Thursday, April 12, 2012

What's the Big Deal?

As I assess my standing with God this day, a question I wish I would have asked more often is, “What’s the big deal?” What am I making into a big deal, and also, do I let myself get pulled into reacting to other people’s big deals?

I think of mornings that were grumpy.

I think of feeling easily inconvenienced.

I think of irritating comments people have made.

I think of politics.

I think of laziness brought on by mental stereotypes that say certain things are “difficult:” cooking dinner, doing homework, cleaning the garage, visiting relatives, playing Monopoly, hosting dinners.

Why is any of that a big deal? It doesn’t have to be. But in our stiff-necked way, that dramatic, excitable perspective is what we've cemented into our brains by our own choosing. And that's how big deals perpetuate, sometimes handed down from generation to generation.

This is where God comes in. When we are saved, God completely transforms our thinking and our hearts. Or…that’s the idea. As we grow in Christ through the reading of Scripture, praying, discipleship and desiring to leave the sin that God reveals to us behind, we start to see things His way. So cleaning the garage becomes service--joyful service to God. Mornings become the joy of another day of breath and life and counting all the ways life is good: salvation, thriving health, a job, family, spouses who love us, a home to live in, etc. Inconveniences become blessings: spontaneous moments spent with friends and family and maybe even strangers; lending a helping hand and experiencing God at work in us; going out of our way only to be blessed by a revelation or conviction from God through the experience. Cooking dinner becomes the breaking of bread in fellowship that the Bible highly regards, and is God’s provision of nourishment for our bodies. Playing Monopoly with the kids? Focus on the joy on their faces as the hours go by. Time spent with children is truly priceless. One day, they move away. One day, we’ll suddenly be ready to play Monopoly but nobody will be there to play. These are the things we don’t think about when we’re so busy sighing and whining over our supposed big deals.

So I ask myself, where are my big deals? Are they silly? Are they embarrassing and shameful when I see the pride and self-centeredness that makes them big deals in the first place?

What’s the antidote? From where does our help come? God’s perspective! He will show us how He sees our big deals. He’ll reveal to us how we’ve been reacting without thinking, and how we’ve turned away from Him in favor of our immaturity and self-centeredness. And then God will point us to what He considers His Big Deal: Love.

Turn to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, a passage which, unfortunately, can sound cliche because it’s been recited at so many secular weddings. But it is one of the most powerful verses in the Bible in eradicating the big deals of our own making, and replacing them with God’s grace.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God’s grace….we need so much more of it guiding our steps and our words than we’ve been willing to allow. Our big deals come so much more naturally to us than God’s love. Yet, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). So no excuses. Today’s the day. Only through God’s grace can we end the litany of our personal and prideful big deals and replace it with the habit of God’s grace.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:8-10

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New Birth Into a Living Hope!

Garden Tomb, Jerusalem
March 2012
Barb Harwood, photos

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
1 Peter 1: 3-9

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem
March 2012
Barb Harwood, photos

"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?' he asked Peter. 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.'
He went away a second time and prayed, 'My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.'
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" Matthew 26:36-46