Tag Archives: Eternal

Greater Than Fair

“Truly I tell you,” [Jesus] continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
Luke 4:24-27 (NIV)

There are many things I don’t understand in this world. Along my life journey, I have regularly been perplexed at the seeming lack of fairness in life. Like most contemplatives, I am perplexed as to why one person experiences great fortune and another person experiences great tragedy. Even as a follower of Jesus, I have been struck at the incredible diversity in stories and spiritual paths. One person’s life journey appears to be a stroll down Easy Street while another’s is a painful slog down a muddy path riddled with potholes, switchbacks, and roadblocks.

In today’s chapter, Jesus not only acknowledges this reality but also affirms it. As we pick up the story after Jesus is baptized by John, He heads on a sojourn into the wilderness where He successfully overcomes the temptations of the Evil One. Then follows the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry and things get off to a great start. Everyone loves his teaching. He speaks with spiritual authority no one has ever heard before.

Then Jesus comes to His hometown of Nazareth. He quotes an ancient prophecy from Isaiah that proclaims the coming of the Messiah who will bring good news to the poor, make the blind see, and set prisoners free.

But not for you,” Jesus says to His long-time friends and neighbors. No miracles for you. He goes on to explain that there is this longstanding spiritual theme in the Great Story in which prophets are never honored in their hometowns. He references Elijah who could have healed any one of his homeboys but instead heals the son of a foreign widow in Phoenicia. Likewise, Jesus states, the prophet Elisha could have healed any leper in his local Jewish leper colony but instead heals a Syrian leper.

This lesson did not sit well with the hometown crowd. This wasn’t fair. So, they attempted to kill Him. It wouldn’t be the last time Jesus’ message ended with death threats rather than any kind of spiritual transformation in His audience. He doesn’t seem concerned. Perhaps for the first time in His ministry, it seems that there is something bigger at stake that Jesus is trying to get at.

What I find fascinating about this episode at the very beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry is that it so perfectly foreshadows what was going to happen at the end of it. It will be His own people who reject Him and hand Him over for execution. When this happens, Jesus will again reference the recurring theme of His people killing their own prophets throughout their storied history. Jesus also foreshadows that, after His resurrection and ascension, His “Good News” would miraculously explode across the non-Jewish, foreign Gentile population that His own people despised (which is the story told in the book of Acts).

The other reality I cannot escape in this episode is that, on a purely human level, it isn’t fair. A group of people won’t experience Jesus’ miracles. Their demon-possessed children won’t be released. There won’t be a miraculous transformation of tap water into Tempranillo to keep the wine flowing and the reception going at his Nazareth neighbor’s wedding. And, all of these things won’t happen just because Nazareth happens to be Jesus’ hometown? It isn’t fair.

In the quiet this morning I am pondering the fact that Jesus never promised fairness. I searched for it this morning just to double-check. Jesus never said that He came to bring fairness. Of course, He also wouldn’t experience fairness either. He would be unfairly accused, unfairly tried, and unfairly executed. It would seem logical to me to assume that I should not then expect fairness in my following of Jesus either. And, some will choose not to follow Jesus for this very reason. That was the reaction of Jesus’ hometown entourage. I observe people making the same choice today.

But what if fairness isn’t the point? What if my earthly journey is about something purposed which is far greater than what appears on the surface? What if there is a spiritual economy that is, in the grand scheme, actually more real than the temporal experience of my five earthly senses and my base human appetites? In my almost forty-year study of Jesus’ life and teachings, I find that Jesus’ came not to make life fair, but to exemplify love and call us to follow that example. And love isn’t fair. Love sacrifices all that it has, and is generously extravagant, and almost always receives an inequitable return on the investment. I believe that’s what Jesus came to show me, and in doing so He points me to something greater; He leads me to faith in the understanding that the eternal which I cannot touch, taste, see, smell, or hear is far greater and actually more real than any fair thing on this earth.

And so, I keep following.

Have you missed the previous chapter-a-day posts from this journey through the Gospel of Luke? Click on this image and it will take you to a quick index of the other posts!

Learning How to See

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Ephesians 1:17 (NIV)

I’m back from a self-imposed exile on social media which I took in observance of the season of Lent. While  technically that season was over on Easter Sunday, I’ve found myself slow to return. It’s been an interesting and challenging sabbatical, but more on that in the days and weeks ahead. I’m still processing.

Do you remember the “Magic Eye” art that was a trending fad for about 10 seconds back in the 1980’s. It was a generated mixture of colors that originally feels like a computer generated Jackson Pollock painting, but if you “looked at it right” a three dimensional object would suddenly become visible to you. Once you “learned how to see it” you couldn’t stop seeing the hidden three-dimensional images while others around you struggled to do so. I have fond memories of watching my mother stare forever at a magic eye image “trying to see it” while her entire family tried to teach her “how to do it” (all at the same time). She never saw it.

I’ve had a similar experience in recent weeks with the concept of the four levels that I introduced in a message a few months and and talked about in my mid-Lent podcast. It seems I can’t stop seeing it, and today’s chapter is a great example.

The opening of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a preamble focused on introducing a Level Four (eternal) perspective to everything. Paul touches on the eternal past where we were chosen to be in Christ “before the foundation of the world.” It moves to the eternal future and “times fulfillment” when Christ will “bring unity to all things.” Paul goes on to pray that the believers will have the “eyes of your heart enlightened” (like suddenly being able to see a “Magic Eye” image) in order that they might know three Level Four realities:

  • Hope to which we are called
  • Riches of His glorious inheritance in his holy people
  • His incomparably great power for us who believe.

In the quiet this morning I look back over my journey and realize that much of it has been spent focused on seeing and experiencing life through my Level One to Three lenses while Spirit has been gently trying to open the eyes of my heart to see Level Four reality in all the other levels of my journey. Like my mother with the Magic Eye image, I’ve been slow to see it, but now I’m finding myself looking at my entire journey, past, present, and future, differently.

I’m praying Paul’s prayer this morning for more of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, that I might continually know Him better. While I’m at it, I’m praying the same for you, too.

Have a great week, my friend.

 

 

Living for the Dot, or Living for the Line?

the dot on the lineSo we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NLT)

Many years ago I used an illustration while sharing the morning message in my home church. I stretched a piece of plain masking tape from the front of the church to the back of the church using a few chairs in the aisle to prop up the 75 feet or so of tape. I then spread out some pens on the floor and asked everyone to get up from their chairs, make a small dot on the tape with a pen, and write their name next to it.

I asked everyone that morning to imagine that the tape was a time line that continued on through the floor at the front of the stage as far as our eyes could see and out the back of the room to as far as our eyes could see. The tape was eternity, and our little dot on that time line was the 70, 80, or even 100 years that we will spend on this earth. The question I asked that morning was very simple: Are you living for the dot? Or, are you living for the line?

It is so easy to get wrapped up in momentary desires, circumstances, situations, troubles, and issues. But, those things are typically just insignificant blips on the radar when you consider them in light of eternity. We all need a little perspective adjustment from time to time, allowing our heart and mind to consider our immediate troubles in light of God’s Grand Scheme.

Today I’m reminding myself that my immediate troubles are a minute speck on a fleck of ink on a small dot on the masking tape timeline of eternity.

My Liege

kingdom workThe Lord is king!
    Let the earth rejoice!
    Let the farthest coastlands be glad.
Psalm 97:1 (NLT)

Over the past weekend Wendy and I discussed the changes we’ve seen in our federal government. This is not a political blog and I choose not to go on political rants. The core of Wendy’s and my discussion was the selfishness and self-centered attitude of politicians on both sides of the isle. Of politicians anywhere, really. When you have elected representatives whose top priority is to look out for their own personal interests, political power, and re-election then the system ultimately doesn’t work. You can create all sorts of rules of checks and balances, but if those who are supposed to be accountable to those checks and balances have the power to change the rules to further their own ends, then the checks and balances are all smoke and mirrors.

Back in college a friend of mine from Zimbabwe and I engaged in a long discussion about which is the best political system. He was a socialist. I defended our representative republic. After long, spirited conversation that meandered across many shared shifts in the college food service department, we both concluded that no system of government works when you have sinful, selfish, corrupt individuals in positions of political power.  And, since we both were Jesus followers and believed that everyone is ultimately sinful and power corrupts, we concluded that no form of human government is perfect because human beings are not perfect.

I thought of these things when I read the opening lyric to Psalm 97 this morning. The people of Israel tried to create an earthly theocracy. In ancient times they saw God as their king and everyone submitted to God, the Levitical priests, a loose system of judges, and the law of Moses. But, that didn’t work either since there were human priests and judges who were corrupt and the people regularly gave only passing lip service to God. Nevertheless, the idea of God as monarch has continued to be a theme throughout God’s Message. The end vision of Revelation is Jesus on the throne ruling for eternity.

Jesus talked all the time about the Kingdom of God. God’s Message tells those of us who follow Jesus that we are ultimately citizens of that Kingdom. No matter what earthly country we live in and no matter what system of government we abide under, we are eternally subjects of a divine King to whom we answer and are called to be obedient.

Chapter-a-Day Acts 8

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 02:  Kyle Korver #26 of th...
CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 02: Kyle Korver #26 of the Chicago Bulls passes the ball under pressure from Courtney Lee #5 of the Houston Rockets at the United Center on April 2, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Rockets defeated the Bulls 99-93. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.  Acts 8:2 (NLT)

The other night I watched a snippet of an interview with Kyle Korver of the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have struggled all season with their star player injured and on the bench. The other players rallied behind their ailing MVP all season and ended with the best record. In the first game of the playoffs, however, their now “healthy” MVP blew out his knee. Now the team has to face the playoffs without their most important player. No one is giving them much of a chance.

“We’ve got a great story here,” Korver said in response to the situation. He’s right. No one wants to read the story of a team who packs their bench with the biggest stars and then waltzes to a championship everyone expects them to win. The story of a rag-tag team of bench players who rally together and win against all odds – that’s a story people want to read, and watch, and be a part of.

A shake-up can be a healthy for all of us. Tragedy and persecution are thought of as bad things, but God’s Message says in many places that we are to be joyful when we encounter trials and tribulations. Difficult times force us to grow. Tragedies refine our character. Pain pushes us to persevere. Maturity is found at the end of a difficult stretch of the journey. And, they are all the stuff of great stories.

In today’s chapter, the followers of Jesus experience a huge wave of persecution. People are being hunted down, arrested, imprisoned, and stoned to death. It is no longer safe to be associated with Jesus and His followers. People scatter out of the city and the region to avoid the persecution. I’m sure some were fearful and anxious asking God why He would allow such a thing to happen. By the end of the chapter, we begin to see the fruit of the persecution. Jesus’ message is carried with the fleeing followers to every corner of the country and beyond. The movement spreads out to reach more and more people and the incredible stories of people believing, miracles happening, and lives being changed begin to pile up.

Having a difficult time? Feeling beat down and persecuted? Be joyful. What you’ve got is a great story in the making. God uses temporary tough times and tragic earthly circumstances to tell an amazing eternal story. We’ve just got to open our eyes to see it, trust God to see us through, and press on.

Go Bulls!

Chapter-a-Day Mark 8

Poster shows a stylized drawing of head wearin...
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Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Mark 8:33 (MSG)

This past weekend, Wendy and I went to see the musical Wicked at the Des Moines Civic Center. For those who don’t know anything about the musical, Wicked tells the untold back story to the well known Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, and Glinda are roommates at school. Glinda is Miss Popular while Elphaba is shunned and misunderstood with her mysterious green skin. Initially hating one another, the two begin to see things from a different perspective as they grow to understand and appreciate one another. As we left the theatre and walked towards our car, Wendy said, “Now I have to rethink everything I thought I knew about the Wizard of Oz.”

I’m reminded this morning of how often conflict comes from misperception and misunderstanding. I expect everyone to simply see things the way I do. I project my way of thinking on someone else and then get irritated when he or she misunderstands me and “just doesn’t get it.” I think about how many silly arguments around the house are rooted in a male and a female having different perspectives as they approach a particular circumstance.

Taking it a step further, how many frustrations in life are rooted in refusing to see or to trust God’s perspective? Upon hearing Jesus prophetically announce that He must be rejected, crucified and resurrected, Peter pulls Him aside and reprimands his teacher and friend. Peter and the boys have seen Jesus’ miracles, and from their perspective a completely different plan is in order. They have plans to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem, kill the Romans, put the religious leaders under their thumb and live a life of power and prestige with Jesus on the throne. Jesus gives His own reprimand to Peter for seeing things with such a self-centered, temporal perspective.

Just as many little conflicts around the house are rooted in misunderstanding or being ignorant of my wife’s perspective, I am increasingly aware that many of life’s sorrows are rooted in misunderstanding or being ignorant of God’s eternal perspective. Like Peter, I find myself thinking only of myself in this space at this moment in time. In my spirit I reprimand God for not seeing things my way, I bark at Him for not following my plan.

The end of Wicked, like all Broadway musicals, is wrapped in a happy ending. Glinda comes to the realization that her life was “changed for the better” for having known the wicked, green witch.

Today, I’m acknowledging my limited, narrow perspective. I’m asking God to continually open my eyes to His eternal truth that this temporal life might be eternally changed for the better for knowing Him more.

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