Palm Sunday Musing: Check those expectations

Today is Palm Sunday. It is interesting to think how such a day might play out in this social media age. Tweets with hash tags of #hosanna, #messiahishere, and #downwithRome might be the trending topics. This was a day that was ripe with expectation that soon crashed. People were excited as the felt a great change would soon come. Well, a great change did soon come, just not what was expected. They expected Jesus to come and make a world to their liking, away from the tyranny of the Roman Empire, a world where folks could be content and everything would go swell. God’s way and plan was not what people expected or wanted. This is still true today. There are a lot of post and focus on the varied elements of the kingdom of this world. There is writhing of the hands and gnashing of teeth over decisions of the government that invade the comfort of how we want the world to be. The focus is too much on what we would like rather than touching the hurting, the lost, the dying in this world. We fail to reach out to others with love and offer freedom as we go about finding comfort in our own lives. We praise God for what He can or does do for us. Sometimes, we get angry over things God does not do to make things go our own way. We want what we want and God is good when he complies and when he doesn’t well that is harder to grasp. So, take time today to reflect on your expectations of God. Do you simply shout Hosanna over how you think He might do you good, or are you praising God for His love and making a way for you that may be different then your own expectations. Are you truly willing to submit to the King of Kings or only willing to do so when things line up nicely?

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Post-Christmas Musing: The Essentials of The Way-Faith, Hope & Love

My mind has been going back and forth over what to write in relation to the Christmas Holiday this year.  The celebration has come and gone.  Now I recognize that the Christmas season is definitely a mix. By tradition and works of Church we celebrate the Incarnation alongside the celebrations of the world.  Boundaries get blurred, things get mixed, and perspective can shift from God’s Holy work to that which is of self and our own desires.  In fact at times, the season can be about getting what we want. The reality is that the focus should be to grow more and more in alignment with walking in what God wants, living in surrender.

As previously stated, this Christmas season has been a strange one for me and my family. There is an ongoing mix of grief and hope.  My sister-in-law suffered the loss of her mother in the past year.  My step-mother is quickly slipping away while hope remains that God will bring restoration of her health.   My mother continues to cope with her loss of vision, which continues to fade. My wife hopes to receive word on Monday of being promoted to a Service Manager position at her employer but prepared for the potential disappointment. And for me, there is my ongoing care and love for all of the above as well as thoughts, plans, dreams to transition to a functioning private practice.  In all these circumstances God is bringing the three essential elements of the Way to mind: Faith, Hope, and Love. 

It is worth noting that these essential elements are NOT about having desires met. Rather, it is about growing in each aspect through God-centered surrender.  It is always all about God, yet we can easily make it all about self. In each of the essential elements there is a risk, much like this season, can be a mix. There can be self-focused or Christ-focused faith, hope, and love. The key difference is where is the attention drawn, the actions or acts or benefit to self or the ongoing pointing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Now that being said, let us examine each element of The Way a little closer. 

Faith: It is a word quickly spoken and easy misused.  There are many who make proclamations that faith is some self-actuated behavior that if the right words or thoughts are engage in, then what want will happen.  However, such thoughts are more about self-assurance and gratification then about growing in dependence on God.  Rather, Godly faith is faith that remains when all seems darkest. Godly faith is such that  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:” Job 13:15a (KJV).  Faith is keeping focus on God and His ways knowing that “He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23b (ESV). Faith is always keeping focus on what God has laid forth at all costs and without any visible evidence. Recently on December 21st there was a solar eclipse on the longest night of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere.) Now we know that the darkness will fade and morning comes but if we did not know that fact when the darkness comes and light is blocked, there would be much fear.  The struggle here is always to be focused on what God says even when things look worst, or things are very difficult.  Walking in faith is having full assurance in God, that no matter what the appearance, He will remain faithful.  And His faithfulness are not about the appearance in certain results or turning things to our desires in our time or fashion. Rather, it is always about His way, His time, and His actions that bring glory to Him. 

Hope: We all have hopes and dreams. We have desires. However, these hopes, dreams and desires can be for much apart from God and His will.  The true hope is when our hope is focused on the things of God.  Such hope is not easily swayed by the vagaries of life. Rather, such hope rests on the knowledge and surety of who God is.  Yet, we are always torn between having the hope  “built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” and hope that all will fall in line with our desires while at the same time knowing we don’t always get what we want. Yet, when there is true hope, hope that is founded on Jesus blood and righteousness, hope that is based on the surety of God and his promises and plans, the hope always is right.  For God and his hope and faithfulness are not based on what is visible, what is seen as many have gone to their graves without seeing the fullness of God’s promise yet received and walked in it daily.  There is a great could of witnesses. So our hope, when in God never disappointments even if things to not appear to match how we think it will work out. As God does things His way which more often than not does not match what is expected, for what He does is far greater than any of our expectations for His ways are perfect.  So, the key is to have more and more our desires and our hopes to match what God is doing which is always about untangling the twists that come from a sinful world and being shaped and restored back to what God intends.  Ultimately, the true hope is to be fully restored and in line with God.  And, true hope is resting in knowing that God meet our desires and needs in his way. He knows us intimately so our hope can be sure that God will give from His abundance, in accordance with His will, as we walk His path.  And His ultimate gift, the ultimate hope, the ultimate gift is that which endures: His love.  In His love is all, and in His love is life everlasting. So whatever we hope for, whatever we want, whatever we desire the point of it all in God’s time and frame is drawing us closer to Him. For with God, all things are possible and He moves us ever toward that which is beneficial and draws us in alignment with Him.  And it is resting in the hope based on Him that can carry us through the dark times, knowing that God keeps His promises in His way and that His ways are not our ways.  True hope is hope in who God is and that regardless of circumstances for good or bad, God has the best in mind.

Love: Ultimately, we all long for pure love. We want to be valued, be safe, and secure. We want to know we matter.  Yet, in this life we can often focus on our lack of being loved. Fact is none of us live up to God’s standard of loving, and we all want to be loved as God loves us.  We all have hurts and pains that get us twisted up and in turn we act in ways that hurt others, in turn twisting them up. We lack being loved wholly, leaving us not only broken but resistant even to true love, for the pain results in fear.  So we grasp on to what we know. God’s love is beyond that which he grasp. God’s love is greater than the “something other than” love to which we cling.   God’s love always brings us to restoration and wholeness.  God’s love never changes.  God’s love endures forever. Yet, we often fail to grasp God’s love, twisted by the varied bits of harm that comes, concluding that love falters, but not grasping true love.  We exchange our limited love for limited love; self for self.  Yet, the love of God is shown in love for others.  The love of God is shown in giving up that which is adored and valued for the benefit of others.  True love comes with great cost.   True love is found in surrender to the point of surrendering our very lives.  Living in love is working to the good of others and pointing them to the truth, so the sins of self and others caused wounds and twists and distortions, can be made right.    Now it is important to note, that while our love is faulty and frail, every action we take that reflects God’s love results in lasting reverberations that have long lasting impact. However, that impact has it limits as our love in not ever enduring, but it lasts far beyond our scope or vision.  He action of moving beyond self, of considering others better than self points to the one True way which is Jesus.  He that set aside his divinity, became a servant and suffered in every way yet remained untwisted and whole, and set aside His life so that all who come may live.  Oh, what marvelous love that is beyond our perception in every way for we only really know limited, self-focused love that falters.  We can taste God’s love, know that it is good but our experienced is distorted and partial for God’s love is far greater than comprehension. 

Now taking these thoughts back to reality, back to life on this earth as currently know it.  Again pointing to surrender as watch those I love hope, struggle, heal, slip away, suffer, grow, and live whatever God has come their way.  There is one sure foundation in all, that no matter what happens and however what happens is perceived, that God is working to draw me into ever deeper understanding of Him and growing my ability to walk in true faith, hope, and love. And this is the essence of “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13 (ESV) which is that God the enables what we are unable, so in all these circumstance the possibilities and direction belong to God and God alone.  Whether blessing or sorrow; mourning or dancing, it is all in His hands and for His will for no matter what, He is faithful and His love endures forever, blessed be His name. All Glory to the King of Kings! Hallelujah! Amen

News Commentary: Fort Hood shooting- Things done in the name of god.

Well the news is filled with stories of the tragic shooting on 11/5/2009 at Fort Hood in Texas.  The current numbers stand at 13 dead and 30 injured. This tragedy has capture the attention of many in this country.  It is a sad, sad story.

The internet is filled with descriptions of the alleged shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan.  He was reported to be calm and methodical, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (god is great) before engaging in his shooting spree.  The Washington Post reported he had made several attempts to be discharged from the army and avoid being sent to Afghanistan. He did not support the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan. He also was reported to be of the Muslim faith.  The article also reported he had been investigated for a while based on online comparisons of Islamic suicide bombers and kamikaze pilots. The article printed this quote:  “To say that this soldier committed suicide is inappropriate,” the posting read. “It’s more appropriate to say he is a brave hero that sacrificed his life for a more noble cause.”  

For me this tragic shooting  brings a couple thoughts to mind. The first is the sadness over what people do in the name of god while serving their own agenda.  Clearly Major Hasan had significant personal issues. He appears to have turned to principles in Islam as a defense for the rightness of his actions.  Such actions certainly are not something the one true God would desire. However, many times even those of us who follow the one true God, do things in His name that are not consistent with what God desires.  We often substitute our thoughts for God’s thoughts, and our desires for God’s desires. 

The sad thing is that for those that do not follow the one true God and miss the truth of the narrow path, the end result one way or another can lead to destruction.  Major Hasan made choices related to his desires and fueled by his concept of god, based on Muslim theology.  He felt a need to destroy to serve god.  It is a sad and tragic but happens all to frequently.

Now, an important thing to note is such a tragedy will be used to push the false peace of “tolerance.” The argument may be made if Major Hasen was never harassed for his Muslim faith, this incident would never have happened. Such incidents will serve to give folks impetus to encourage tolerance laws that would serve to restrict those who take an exclusive view related to truth and relationship with the one, true God.  Yet, such laws are a matter of time, if not this shooting by Major Hasen, it would be some other incident. 

What happens politically will happen sooner or later, it is nothing to fear. Rather, those of us who follow the one true God, need to find ways to reach out to those around us lost in love and examine whether we input our own agenda and be following our agenda in God’s name.

In closing this commentary, I want to encourage people to pray for the victims and victim’s families.  The shooting is tragic. Yet, find a way to reach out in love to others, and reflect the love of the One True God.  I also want to encourage people to examine their relationship with God.  Do you have the true peace, that which comes from surrender to the One True God? If not, today is the day to reconsider, as none of us can know when we may be at the receiving end of someone making destructive choices.

Independence Day Musings: Choice of two freedoms: Self-determination versus Self Surrender

Celebrate your In Dependence

Celebrate In Dependence

Today is July 4th. It is the day those of us who are citizens of the United States celebrate the creation of the country. It is the day which the Declaration of Independence was signed. The founding fathers sough to establish a government that represented the will of the people and valued the freedom of self-determination. The country known as the United States grew and thrived as each individual was free to set their course and pursue goals. The freedoms provided in this country have allowed the country to flourish. Yet the freedoms provided in this country are freedoms built on a false foundation.

The freedoms in the United States really are centered on the freedom of self. We can do what we choose to do without excessive restriction. Government is viewed as a contract and the laws we submit to we agree to abide by and if don’t like the laws, we vote in new representatives to negotiate changes to the laws. It is ultimately about each of us doing as we wish so that it does not interfere with others. In this country everyone is free to be independent to the point where don’t interfere with others. In other words we are free do what we want. Now many will argue that the course of freedom in the country was established on Biblical concepts. Yet, if you examine the concept further the freedom of independence is not really the Biblical concept of freedom.

Rather, the Biblical concept of freedom is that of in dependence. We are only free when we surrender self to Jesus. The Bible states in Matthew 10:39 (ESV)
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
” This involves a surrender of self, a giving up of our independence for dependence on Jesus. Only in such surrender is their true freedom. According to Jesus as recorded in John 8:32 (ESV) “and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” and again in John 8:36 (ESV) “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” True freedom is not the independence of self and the right of self-determination. Rather, true freedom is surrender of self. It is turning from self to the King of Kings and living in daily dependence upon him.

It is not an easy choice. We readily accept and value our independence. We seek to grow the kingdom of self. We fall into the trap easily. We go about our lives, filling it with our wants, needs, and desires. Building our families, careers, and lives to that of our liking. We seek to avoid and diminish the suffering. Find ways to entertain self. We build quite a kingdom around us in our independence.

Living in surrender and dependence is quite difficult. We prefer to live our lives accordance to self. We don’t want to be told what to do and how to live our lives, for generally we feel we can manage on our own, until something happens. We turn to God often to meet our own agendas rather than listen and follow what God leads. A life of total surrender is difficult. Our own wants, desires, and agenda easily come to the forefront. Yet, every step of self leads to less true freedom, for all that is of self leads to destruction. We are blinded by our own agendas, desires, knowledge, and plans. We easily substitute what we want for what God wants. We often think that God does not have our best interests at heart. Even if God has promised to grant our desire, we easily lose focus and lose faith. The Bible is filled with people putting their own way of trying to bring about God’s will. Each such step resulted in consequences that still impact us today.

So today, on this day of celebrating Independence take time to examine yourself. Are you walking steps self-directed or God-directed? How is self getting in the way? Have you surrendered your life to Jesus so that you are truly free? Are you willing to pursue a life of being In Dependence rather than independent? Would you rather be free to what you want, do what is right in your own eyes or are you willing to give up self and depend on God and live in accordance with His will? The bible is clear. If you seek to hold onto that which is self, you will be lost. If you surrender self, you gain. The choice is there for each of us, every day, every moment; walk the path of self-determination or self-surrender.

Dependence on Jesus breaks the chain of slavery to self.

Dependence on Jesus breaks the chain of slavery to self.

Palm Sunday Musings: Examining Expectations

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. It is the day that commemorates when Jesus road into Jerusalem on an un-ridden colt. People placed their coats and palm fronds in front of the coat as he entered Jerusalem proclaiming “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Many of these same people, later in the week to come would scream “Crucify Him!” So the question is what changed from shouts asking for salvation to shouts demanding death. The answer comes in that Jesus did not meet their request in accordance with expectations. The people were looking for Jesus to come and remove their political suffering and oppression at the hands of the Roman Empire. They were looking for immediate results. Jesus did not meet those expectations. The failed expectations led to increased anger and hostility. Jesus death was called for because while he came to save, he did not come as a political savior, rather he came as a servant and sacrifice. Today, we still have many faulty expectations as to how God will work in our lives. We want God to meet us on our terms and in our way. If we have pain, we want immediate relief. We want God to give us advantages at the expense of others. We in general often approach God from our perspective and do not take time to consider what God’s perspective may be. Personally, there have been times of great anger toward God, because God allowed or didn’t intervene in what were harmful choices by others. Others have gotten angry at God for allowing a young person to die. Basically, what we ask of God and what we expect revolves around what we consider to be good for us. We can even make our own plans and ideas and then give them to God and ask God to bless them. It is our own wants, desires, and expectations that often distort our view of how God is operating in our life and in the world. So ultimately, each of us, while crying for God’s salvation, can easily turn and shout for his death, if God fails to meet our expectation. Each of us needs to engage in self-examination and ask God to reveal areas in our life we are holding to faulty expectations based on our own wants and desires. We need God to bring our will, thoughts, and heart toward His perspective rather than our own. We need to daily walk in trust and faith, even when times are most difficult. The reason being is ultimately God is in control and works all things together for His glory which is always good, even if sometimes very painful.

If you consider this line of thought even further, it is failed expectations and thoughts about relief from assorted types of suffering that pose a barrier to people accepting God’s gift of salvation.  The focus is often on why there is not immediate suffering relief and that the greatest evil is the ongoing prevalence of suffering. The question is that of “what does God allow pain and suffering and still be loving?”   It was such a mindset that led folks from cries of Hosanna to cries of crucify Him. In other words we attempt to define what God should do by our own concepts of justice, goodness, peace, and love.  All of our own concepts are faulty and what God has in mind and in store is far greater.  All that is needed is turning the self over to God and letting God truly save us in accordance with His will and His plan, not ours.

News Commentary: Hilton Sex Scandal

Today the Star Tribune posted another article regarding sexual impropriety and scandal. This time it involves Hilton Executives who reportedly had an orgy in a Hilton banquet room that ultimately led to two employees leaving or being terminated from employment. Unlike the recent Metrodome incident, this incident involves people in positions of corporate power engaging in recreational sex but also using their power to dismiss those that had a problem with the event or refused to go along with the event.  The event would be considered similar to the infamous Vikings “Love Boat” the difference being the location.  This is a another example of folks who ultimately have deep emptiness turning to sexuality and substances to satisfy themselves with momentary pleasure.  It also displays what can happen when positions of power give individuals perhaps a sense of entitlement and invulnerability. 

       In terms of entitlement, it seems that when people attain levels of power it is often followed by several indulgences that often accompany the increase in power.  The more money and more you have, you have more access to whatever you want.  At some point, individuals can reach a point where they believe they have the right to do whatever they want.  In terms of this Hilton executive scandal, it can be viewed as they run the Hotel, they can do what they want within the privacy of their Hotel. If they want to use one of their banquet rooms for a party that devolves into a drunken orgy, they have that right.  Ultimately it becomes a viewpoint that these people in power view the power as giving them the right to do whatever they want and whatever anyone else thinks is irrelevant because they have the power and authority.  This kind of mindset can be seen here or anywhere any type of scandal rises to the surface.

      These people in power can also exhibit a sense of invulnerability.  It is a matter not only that they can do what they want, but that no matter what they do they can overcome any consequences.  Some people reach a level of influence, money, and power that they reach a point where there is no fear of consequences.  Perhaps years have gone by doing the exact same thing and no one complained or had any problems.  The longer a person goes without facing consequences or only receiving minimal consequences, the concern over consequences diminish.  However, there is a Biblical principle based on Numbers 32:23 that your sins will find you out.  Ultimately, no one is invulnerable to consequences.   Each of us sooner or later will face consequences to what we do. 

       And in reality, it is not just people in power who exhibit tendencies toward entitlement and invulnerability. Each of us in our own self focus exhibit both.  Anything that happens or reported we all have the capacity to do.   We all have selfish pursuits and things we feel we have a right to have and often do things thinking that we won’t face consequences.  Often times we do not, but ultimately there comes a time when the consequences occur.  If not in this life, then certainly in what comes after death.

      There is only one answer that gets us away from self centered pursuit.  There is only one way for ultimate freedom from the eternal consequences of our selfishness.  The answer is the Gospel. The answer is accepting Jesus sacrifice as taking on the consequences of our own selfish actions.  Only in Jesus is there freedom and true peace.  Yet, in this day and age not only is there a lack of regard for the temporary consequences of this life, but no consideration for the eternal.   Where are you today?  Are you caught up in your own pleasures and distractions.  Are you any different then the people being reported on in the article?  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  Please consider your eternal position and let Jesus pay the price for you.  Turn from your selfish pursuits and turn to Jesus.  It is worth it.