One-a-Day Thursday, 6/18/15

number 1Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).

Well, there’s a comforting thought.

It’s not bad enough that it’s Thursday;  I‘ve gotta get hit with the concept that I’ve been sinful for as long as I’ve been me.

Still…there it is.

It’s not like sin is just a onetime, or even sometime, thing.  David can’t say, “Oops, I slipped.  Apart from this episode, I’ve pretty much been perfection.”  Even David—giant killing, Psalm writing, man-after-God’s-own heart David—knows that sin seems to be woven into the very fabric of his nature.  He doesn’t even stand a chance of standing on his own.  It’s like fighting cancer with cough drops.

Poor David.

Poor me.

Poor us.

And yet God, because of who he is, loved us anyway.

And so God, because he loved us, didn’t want us to die in sin, as we were born in sin.

And then God, because he didn’t want us to die, died in our place.

And now God, because he died for us, raises us to life in him.

And this God, who had raised you to life, calls you Beloved.

I guess it’s not such a bad way to start your day, after all.

Happy Thursday, Beloved.

One-a-Day Wednesday, 6/17/15

number 1Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and righteous when you judge (Psalm 51:4).

So, that guy you had the little road rage incident with, you know, the one who obviously knew you were there but cut you off anyway, the one you chased for three miles so you could give him the evil eye and the fancy finger—the one who turned out to be an octogenarian grandma totally oblivious to your righteous wrath?

Yeah, that was Jesus.

The cop you lied to to get out of that ticket for multiple unsafe lane changes that you made in order to catch up to the aforementioned Granny-Who- Cannot-Drive?

Also, as it happens, Jesus.

The supermarket checker who got written up because her drawer didn’t balance because you kept the money she gave you because she can’t count and gave you seriously inaccurate change?

That would be the Lord of the Universe.

The scores of freaks you mocked on the “People of Walmart” page?

Your savior…each and every one.

I’m assuming that you’re not in David’s league here, that adultery and assassination are absent from your repertoire of iniquity.  It doesn’t really matter.  Every sin—big or small in your perception—is ultimately committed against Jesus.  He said as much himself in the parable of the sheep and the goats:

Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me….whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me (Matt 25).

Is it really such a stretch to say that whatever we do to the least of these we do to him?

David realized this—eventually.  It got his head straight so that he was ready for real repentance.

Fortunately, Beloved, you have no need for repentance today.  This is merely an academic exercise for you, as your conscience is clear.

Well, you know, except for…

Hmm…

One-a-DayMonday 6/15/15

number 1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin (Psalm 51:1-2).

There are two kinds of people in this world:

those who need forgiveness, and…

oh, wait—I guess there’s only one kind of people in this world.

Look, your sin may not be on the epic scale of King David’s—adultery, abuse of power, conspiracy to commit murder—but it’s still sin.

And you still need forgiveness.

And you still don’t deserve it.

David realized this.  He claimed no special privileges as God’s anointed.  He made no appeal based on his previous devotion.  He expected no “do-overs” because of the mighty deeds he had done in God’s name.

He asked for mercy, not because of who he was, but because of who God is.

Oh, but Michael, we have something David didn’t have.  We have the Cross.

Yes, we do. And which we also don’t deserve.  The Cross stands as the ultimate evidence of God’s unfailing love and great compassion.

Look, Beloved, I’m not saying you shouldn’t expect forgiveness.  If you belong to Christ, the grace purchased at the Cross is yours for the taking—every day, all the time.  But don’t demand it, not with your words, or your actions, or your attitude.

You didn’t earn it.  He did.

Happy Monday, Beloved.

One-a-Day Friday, 6/12/15

number 1…and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 30-31). 

Peter was in over his head—literally.  He had taken his eyes off Jesus, focused on his immediate circumstances, and panicked.  His grand venture of faith was falling apart rather quickly.

So he cried out to God.

Good move, Pete.

There are two things that really hit me in this passage.  The first is Peter’s faith.

Yes, I realize that this story highlights his doubt—Jesus points this out himself.  But I think that his doubt is not so much in God’s ability to work as it is in God’s willingness to work in Peter.  It’s a feeling I know all too well.  I know that God can do anything he wants; I just can’t imagine that he wants to do it through me.  It’s a weird mixture of pride and self-doubt that we all fall victim to.

Except you, Beloved.  I know—you’ve got it all together.

But Peter’s faith in God is rock-solid—no pun intended.  After all, to whom does he cry out in his fear?

To whom do you cry out?

The other thing that strikes me in this passage is the Lord’s reaction to Peter.  “Immediately, Jesus reached forth his hand and caught Peter.”  Jesus did not let Peter founder and flop and flail in the water.  He was there, waiting, at the moment his child needed him.

Then he spoke to Peter.  Now I can’t be sure in what tone of voice he said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Perhaps he was frustrated; maybe he was genuinely curious.  My gut tells me, though, that there was a smile in his eyes, and that small shake of the head that a parent uses when his child has goofed.  I haven’t found it in any translation of this passage, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Jesus had followed up this statement with, “You knucklehead.”

Maybe that’s just me.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Jesus was pleased rather than frustrated with Peter.  I think he truly enjoyed seeing Peter take these few faltering steps of faith, just like I loved seeing my kids learn to walk.  Sure they fell, and I chuckled when they did, because I knew that ultimately I would keep them safe.

I don’t know what God is calling you to today.  Could be adventure; could be trial.  But I do know this—he’s calling you out on the water.  He has a challenge for you.  He wants to show you what he can do in and through you.  Sure you might fall—and he stands ready to catch you.  Sure you might fail—and he stands ready to pick you up and let you try again.  Don’t be afraid of letting him down.  Every step you take in him makes him proud as can be.  Don’t be deceived into thinking that God wouldn’t work through you.  Trust me, he’s worked through a lot worse than you.

He’s worked through me.

Just look to the One who loves you, Beloved.

Step out.

One-a-Day Thursday, 6/11/15

number 1But when he saw the wind, he was afraid (Matthew 14:30).

Poor Peter.

There he was, walking on the water, standing on the waves with the One who made them.

It doesn’t get better than that.

And it didn’t.

Because he took his eyes and his thoughts off of Jesus for just a moment.  And a moment was all it took.  Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what went through Peter’s mind at that moment, but I’m thinking it was along the lines of, “What am I doing?  I can’t walk on water!”

And, just like that, he couldn’t.

Peter’s in good company.  The prophet Elijah would understand completely.  He had just called down fire from God—pretty impressive—to annihilate the wicked prophets of Baal.  A little showy, perhaps, but very effective—and an obvious demonstration that God was with Elijah.  This annoyed Queen Jezebel, and she threatened to kill Elijah.

So he ran.  Fast and far.  For just a moment, he took his eyes off God and focused on the danger represented by this woman.  And just like that, the danger became more real than the God Elijah served.

I’ve done it, too.  So have you.  God is doing something wonderful in our lives, teaching us, growing us, showing us new dimensions of his love…

And then we look down, like the tightrope walker a thousand feet in the air.

And we panic.

Scripture tells us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Life backs that up.

What is God calling you to, Beloved?  What is he working on in you?  It doesn’t have to be as grand as walking on water or calling down fire—though if he does, call me.  I wanna watch.  It could be as ordinary as learning to trust him with your future, as simple as learning to love unconditionally, as basic as learning to give without thought of reward.

Actually, walking on water may just be easier than any of those.

Whatever today’s challenge is, lock your eyes on the author and perfecter of your faith and start walking.

Don’t look down, Beloved.

One-a-Day Wednesday, 6/10/15

number 1Then Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:29).

Wow.

He did it.

I know it’s easy to focus on the fact that Peter sank—and we will look at that tomorrow—but for today, let’s give the young man some props.  He wanted to do what Jesus was doing, he got the go ahead from the Lord, and he went for it.

And he did something that, frankly, you and I have never done.

No you haven’t.

One of Peter’s great strengths was his ability to take decisive action without overanalyzing every situation.

Of course, the negative side of that is called, “Going off half-cocked without thinking things through,” which was probably his greatest weakness.

But we’re praising Peter today.  And in this verse we see that Peter didn’t allow logic to override God’s call.

Now, let’s be careful here.  Don’t hear what I’m not saying.  Am I saying that we should throw logic and wisdom out the window and just follow our feelings?

Uh, no.

Am I saying that we should make all our decisions with our hearts and not our minds?

Huh uh.

Am I saying that sometimes God may call us to something that makes no sense, by the world’s definition of “sense?”

Ding ding ding!

Now, he may not be calling you to something as blatantly wacky as waterskiing sans boat and skis.  But maybe, just maybe, that desire in your heart, that secret dream that makes no logical sense, is there because he put it there.  Maybe, just maybe, your Lord is calling you to do something the world calls crazy, but he calls right and good.

Maybe.

Just maybe.

What will you do about it, Beloved?  Will you analyze and dissect and debate his call until you convince yourself that it can’t be done?

Or will you climb out of the boat and walk?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to get your feet wet, Beloved.

One-a-Day Tuesday, 6/9/15

number 1“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” Jesus said.  (Matthew 14:28-2)

God wants you to do cool stuff.

I hope I didn’t lose you in the heavy theology there.

I have heard this passage preached on many times, and most of the time the focus is on Peter wanting to be with Jesus, and Jesus calling to him from the storm, and it all gets real metaphorical.  And, I suppose those aspects of the story are valid.

But so is this one.

Peter saw Jesus doing something amazingly cool, and he wanted in on it.  Jesus saw Peter’s excitement, and he wanted to share the fun.

Because, yes, God likes fun, and walking on water would be really fun.

What cool things is God doing in the world around you?

Do you want in on the fun?

Have you asked him?

If your life in Christ is dull, may I suggest that perhaps you’re missing something?

Chew on that today.  Happy Tuesday, Beloved.

One-a-Day Monday 6/8/15

number 1When the disciples saw [Jesus] walking on the water, they were terrified.   “It’s a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage.  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27).

The disciples were terrified.  They saw something coming at them out of the darkness; something they didn’t understand, something they didn’t recognize.  They were all alone—or so they thought.  They assumed the worst, and their courage failed.

But it was Jesus.

It was Jesus.

Now, we could chide the disciples for not recognizing Jesus.  After all, he was their master, their teacher, their constant companion.  How could they not know it was the Lord?

But let’s not pick on Peter and the boys.  I don’t think it was their fault.  I don’t think it was shallowness, or selfishness, or spiritual insensitivity that caused them to mistake Jesus for a ghost.  I think it was much simpler than that.

Jesus came in a way that they weren’t expecting.

I mean, he was walking on water, for corn sake.  Who’s watching for that?

Jesus was doing a God thing, and the disciples were seeing it through Man eyes.

Hmm…

So I wonder…how many of the things that are terrifying in my life are, in fact, Jesus at work?  As I panic and prepare to dive overboard, is he simply coming to me, teaching me, working in me, in a way that I’m not used to?

Am I willing to let him work, even though it scares me?

Because if you know your Scripture, you know what’s coming next.

Take courage, Beloved.

One-a-Day Friday, 6/5/15

number 1…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31). 

I have, on occasion, taken Scripture verses a bit too literally.

Once upon a time, I ran a marathon.  Actually, that’s not quite accurate; I ran part of a marathon and hobbled the rest.  This verse kept running through my mind.

My hope was in the Lord.

And yet…

My strength was depleted.

Though I was sore, I did not soar.

I ran, and grew quite weary.

I walked, and was faint.

I crawled, and was blistered.

So maybe God wasn’t talking about marathon running.  Maybe he was talking about our spiritual life.

And yet…

Sometimes I feel like my spiritual life is a lot like that marathon.  The pressures crowd in on me from every side, and I can’t find peace.  My hope is in him, but I just feel weak and low and tired and afraid.  It doesn’t look like my hopes will ever be made real.

I’m sure you never feel this way—thanks for putting up with my dysfunction.

As I write this, my mind goes to two places—painful and awkward, but that’s how my brain works.  First, I think of yesterday’s verse: Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.  My hope cannot be based in my circumstances; it must be based in God’s character.  Second, I have to realize that this race is not over yet.  I may feel like I’m about to drop, but I haven’t.

Does that resonate with you, even a little?  Because I hate to feel alone.

You feel like you’re about to drop, but you haven’t.

By his grace, you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And that is our hope.

I remember the end of that marathon.  After doing the death crawl for several eternities, I reached the 25 mile marker.

1.2 miles to go.

I prayed that God would give me the strength to finish at a run…and he did.

I ran the end of the race.

One might even say that I soared…but one would be wildly mistaken.

Still, I finished strong in that race.

And I will finish strong in this race.

And so will you, Beloved—that’s a promise.