Monday, February 15, 2010

Stick the Landing

One of my favorite athletic events to watch on TV is Gymnastics. I am always amazed by the incredible abilities of these gifted men and women. It’s evidence to me of just how fearfully and wonderfully made we really are.

There’s something that bugs me about gymnastics, though. The commentators are so critical! I’m watching some teenager tumble, flip and twist her heart out. The routine looks just perfect to me. But, the commentators almost appear to be anxiously awaiting the next miniscule error. They seem to take pleasure in pointing out even the smallest mistakes that the average viewer would miss. I realize they are just doing their job and pointing out the things that the judges are looking for and explaining the possible areas where points may be deducted. But, just once, I want a commentator to say something like, “Yeah, so what she did two twists instead of three. Who cares she didn’t keep her arms perfectly straight. Big deal she wobbled a little on the landing. Did you see how awesome that was! Can you believe how high that 5’2” child just launched herself into the air? Judges, I’d like to see you do that!”

The sad thing is, I often imagine God to be like a gymnastics commentator or judge, honing in on every little and big mistake out and then deducting points. “Oooh, she just gossiped about her friend, that’s gonna cost her.” Or, “Wow, Tami was doing so well with her routine until she lost her temper with her kids. She’ll never win the gold now.”

It’s really hard for me to wrap my heart around the kind of grace that God extends. The truth is though, that in the end, God wants nothing more than for me to “stick the landing” and spend an eternity with Him. There are no hoops to jump through or balance beams to master in order for this to happen. All that is required is an exercise in faith; faith in the promise that Jesus has forgiven my errors already.

So, if you are like me and have a hard time with the concept of grace, take some assurance from these verses from Hebrews- “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Lousy Situation

Last year, I had my first experience with every parent’s nightmare….Lice. If you’ve never had to deal with this problem, consider yourself highly blessed and favored! Millions of school aged children catch lice every year. And, the treatment is time consuming and tedious. First, you must wash the child’s hair with a special, medicated shampoo. Then, every day for a week you have to use a very fine-toothed comb to remove all of the nits or eggs from the hair.

You also have to go over your home with a fine-toothed comb…washing all bedding and clothing that the person may have come in contact with in very hot water. Carpet and other upholstered items must be vacuumed and things that cannot be washed must be sealed in a plastic bag for 2 weeks. All of this is done to make sure that none of these nits are allowed to mature in to live lice. If they do, they will quickly reproduce and, once again, you’ll have a lice infestation.

Is your head itching yet? Sorry. But, I wanted to share this experience because it reminded me of the way we need to deal with sin in our lives. Think of it like this…sinful behavior, especially when becomes a pattern or a habit, is like lice. It can quickly multiply and become out of control! The first step is to stop the sinful behavior. But, it doesn’t end there because there are so-called “nits” all over the place that you have to get rid of, too. You have to go over your life with a fine-toothed comb, getting rid of the thoughts, people, places and influences that could cause a sin re-infestation.

It’s not easy get out of a sinful pattern of behavior. But, here’s some great news…you have help! Listen to these words of encouragement from 1 Cor. 10:13 - NLT But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give into it.

So, Let’s pray today that God will help us run that fine toothed comb over our lives, praising him for his loving faithfulness as He helps us eliminate out harmful behaviors.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lookin' for Love in All the Wrong Places

I always chuckle when I hear stories in the news about people finding images of Jesus in unusual places. A grilled cheese sandwich, the tailgate of a pickup truck and in a grease spot on someone’s garage floor are just some of the places where Jesus has reportedly been spotted. Jesus’ mother, Mary, has also been known to make appearances in odd places and recently a couple from Pennsylvania cut open an eggplant and found inside the word “God” written in seeds.

Oh, how I love Jesus. And I can understand why people are desperately looking for a personal encounter with Him. But would Jesus really use everything from vehicles to vegetables to show himself to us? So, where can we find Him? According to Jesus, we don’t have to look far. Here are his words:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'... 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

We’ll definitely find Jesus in the broken and needy. We can have an even closer encounter with Him when we invite Him to live inside of us. Listen to this verse from Galatians:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

So, put down the eggplant and go ahead and eat that grilled cheese sandwich. Jesus isn’t there. He’s much easier to find, especially for those of us who have accepted his gift of forgiveness and everlasting life. So, look for him today, throughout your day. But, don’t rely on your physical eyes he’s much more easily seen with the eyes of your heart.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fat Day

Have you ever had a day when you just felt fat? You slip on your favorite jeans and they’re a little more snug than usual. You check the mirror and the image staring back at you looks a little thicker through the middle than you remembered. “Oh great”, you say to yourself, “the fat fairy must have paid me a visit last night. She could have at least left some money under my pillow. Or chocolate, maybe.” You decide to survey the damage, and summoning all the courage you have, you timidly step onto the scale. Eyes cringing, you glance down, prepared for the worst. But, much to your surprise, you haven’t gained an ounce. Maybe you’ve even lost a pound or two. Your feelings were misleading; they didn’t match up with the reality of your actual weight.

The same kind of thing happens sometimes when we don’t feel the presence of God in our lives. How is it that we can go from a time of real communion and relationship with Him to a time of distance and separation? Where has God gone during these times?

The reality is, despite our feelings of distance, God hasn’t gone anywhere! He hasn’t changed either. In Malachi 3:6, God tells the Israelites, “I, the Lord, do not change”. Hebrews 13:8, says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” And, in Hebrews 13:5 we are reminded of this promise from God, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.”

Many times, when it feels like God is absent, we’re the ones who have moved away. When I feel distanced from God, I usually don’t have to think about it long before I realize that I’m the one who hasn’t been making time for Him. Other times, I find that it’s my own bad mood that has me feeling far away from Him. During a downward mood swing, I may feel distant from everyone in my life, God included. Once I realize that it’s my own feelings that I’m projecting on God and not the other way around, it doesn’t take too long before our relationship is back on track.