Tag Archives: Depth

“From a Distance”

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance….
Hebrews 11:13 (NIV)

Yesterday morning a woman came up to me amidst our local gathering of Jesus’ followers and shared with me some things that God has been teaching her of late. These things dove-tailed with some of the very insights God has been revealing to me in my contemplation.

I just wonder why it’s taken me 35 years to see these things,” I laughed, shaking my  head.

Because we didn’t need to see them until now,” she answered matter-of-factly. “They are for this time and place.”

I find it equally fascinating that I can read God’s Message over and over and over again, but there are certain things which leap off the page as if I’ve never seen them before. That’s what happened as I read this morning’s chapter, which is a very famous chapter about faith. The author of this letter to  early Hebrew followers of Jesus is a Hall of Fame walk through of the ancient heroes of faith. From Cain and Abel through Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho (I love that Rahab was included in the list), the writer shows how each of these ancients embraced faith.

What I had never seen clearly until this morning was that twice the author acknowledges that in many cases these heroes of faith did not receive what was promised during their earthly journey. First it’s mentioned (vs. 13) that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob believed that their tribes would become a great nation and have their own “promised land” to call home. The “promised land” was never established during their lifetimes. They lived in pursuit of a promise that they would not realize in their lifetimes.

At the very end of the chapter, the writer reiterates [emphasis added]:

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

I have learned in my own journey, particularly as Wendy and I have walked through the long valley of infertility, that there is a certain depth of faith that one only realizes when what is promised is not received (or not received as expected) in this lifetime. I have never understood why God answers the prayers of some and not others. I don’t know why some are healed and some are not. I don’t know why some get pregnant and we did not.

There are answers out there. My spirit sees them “from a distance” as the author of Hebrews wrote.

I have faith in that.

Called Still Deeper

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

I have a confession to make this morning. I’ve been aggravated recently with a particular relational scar. It’s a past injury. Call it near ancient history. I forgave. We moved on and our paths led different places in life. It’s easy to forget past injuries when you don’t really have to continue in relationship with the person you’ve forgiven. Now,  years later I look to the horizon and our paths appear to once again be converging.

My scar itches.

I was struck this morning by Peter’s command, not just to love but to love deeply. And the reason for the call to this deep love is forgiveness. Forgiveness is a tough one, and Jesus certainly addressed it head on. Peter knew this only too well, because it was his question that prompted Jesus to address the matter:

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

“The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

“The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’

“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

“The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

Ironic that Peter would ask about forgiveness when it would be he who three times denied that he even knew Jesus, who heard the rooster crow, who looked into the eyes of his Lord at that very moment and experienced the need of seventy-times-seven forgiveness. Peter knows all about deep love and forgiveness.

Some other words of Jesus come to mind this morning as I ponder:

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

I sit in the quiet this morning with my itchy scar, and I’m reminded that Jesus command to love others was never just about loving those who are easy for me to love and those with whom I don’t have to be in relationship. Jesus calls me to follow deeper on the path of love. To follow Jesus is to push into the deep waters of Love that He waded into when He forgave my heaping helpings of weakness, foolishness, and failings. That was the whole point of His parable of the indebted servant. I have been forgiven for so much, how can I not forgive another for so much less even if I have to keep forgiving in exponential measure.

I’m seeing myself in Jesus parable this morning. If my love is not deep enough to salve itchy old relational scars of an already forgiven issue in the past then it is, plain and simple, not deep enough.

Today, I’m pushing deeper.

Lover Lessons

…love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22b (NIV)

As I press on in this life journey I have actively attempted to be a continually better lover. Jesus said that all of God’s law can be summed up in two commands:

  1. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
  2. Love others as you love yourself.

And, so, I have endeavored to be a better lover. I realize, as I meditate on it this morning, that I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’m pondering some of the things I’ve observed about love…

  • If I am unwilling or unable to accept that I am lovable and receive deeply the love, grace, and forgiveness of God and others, then I will be handicapped in my capacity for love and my ability to give it away.
  • To be an increasingly better lover I must embrace that it is part of my journey in this life and in this life I will never arrive at an acceptable destination. The deeper I grow in love the more fully I appreciate how utterly shallow my love is and how strong is the call to grow still deeper.
  • I can’t wait for others to become lovable in my estimation before I love them. Not only is this judgmental and unloving, but others never arrive at an acceptable estimable level. I have to start with loving others without qualification and as I grow in my love-giving I receive the priceless experience of understanding how absolutely lovable they are.
  • Love is sometimes soft and warm. Other times love is hard and even cold. Love can even be painful at times in both the giving and receiving. Wisdom and discernment develop as I mature as a lover for they are increasingly required to grow still deeper in love.
  • I can be loving in all that I do with all whom I encounter, but mature depths of love are generally only reached through increasingly intimate depths of relationship over time. That level of mature, intimate love can only be reached with a small number of relationships, but those few mature relationships increase my capacity and ability to love far more people at a deeper levels.
  • In rare cases, the most loving thing I can do is walk away.

In this morning’s chapter, Peter urges not only that we love, but that we love deeply and from the heart.

I’m still working on it (and I always will be).

The Depth’s in the Details

Rembrandt - David and Uriah - WGA19124
Rembrandt – David and Uriah – WGA19124 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…and Uriah the Hittite.
2 Samuel 23:39 (NIV)

This past weekend was our annual time at the lake with our friends Kevin and Becky. We’ve been walking the journey together for many years and our time together at the lake is always, for us, one of the pinnacles of the summer season. When Kev and Beck are here, the conversation just seems to flow non-stop from one subject to another from early morning until deep into the night’s watch.

With all of the conversation we’ve enjoyed through all of the years, you’d think we would run out of things to talk about. The truth of the matter is that the conversation simply gets deeper, more transparent, and more intimate. Late on Saturday evening, as we sat on the deck under the light of the tiki torches, the four of were led into what I sensed was a God ordained conversation into deeply personal matters. It was a subject we’d touched on multiple times before, but on this evening we dove into details that led to what may very well be a powerfully transformational moment.

I’ve found a parallel experience in reading God’s Message day after day through the years. I can read each day, and even have read through the entirety multiple times, and I keep coming back for more. You’d think it would get old. You’d wonder why I keep reading through it. And yet, it’s a lot like conversation with Kev and Beck: It just gets deeper, more transparent, and more intimate. And sometimes you hit upon a detail that you’ve read before, but it never really registered.

So it was today that I was reading through what seems to most readers a boring list of strange, ancient names thrown into the appendices of David’s biography. This particular list was a list of men who were David’s elite warriors. These warriors were David’s special ops, his SEALs, his Rangers, and his Green Berets. They were the cream of the warrior crop and their exploits were legendary in their day. And, as I’m reading through the list thanking God that most of these names were lost to antiquity, I land upon the final name in the list: Uriah the Hittite.

Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba.
Uriah the Hittite, the man David tried to deceive to cover up his adultery.
Uriah the Hittite, whom David conspired to murder to avoid public shame.
Uriah the Hittite, whose own general betrayed him on the kings orders.

When I read through the story of David and Bathsheba, Uriah has always been a bit of a supporting cast member. You don’t give him a lot of thought. Somehow, the realization that Uriah was part of David’s “Mighty Men,” makes David’s conspiracy all the more damnable. Uriah was not a schmuck. He was well known to David. They’d fought together. Uriah had risked his life for David. He was one of the best. And David was willing to consider his own man as expendable, collateral damage in his cover-up.

Sometimes the real story is in the details. Even as human beings sharing life together, what makes our community and conversation transformational is in the depth and detail of our sharing. Today, I’m thinking about people who appear to plod through life’s journey on broad super highways of bland generalities and surface conversations, zipping by on cruise control but never moving closer to real relationships and transformational conversations. Today, I’m thankful for our good companions on this sojourn who navigate with us the rustic and rutty back roads of soul. It is difficult and slow-going, for sure, but ultimately I’ve found that it leads to places of increasing depth, meaning and intimacy that many, tragically, may never see.

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Chapter-a-Day Colossians 2

 

Yellow Rose.
Yellow Rose. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7 (NLT)

When we moved into our house about seven years ago, I discovered a meager little yellow rose bush growing behind the garage. You couldn’t see it from the patio and you only noticed it if you were looking for it. The back of the deteriorating garage is a bit of an inhospitable place. It’s a place where junk gets tossed amidst the remnants of old paint peelings and where the wind and weeds tend to collect blowing garbage.

I paid little attention to the humble yellow rose bush. I did nothing to tend it. Yet, every summer as I mowed around the back of the garage I would see beautiful pale yellow roses touched with pink blooming from the little bush. I’d snip them and bring them in the house for my Love.

Last summer I decided to plant a few rose bushes in our main garden bed behind the house, which is a bit of a joke because I have no agricultural acumen whatsoever. Nevertheless, I planted three rose bushes and decided I would transplant the meager yellow rose bush from behind the garage to join them. I grabbed my shovel and went to work to uncover the root structure of the little bush.

What I discovered as I dug deeper and deeper was a massive, thick system of roots that descended down into the soil deeper than I could easily unearth. I began to realize why this little plant continued to bloom despite the difficult environment and lack of tending. After a lot of digging I realized I was not going to easily get to the bottom of the roots. I finally decided to cut the roots as deep as I could. That was no easy task. The roots were strong and did not yeild easily to my blade. The rose bush did not like the move and struggled through last summer, but it is already showing signs of life again this spring. 

What a great word picture that little rose bush gave me in conjunction with the encouragement in today’s chapter to “let your roots grow down deep into [Jesus].” I’m asking myself, “If people dig around my life, what will they find? Are the roots of my life growing strong, thick, and deep into the source of Creation, who is Christ? Will my life continue to bear fruit despite the antagonistic surface conditions that I experience through the seasons of my everyday life?

Today, I’m thinking about where the spiritual roots of my life go. I’m determined once more to dig a little deeper.

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Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 16

But the old bronze Altar that signaled the presence of God he displaced from its central place and pushed it off to the side of his new altar.2 Kings 16:14 (MSG)

We live in the culture of the "new and improved." We don't build things to last. We build things to be disposed and replaced with the "new and improved." My grandparents had the same television for twenty years. The "new and improved" HD television I bought seven years ago was out of date in less than five. Before we even have a chance to get used to our iPod or cell phone, there is a new "generation" to displace it. Even the government gives people [borrowed] cash for clunkers so that we will dispose of the old car and buy the new.

Certainly, there is nothing inherently wrong with new things. Even Jesus said he came to make all things new. I simply wonder how much of our dispose and displace culture creeps into the living out of my faith. The things of God are ancient. The things of God are eternal. They don't rust and wear out. And yet, I'm conditioned by my culture to distrust, displace and dispose of the old. I'm conditioned to yearn for something new and improved and trust that it is better, stronger, faster, quicker, more efficient, and more enviromentally friendly.

How easy is it for me to feel that faith of my fathers is old and outdated when I haven't even scratched the surface of its depth and truth?

I don't want to displace God from the central place in my life. I don't want to push Him off to the side. Instead of falling into the unconscious trap of dismissing the ancient things of God simply because they seem old, I prefer to spend my early morning hours digging in and plumbing their depths. Interestingly enough, I find that they are faithfully "new every morning."