On this Monday after Easter, I am grateful that I follow the Overcoming One. By His resurrection, He has removed the fear of death that must inevitably come for all of us and His resurrection life is a foretaste of our own future resurrection life.
Heb. 2:14-15 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
1Cor. 15:19-22 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
1Cor. 15:52-58 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
I admit that I am getting older, there is no point in denying it is there? My body takes longer to recover after two hours of tennis; I cannot stay up late at night and still function well the next day; it takes a little more care to get down on the floor and even more energy to get up. But at age 58 (soon to be 59), I am far from being old! But being in a home church with two-thirds of the group under the age of 30 and working in teams in our mission in which I find myself to be the elder of the group, the unmistakeable fact is–I am aging. But, am I growing in wisdom as I age? Now that is a better question. I remember sharing with a couple of the young men in our group this year about some of the fears I have and they seemed shocked that at my advanced age, I still struggled with such fears (fear of failure being one of them I am sure but I can’t quite remember). I do enjoy our home church since it is multi-generational with about half of the group being college students, a quarter being twenty to thirty-something grads/young professionals and the last quarter being on the mature side with most of us being over 50–the eldest over 80. We learn from one another how to gain wisdom from life’s experiences.
In the most recent version of Conversations Journal (my favorite of all the journals I read), the topic is Wisdom and Aging. Tara Owens has the opening article and I was struck by something she said today,
Growing in wisdom is more often than not a product of learning to walk well through adversity, something aging brings us in abundance. In order to age well, we must learn to appreciate those things that we might not otherwise choose, and come to see the blessings and love of God in the midst of even the most bitter circumstances. We must learn to number our days well, to live like we’re dying, in order to embrace all of life as it is now–the sweet and the savory, the bitter and the spice.” The Blessing of the Bitter by Tara M. Owens Conversations Journal 12.1
My question for you all, myself included, “what have you learned to appreciate in your later years that you once did not?”
After wandering around without a (Bible reading) plan for several months, I finally decided I had to do something and began to read in Matthew, intending to read through all the gospels by Easter. With lots of travel, that idea has been blown out of the water but I am back in Matthew and trying to journal daily. I could not exactly remember how far I had read up to in Matthew but the sermon on the mount seemed about the right place. A most challenging place to begin and the following passage out of the ESV is one of the most difficult for me to understand.
Matt. 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
Matt. 5:39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Matt. 5:40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
Matt. 5:41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Matt. 5:42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Where to go for some help on understanding this incredible sermon by Jesus. I turned back to Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, published in 1993. Here is what Dallas says what we are to do when we are trying to decide what kind of action to take when faced with those who may be tormenting us,
We will decide, as best we know how, on the basis of love for all involved and with a readiness to sacrifice what we simply want. And in every situation we have the larger view. We are not passive, but we act always with clear-eyed and resolute love.
We know what is really happening, seeing it from the point of view of eternity. And we know that we will be taken are of, no matter what. We can be vulnerable because we are, in the end, simply invulnerable. And once we have broken the power of anger and desire over our lives, we know that the way of Christ in response to personal injury and imposition is always the easier way. It is the only way that allows us to move serenely in the midst of harm and beyond it.
Lest anyone think that Dallas or Jesus is suggesting that we tolerate abuse (sexual, emotional, verbal), that is not what they are saying here. As Willard says, “We must always be alert for acceptable ways of removing ourselves from the situation. In the case of abuse of any kind, one should begin by involving others, and especially appointed authorities.” As people who live in the love and under the rule of the King of heaven, we are able to respond in unexpected ways to personal injury and to requests for help. We have embraced and continue to experience the self-giving love of our Savior. These are not words of law that we blindly obey or burden others with. Again to quote Willard, “Of course, in each case I must determine if the gift of my vulnerability, goods, time and strength is, precisely appropriate. That is my responsibility before God. As a child of the King, I always live in his presence.”
As I read these words from Dallas Willard and from Jesus, I realize how much self yet dominates me–selfishness, holding onto my things, my time, my rights. Yet I am grateful that the solution is not law but an abiding relationship in his love. Here is perhaps the most profound and liberating statement from Willard in this section of his book, “He calls us to him to impart himself to us. He does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.” I am reminded of Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free.”
I am reading Crucial Conversations–moving very slowly through it and it is excellent. They provide video links to illustrate what they are saying in the text (a bit awkward if you are reading on a kindle) and have even sent me other articles to read. I just finished their Eliminating Cultures of Silence, a position paper by Crucial Conversations and have clipped a number of sections out of it into Evernote. Following are some four reasons they suggest in this paper as to why a culture of silence may exist in your (or in my own) organization.
1. You observe a potential problem, but you figure the possible calamity isn’t a sure thing. It’s not like death or bankruptcy is imminent; they’re just possibilities.
2. Nobody else seems concerned and you don’t want to sound like an alarmist.
3. You figure even if you do speak up, nobody will actually change anything—the organization is too mired in bureaucracy.
4. Finally, it seems like a sure bet that saying something will damage your career. You would be delivering a really unpopular message (“I think you need to re-examine the launch—at the cost of fifty million dollars.” “I think we need to confront the senior execs and maybe send them to jail.” “I think the doctor is wrong and needs to follow my ideas.”). And messengers get shot.
This inability to bring up touchy, controversial, or unpopular issues lies at the heart of every culture of silence.
Which of these is most problematic for you and your organization.
My reading for today was 2 Timothy 1:1-14.
I ended up focusing on verse 14, “By the Holy Spirit who dwells in you, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (ESV) I think I enjoy reading Timothy more than Romans because Timothy needs lots of reassurance and encouragement from Paul, especially in this passage and I do as well. I sometimes wonder if God has made a mistake in trusting such a good deposit to me!
Here is what I wrote in my journal this morning, “I need not doubt God’s power and ability to transform a life–including my own. I need not doubt the goodness of the gospel. Does the good news need to be defended? When questioned, Christ Jesus guards the gospel and me (12), the Holy Spirit guards and protects the good news–keeping it from being defiled, trampled upon. The good news when believed releases the power of God in a person’s life.” Yes, yes God!
Can anything good come from impatience? I imagine someone saying, “yes, when you are impatient with mediocrity.” Even if that is true, does not patience still needs to saturate our words and actions since we all know that patience is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22)?
As I reflected this morning about my own habitual cultivation of impatience, I yearn to see patient people distinguishing themselves as counter cultural beacons.
“And the people became impatient on the way” is the phrase from Numbers 21:4 that started my thinking this morning. A few of my own conclusions about impatience.
Why am I impatient? I am often impatient because I am discontented, ungrateful, proud (thinking my self and my time as more important than others), and because I am not led by the Spirit.
What are the consequences of my impatience The short answer: sin. Yes, when I am impatient, I sin; I sin against others; I cause others to sin (when they get impatient with my own impatient–you know how that goes).
How can I avoid impatience? Go slow (driving, walking, eating, talking). Practice simplicity (see Richard Foster for more on this). Be alert (to the Spirit’s leading, to what is happening around me and within me). Consider others (as more important than myself from Philippians 2).
And finally, how wonderful to mull over, What happens when I am patience? Four words come to mind. Joy. Contentment. Compassion. Humility.
Lord, I do not know if I can pray for patience but I do long that others would see me to be a truly patient man.
Your thoughts on impatience are welcome.
What does hell have that the church needs? I heard the answer to this question this morning from our presenter Curtis. As we looked at the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, Curtis pointed out what the rich man did when he realized that there was a great chasm between him and heaven that could not be crossed (26). The rich man asked in verse 27 that someone be sent to his family to warn them, “for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”
What does hell have that the church needs?
Compassion for the lost!
As I sat stunned in the room by these words, Curtis then said, “Often, there is more compassion in hell for the lost than there is in the church.”
We had been challenged to make a list of 100 people that we knew. Again Curtis spoke, “The only way to bring relief for your families is for you to share the life-giving and life-transforming good news about Jesus!” What a challenge for me to be persistent and bold in sharing the good new with those I love and care about.