One-a-Day Friday 5/16/14

number 1Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

I want a running Director’s Commentary on my life.  You know, like when you buy a DVD, you can look in the “bonus features” section and watch the movie with the director talking over the action. He explains the back story, provides behind-the-scenes tidbits, and gives insight into why certain production decisions were made.

I want the Holy Spirit to provide running commentary for me.  As I go through my day he can whisper in my ear—better yet, he can have an angel appear from time to time with a little scroll.  You know, something tangible, ‘cause I don’t always trust voices in my head.  Anyway, he can point out the Father’s will in every situation, and explain why things happen the way they do.  That would be good.

While we’re at it, I want a pony.

OK, this is odd.  I was composing the above in my head while driving home from work.  As I got to the part about the pony, I glanced to my right and saw…

A pony.

It was just standing there, by the side of the road, munching on some random flora.  I have driven this road twice a day every workday for eight years.  Never once have I seen a pony.  I attach no spiritual significance to this, other than proof that God has a sense of humor.

And yet…

I did not stop and collect the pony, partly because I don’t want a felony on my record, and partly because I really do not want a pony.  I was only pretending I wanted a pony.

Which makes me wonder…do I really want the Holy Spirit speaking directly to me, passing me notes, or am I just pretending I do?  Do I really want to be responsible for knowing God’s will?  Because, frankly, not being sure of his will gives me a certain amount of wiggle room that I often exploit.

This passage suggests to me that, as we allow God to put our minds back in whack through his Word and his Holy Spirit, we actually do get something akin to Director’s Commentary.  But as with any gift, we are responsible for how we use it.

What do you say, Beloved?  Are you willing to accept the gift God offers?  Are you willing to be transformed and renewed, to be able to, “test and approve what God’s will is…”?  Because what he gives, you must use.

Unless he gives you a pony.  A pony you may leave by the side of the road.

One-a-Day Thursday 5/15/14

number 1Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).

Not your heart?

Nope.

Your mind.

Sure, God works in your heart too, but the transformation Paul is talking about here comes through your mind.

What you think about.

How you think about it.

How you make your decisions.

How you look at the world.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we live in a sinful, broken world.  Growing up in it, surrounded by the messages that society puts out, well, it warps our minds.

There it is, Beloved.  You have a warped mind.

It’s kinda like putting on your friend’s eyeglasses.  Everything looks wrong, distorted, and out of whack.

God wants to put you back in whack.  He wants to renew your mind.

Some parts of the renewal are immediate, like taking off your friend’s glasses and putting on your own.  When you came to Christ, the Holy Spirit came to live within you, and certain things changed immediately.  You saw sin as bondage, for example, and wondered how you could ever have thought it was freedom.

Other parts of the transformation take more time.  They’re like the caterpillar, quietly waiting in its cocoon, allowing God to work his will in his own way, in his own time.  God uses his word, day by day, little by little, to transform the way you think, the way you see the world around you.  He is gentle and patient, because your brain is a fragile little thing, and you’re of little use to him in a catatonic state.  But if you remain in the word, he will continue to work in you, until the butterfly is released.

That’s an awful lot of metaphor for a Thursday.

Rest today, Beloved.  Rest in the knowledge that he is a work in you, even now.

One-a-Day Wednesday 5/14/14

number 1Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).

My favorite image of transformation is the butterfly.

I’m sure there are cooler images I could come up with, something involving thunder, and magic, and arcing electricity, and tectonic movement, and chaotic forces battling in the nether realms…

But I like the butterfly.

For one thing, it’s quiet.  No trumpets announcing it.  No commemorative coins struck in its honor.  Mr. Caterpillar simply goes off into a corner, or a bush, or whatever, and lets it happen.  So calm.  So peaceful.  So fundamentally life changing.

For another thing, the butterfly transformation is amazing.  Think about it—there are few creatures that God has seen fit to create that are uglier than caterpillars.

Goblin sharks?  Yes, um, goblin sharks are uglier than caterpillars, but they do not transform, so they do not really apply here, do they?

Anyway, the transformation from ugly, ground-bound, leaf-eating caterpillar to beautiful, graceful, floating, soaring, nectar-sipping butterfly is nothing short of astounding.

It’s wondrous.

It’s miraculous.

It’s what he wants to do in you, Beloved.

One-a-Day Tuesday 5/13/14

number 1Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world… (Romans 12:2a).

I know all about conforming—I teach middle school.

These poor kids.  They so very much want to belong that they will wear the silliest clothes, listen to the lousiest music, and eat the nastiest snacks, just to be like everyone else.  The irony is, they think they’re the picture of bold individualism, when in fact they are poster children for the Clone Society.

But they are children.

We are not.

Right?

Everybody wants to belong.  It’s natural. It’s normal. It’s healthy.  The danger comes from what you want to belong to.  And what you’re willing to do to fit in.  This sinful, broken world is not worth belonging to.  These lost, dying people are not fit for emulating.

Loving, yes.

Conforming to, no.

If we are going to stand for God in this place, if we’re going to reach people for Christ, we have to be willing to stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.

How do you conform to this world, Beloved?  In what areas do you go with the flow, try to fit in with the people around you?  Paul says, “Do not conform any longer…”  That means you have a choice.  You have the power to stand for God instead of falling in line.  Use it.

Be a sore thumb for Christ today, Beloved.

One-a-Day Monday 5/12/14

number 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1).

The Jews offered a dead sacrifice.  They were, in a sense, fulfilling a contract, paying, “The wages of sin” that Paul talks about in Romans 6:23.  But we are not under that contract—that law.  We are under the covenant of grace.  We receive “The gift of God…eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” that comes in the second half of that verse.  So our sacrifice is a living sacrifice.  We offer ourselves.

I mentioned on Saturday that I think I could die for Jesus if it came to that—if someone put a gun to my head and told me to deny him, or some such thing.  I’m sure that, under the same conditions, you would die for him as well.

But we’re not called to die for him—not in that sense.

We’re called to live for him.  And, some days, that can seem so much harder.

One definition of worship is, “To offer God all that we are in response to all that he is.” I like that, because it implies that everything we do can be worship, if we do it for him.

Will you worship him today, Beloved?  Will you offer your body—your life—to him, to do with as he pleases?  I don’t know what that will entail, but I know that it will bring you closer to your Lord.

And it will bring him the glory he deserves.

Not a bad way to start your week, hmm?

Big Crosses/ Little Crosses

I’m driving along and I get stuck in a massive traffic jam.  InchingBig cross little cross my way down the road, I fret, wondering if I will get to where I need to go by the time I need to be there.  Then, up ahead on the right, I see the cause of the jam—an overturned car.  The thought that runs through my head—I kid you not—is, “Oh good.  It’s an accident.  Once I get past that, the speed will pick up.”

Tell me you’ve done that, at least once.  I’d hate to think I’m the only one. Continue reading

One-a-Day Friday 5/9/14

number 1Warning: this poem–if you can call it that–kinda blindsided me.  It’s not what I intended to write today.  And yet, it’s what came out.  Read gently.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Matthew 5:14).

When will I let go?

I am a child gripping candy in his fist.

I won’t let go, even though the candy is old

and foul

and sticky

and no good for me.

I scream and wail and weep because you ask me to give you

that which only rots my teeth

and, frankly, tastes awful.

It’s been on the ground, but I’ve scooped it up.

I rubbed it on my shirt, but still it’s covered

with dirt

and grit

and nasty bits.

I can’t possibly enjoy it, but I will

not

let

it

go

no matter how you ask.

Why must you ask?

Why must you be so gentle?

Tear it from my hand, Lord—I know you could.

Ignore the shrieks of protest.

Ignore the tantrum.

Just do it.

Because if you wait for me to give it up, I fear I never will.

Because if I…

if I give it up, what if there is nothing else?

What if, in spite of your promises, this sticky

filthy

nasty

mess is all there is or ever will be

of life

of self

of me?

What if, once lost, I am never found?

Oh God, you curse me with a freedom that is more than I can bear.

Quickly now, before I can think about it

like a splinter

or a bandaid.

I hold my breath

and grit my teeth

and close my eyes…

and release.

One-a-Day Thursday 5/8/14

number 1If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).

There is a man in my area who has a cross.  It’s a full-size, heavy, wooden cross, very authentic looking except for the wheel at the base.  This man, as far as I can tell, spends his days walking the highway and byways, sharing the gospel without saying a word.  To see him dragging that cross along the road is surprising, and comforting, and yet a little disturbing.  It’s a reminder that I do not always appreciate.  All of which is probably why he does it.

I admire the man, though I doubt that this is what Jesus meant in the above passage.  I kinda wish he had.  I mean, as tough as dragging that piece of wood undoubtedly is, it’s cake compared to the cross Jesus is talking about.

The cross of self-denial.

The cross of it’s not about me.

The cross of true humility.

What does your cross look like today, Beloved?  What will it mean for you to deny yourself so that you can be with Him?  Your cross will look different from mine, but it will be heavy all the same.  And yet…the reward.

To follow him.

To walk with Christ.

No matter how big, how ugly, how brutal your cross may be, his grace will enable you to lift it.  He wouldn’t tell you to do it otherwise.

Trust him…he’s earned it.

Heave-ho Beloved.

One-a-Day Wednesday 5/7/14

number 1Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).

Other people annoy me.

I know I’ve said it before, and I shouldn’t say it at all, but there it is.

The problem is, other people never seem to put me first.  I mean, I could put the other person ahead of me once in a while, if I were confident that they would be putting me ahead of themselves at the same time.  Then, you know, each of us would get to be first.  But what happens is, I put them first, and they put them first, and I’m left out in the cold.

But it’s not about me.

At least, it’s not supposed to be.

Why do I do it, Beloved?  Why do I keep score, like there’s a cosmic points system and I’m afraid of falling behind?  When will I learn—really, in my heart of hearts learn—that God will meet all my needs, and that I don’t have to look to others for my validation?  When will I be truly free to serve without keeping score?

I’m glad you’ve got it all together, Beloved.

Me—I’m a mess.

One-a-Day Tuesday 5/6/14

number 1For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought… (Romans 12:3).

“Yes, but I deserve…”

Dangerous words.

I can’t tell you how many times those words, or at least that spirit, has flashed through my mind when I had the opportunity to help/serve/love someone.  If it’s going to take any sacrifice on my part, my brain immediately jumps to reasons that I shouldn’t have to do it, why I deserve better…or at least why I deserve recognition for my noble sacrifice.

And then, if I’m lucky, I remember.

It’s not about me.

This verse comes right after Paul’s urging to offer ourselves, “As living sacrifices,” and to be, “Transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  The thread here seems to be that if we belong to God and he is truly at work in us, we will be able to see ourselves as we really are, with eyes that are unclouded by pride and self.

In those moments, when God allows me to see myself as I really am, I dare not utter the words, “I deserve…”

Because I know what I deserve…and it ain’t recognition for my noble sacrifice.

Take a good look at yourself today, Beloved.  You don’t deserve much, and yet you are worth everything.

And so is that person God is calling you to serve.