Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Shirt off your back

Here is a weird thought I had one day while building cat houses... for people who think life is about reincarnation and that what we do in this life affects what we are in the next life, does deforestation explain population growth? I mean, if you did something to be brought back as a tree in the rain forest, (by the way what do you have to do to be brought back as a tree?) and then someone comes along and prematurely cuts you down before the 200 years you were supposed to be a tree, do you then get to come back as a person as a reward for not being a tree long enough? I'm not good with math but does the rise in human population exactly equal the number of trees we've cut down? Probably not, I was just wondering. Sorry, sometimes your mind wanders when you're building cat houses all day.
Anyway, I do not believe in reincarnation and karma, but I do believe in the resurrection of Jesus. And that he is going to raise us one day to be with God in Heaven. And that what we do and say in this life matters. Our choices, our words and our actions all matter. They affect the outcome of our life and the lives of those around us.
So if you choose to follow Jesus, it means your life is going to change. If it doesn't, well, you're not really following Him. If you choose to accept what he offers, all the other choices you make are guided by His spirit that lives in you and for you. Now maybe that sounds a little airy fairy to you, but this is what it looks like practically:
You have more than you need already but you want a new shirt. Someone you know has less than they need and they don't have a shirt. You realize you have 17 shirts in your closet so you buy that person a shirt instead, and then maybe you give him your coat as well because you also have too many coats.
My friend Dave goes on a mission trip to Dominican to work with Haitian refugees, prostitutes and homeless kids. He leaves in the morning fully clothed and comes back only wearing shorts almost every day he is there. He is literally giving the shirt off his back to someone in need. People use that catchy little phrase a lot. "Oh he's so generous he'd give you the shirt off his back." Dave is the only person I have ever met who actually does that. I have never done that, I have loaned someone the jacket I was wearing. I actually do give clothes away, but off my back? I'm too embarrassed to walk around without a shirt most of the time.
God is working on me though, he making me more humble, he is making me see the need around me, he is making me move outward instead of always looking inward.
That is how he is changing me, how is he changing you?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Everything hinges on the action taken by Jesus to go to the cross. All the miracles would only be magic tricks without the cross. All the people Jesus healed from sickness, all the people he raised from the dead, all the other miracles he did, all eventually past by, the people died. Without going to the cross to take our sin, those people would have been no better off in the end than they were before they met Jesus. I really want to pray for someone and see instant healing, I’d love to pray for some and see them raised from the dead for the Glory of God, but only if it leads people to see what he’s done on the cross.
All the things Jesus taught about loving your neighbor, caring for the poor, turning the other cheek, those would have just been a peaceful philosophy to live by. Lots of people do those things without ever knowing Jesus. Without the cross all our good deeds leave us in the same place we started.
I think all the things Jesus did and taught leading up to the cross were easy for him. Demons, come out of that person. Go into those pigs. Jump off a cliff. Done. Beggar, get up off your mat and walk, Done. Lazarus, you’ve been dead for four days, you probably smell, but come out. Done. Lazarus walks out, alive. Religious guy, stop being so full of yourself and feed the poor. But the Cross, that was not easy. Jesus even tries to get out of it asking the Father if there is any other way may this cup pass me by. He knew what was coming He knew the only way was the cross. So he went, for you and for me and was crucified to be a sacrifice for all our sins. Jesus for the first time ever was separated from his father. Imagine the pain. We have no idea. We start out separated and never get fully returned until Jesus takes us into the throne room to see our Heavenly Father.
My little girl stands at our kitchen door when I leave and waves goodbye, she puts her little nose on the glass and laughs and smiles. It's the cutest thing. She does it if either my wife or I leave, as long as she knows one of us is still there. A little while ago we were going out on a date night and we left her with a sitter. We thought, oh lets wave goodbye, it's so cute. She wailed, she was crushed. I think it was the first time we'd both left her when she was still awake to see us go. I wonder what was going through her little head. Fear? Pain? Forsaken? Well I'm sure she does not know those words but she knows the feelings. We could see it in her face.
The only thing Jesus hadn't yet faced just before going to the cross was separation from his Father. To this point he had nothing to reference what it would be like to not be able to call out to his father and hear a response, to feel his presence. Why would he do that? Why would he risk the unknown to rescue us?
He knows we're hopeless without that risk. I think he imagined what it was like for us to never have that connection with the Father and thought how can I let them go on like this. If this cup can pass me by... but your will not mine be done. At that moment on the Cross when he would experience what we've all been born with, separation from our creator, from our father. That was not easy. Giving up the very thing that all of us were created to experience, fellowship with God, so that he could defeat the thing that separates us.
We were sad when we got in the car, for a second we though about going back to give Isla a hug. But we got over it, I had the pasta. She got over it too. The only way we get over the separation is if we are returned to the presence of the one from whom we've been separated. When Isla got up in the morning and I went in to get her out of bed she was very very happy to see me. Makes you feel pretty good. How much more our Father must be elated when Jesus rescued back into his presence. There's a line in a Mat Kearney song that says, "nothing worth anything ever goes down easy". I'm not sure what he wrote this song about but I heard it as the conversation between Jesus and the Father before in the Garden. check it out