about who God is and who we are, we must commit to remembrance. This is an intentional discipline and requires repeated practice. In order to deny our self, we have to affirm God. Here are some suggestions to practice the discipline of remembrance: Recall what God has done. Take time to reflect. Maybe this becomes a daily occurrence of examen, noting how you noticed God working in that day. Or maybe it is a time of quiet meditation on your history. God is at work in all our lives. You are following Jesus for a reason, put yourself back in that time and remember why. On those days when your circumstances are trying to drive a wedge between you and God, remember Jesus. His life was given for you. It all starts there....

Praying for the Storm

I live in the land of hurricane season. This year we had a couple of very active weeks that saw several hurricanes pass very close by and one slow-moving storm that took a path directly up the center of the state of Florida. Watching hurricane tracking charts is very emotionally draining. A refrain that becomes common is such seasons – particularly as the storm bears down on your location – is to offer prayers and hopes that the eye of the storm will change directions and follow a new path. But, the more I thought about this line of reasoning, the more unsettled I felt. At the most basic level, I was praying that the storm would move on and hit someone else. This was not prayer that was offered in humility with Christ at its center. Such desires had me at the center. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that so many of my prayers and the prayer requests I see from others have the same misplaced center. Little thought is given to the implications for others, instead I ask God to ensure my comfort, security, and affirmation. Such requests of God are rooted in the false self. Christ in the garden faced a storm and asked for another way. But His prayer did not end there. Almost immediately He offered “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus returned to the proper center for His prayers – the Father. We hate storms. With good reason. But, good can happen in the storms of life. They can help us release our...

What about differences?

The political and social upheaval that is going on in the United States can give great insights into what each of us, as followers of Jesus, are clinging to for significance and hope. Paul wrote something to the Galatian church that applies to our context: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 The ways that the world uses to judge significance and valued are meaningless in the Kingdom that Jesus founded. So using race to justify power, entitlement, or worth is not part of the way a follower of Jesus should be living their life. Using economic status (see James 2) or nationality or education level or gender to ascribe worth, meaning, or purpose is contrary to the gospel that Jesus left us. This gospel is one of repentance and forgiveness for those in Christ. Segregation, self-justification, and unforgiveness are hallmarks of the world’s political, economic, and social systems. For, if someone from the other party has political power, that makes them an impediment to something you need and thus the enemy. Their actions are unforgiveable or have no rationalization. The same can be said with any identity based outside of Christ. Sadly, as I check twitter and facebook, more and more what I see of both left and right leaning Christians is the adoption of the narratives of the world. If you are spending more time checking for and outraged by the sliver in your brother or sister’s eye, then you likely have adopted a political or economic...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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