Monday, April 25, 2011

OK, so I usually don't blog this much, but this whole fear thing and moving toward God instead of away from him is creeping into a lot of areas of my life.

I noticed last night when I was having a discussion with my daughter and wife about a school issue, fear was rising - fear that my wife would not like me (we had differing opinions on the issue) or fear that my daughter would rebel (she didn't like the solution that my wife was proposing). I felt stuck. I felt like it was going to be a lose-lose situation for me: I was going to disappoint someone.

How do you lean into situations like this instead of running away? How do you represent Jesus to the family when faced with dilemmas like this? I had a couple of choices. Choice number one - be a dictator. This is my decision - live with it. Necessary sometimes, but the tact that needs to be reserved for only very special and rare occasions. But easier for sure. Choice number two - lean in emotionally and try and listen to all sides, listen to the words, try to feel the emotions, try and find the heart of the matter and then speak. (OK, I an not very good at choice number two; in fact I stink at it most days.)

If my goal is to build up, to learn about my wife and daughter, to honor them, I have to choose option two. I did, after I had to move through the fear and commit myself to spending the time and working through all the issues.

BTW, we are not done with this one yet. It demands more discussion about some peripheral issues. More leaning in...........

Sunday, April 24, 2011

So, if we are not to respond in fear, if we are not to push Jesus out or simply be amazed at who He is, how are we supposed to respond?

The third in this series of snapshots of Mark (Mark 5) provides us a little insight into how a couple of people faced their fears.

Imagine if you will, a large group of people surrounding Jesus. Pushing him from every side, pressing to hear his words, anxious to walk beside him and share their fears with, desiring of him to heal them - a "star" (in a good way) who every one wanted to be around. This is the setting where a woman with a disease that the doctors could not heal enters into Jesus orbit.

Back story - the woman had tried everything to be healed of this disease. For 12 years she spent time and money trying to be healed. She had traveled mile after mile to visit doctor after doctor. She spent her entire life savings on doctors, potions, medications, salves, oils, etc. and still no healing: in fact, it was getting worse and worse. She was without resources and moving toward no hope.

She enters the scene as the crowd is pressing around Jesus. This is her last hope. This is her last alternative. If I can just touch him. If I can just brush his clothes, I might be healed. I have heard stories....... She presses into the fray and reaches out and touches Jesus clothes, not really sure if it work or not. But she feels something; something had changed. And then she hears it - "Who touched me? Who touched me? I felt something. Who touched me?" Fear swells within her. She has been found out.

What did she do when she was trembling with fear? She moved toward Jesus; she was scared for sure, but she moved toward Jesus. She was scared, but not beyond belief. Jesus statement to her was "your faith has healed you, go in peace and suffer no more". Her faith, her response, her movement toward Jesus, her step.

This is how we need to respond to Jesus - move through our fears and toward him. When we find ourselves without answers; when we are perplexed; when we don't know which way to turn; when we find ourselves without hope - Jesus has the answers if we will move toward him.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How are you going to respond when Jesus, the creator of the universe, shows up in your life? When he showed up on the boat with the disciples they wondered in amazement at who he was. In the second snap shot we see a different response.

In the first part of Mark 5, Jesus and his disciples enter an area and a freaky thing happens to them: a naked, fully crazed man runs to meet them. Jesus casts out the evil spirits into a herd of pigs (2,000 of them). The guys who are tending the pigs, run into town and tell the townsfolk about what happened. The people from the area come to Jesus, see the and ask him to leave; leave the area; leave them alone.

What surprised me about the response of the people is the contrast between what they had before Jesus showed up and what they had after.

Before: a mad man who they had tried to control by chaining him up, who broke the chains and shackles, who lived in the tombs, cried out so people heard him and cut himself with stones. Basically, someone terrorized the town. I mean, imagine living in the town near this guy. You wouldn't let your kids out to play by themselves for fear something might happen. You hear his eerie cries at night that scare your kids and won't let them sleep. When you want to travel to your friends in the next village you take the long way because you are afraid of seeing "him" and worried about what might happen to you and your family.

After: A "normal" guy, dressed, in his right mind, sitting and talking with Jesus. OK, so you are down a herd of pigs (which is weird considering they are in a region of Jewish population, but hey..), but you have security for your family back. People will once again visit your village because "he" is gone now. The reputation of your village has been restored.

And they want Jesus to leave because they are afraid.........

The burning question that I have is when do I ask Jesus to leave? When am I afraid of what Jesus asks me to do, do I ask him to leave or do I invite him in to change me? Do I ask him to move me to a place where I am more holy, or do I politely ask him to leave? Do I engage the unknown and move toward him or do I move in fear and ask him to move away from me?

Jesus may not show up and cast an evil spirit out, but he may show up and ask me to stop a sin pattern that I hold dear. He may move toward me and ask me to love my wife better than I do myself. He may ask me to commit everything to him and serve him with greater abandonment. I know that he will ask me something - my question is will I move toward him or ask him to leave.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

We are going through "The Story" in our couples small group. We are on the second section where God begins to build a nation through Abram.
The thing that struck me the most about this section of the Story is the that Abram (soon to be called Abraham) was just an ordinary guy. There was nothing significant about him that made him stand out. OK, so he was relatively well off but he was not a leader of a nation; he was not a mighty warrior; he was a simply a man; a simple (and sinful mind you) man that God chose to build a nation from.
What WAS extraordinary is that Abram responded in obedience. God asked him to leave his family and start moving. God didn't tell him where he was going, He just said leave - and he did! Abram responded in faith; walking away from his family and choosing to live as a nomad in obedience to God.
What do we/I learn from this? Simply put - God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. God uses ordinary women and men to execute his plan. That's me......ordinary man; extraordinary in God's eyes when I live in obedience and faith!
(Side note: James teaches us that Elijah was a man just like us, but he prayed and it did not rain. He was trying to say Elijah was just and ordinary man who did extraordinary things when he listened to God and spoke what God told him to do!)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Without faith it is impossible to please God. The writer of Hebrews makes this bold and pretty exclusive statement. Having theoretical faith is pretty easy. When life is good, it is easy to trust. It is harder to believe when you hit a storm. Am I going to trust when the hard times hit? I am going to be pleasing to God? A question that I have to wrestle with when the stuff of life hits me. Am I going to be afraid or am I going to trust?

Mark poses this same question in one of his snap shots of Jesus. In the latter part of Mark 4, Jesus and his closest disciples conscript a boat to go the other side of the lake so they can be alone for a while. Jesus moves to the back of the boat, lays down and falls asleep. The disciples, some of which were very familiar with the lake because they were fisherman, climb in too.

As they are crossing, a storm arises; a pretty bad storm. The waves are washing over the side of the boat and the disciples start freaking out! Peter, James, John, Andrew - men who made their living on the lake - were of no help in the midst of this storm. Their years of experience on the lake did not help them. (Mind you, I would be freaking out too!)

They wake Jesus up and ask a pretty interesting question: Master, don't you care if we drown? Jesus, you have been healing the masses, you have cast out demons, you healed a guy who could not walk. Do you care about everyone else except us? Are you going to heal them and let us die? Don't you care for us?

Jesus answer was simple: he calmed the storm (ha!!!). He then posed a question back at them: why are you afraid? Do you have no faith?

It is easy to have faith when you are not in the hot seat. Fear is a natural response of being in the hot seat. It is easy to believe when your faith is not being challenged. It is easy to be afraid when you the storms hit.

We all experience this. When it is your child who is going into surgery it is a fundamentally harder than when it is someone elses child. When you have lost your job, it is harder to believe than when someone else looses their job.

The disciples had watched Jesus do miracle after miracle, heal person after person, cast out evil spirit after evil spirit - and they were afraid about the storm. Why? Because it was their storm. It was their boat. It was their fear of drowning.

When Jesus calmed their storm, saved them from their drowning - they understood a new reality about Jesus; they saw him in a new and powerful light. They saw his power at work in their life. And they were afraid. Again.

The question for me is - am I going to trust this Jesus? This Jesus who heals, who redeems, who loves, who rose from the dead. During the storms of my life, during my personal storms - am I going to trust him?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Have been reading in Mark over the past few days - in particular the last part of chapter 4 and chapter 5. There are three snap shots of Jesus showing up: calming a storm, healing a demon possessed man and raising a dead girl. As I was reading them, a theme appeared - fear. In each of these snap shots, there was a fear response of those around Jesus. In the next series of posts, I want to look at each of these snap shots and explore fear a little bit.

Fear is a powerful emotional motivator. There are several responses - physical and emotional - to fear. My initial response to fear is physical: my stomach knots up, I feel energy drain from me, and, depending on the intensity of the emotion, I begin to feel a bit nauseous. If my emotional tank is a little low, I emotionally run away; trying to avoid the fear, hoping whatever created the situation will just go away (which it never does).

Fear can also make us do some irrational things (like running away from the problem and hoping they will go away). As we look at these snap shots of Jesus ministry, we will see some of responses that, by observation, seem to be irrational. My hope is as we explore these snap shots, we will learn now not to respond to Jesus out of fear, but out of awe and worship.