Friday, April 18, 2014

Go Your Way Till the End

Daniel 12:13, "As for you, go your way till the end.  You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance."

Ever hear of the Hare and Tortoise story?  My daughter was writing a story review on it the other day.  And she concluded that everyone can learn a lesson from that short story.  One of the lessons being that perseverance pays off.  I think we can all agree that when we persevere through something, we achieve our goals.

However, sometimes it seems that maintaining perseverance is easier than at other times.  Sometimes it just feels easy.  It seems easy to be faithful and to be committed.  It seems easy to trust and not give up.  Sometimes....

Then there are those dreadful times when we are hanging on by a thread.  In fact, there are times in our lives when all we see fit to do is give up.  The pressure is on and the afflictions of life seem relentless.  This week alone, I have learned about the deaths of 3 different people.  None closely related to me but, nevertheless, regarded dear and loved by many others.  Two of them being sudden and unexpected deaths.  
I can only imagine the turbulence and suffering that those closely related are feeling right now.  

Losing a loved one is possibly the most difficult thing to bear for us human beings.  Whether it be to death or simply to life, loss is painful.  So what is she to do when her husband decides he's no longer committed?  And what is he to do when the doctors say there's not much time left? What is one to do when your child decides to betray you and the entire family? What is there to do when you run out of creative ideas to make the hospital room a little more cheerful?  What do we do when life is too hard?  Better yet, how can one be expected to "persevere" when there is no more strength left inside, when we've given it all we got?  And how dare we be the ones to tell someone in pain, "You simply need to persevere."?

And still... God calls us to persevere.  You see God sees no limits, as we are set to our earthly boundaries, because His power is without limitations.  Therefore, when He calls us to persevere He is not counting so much on our own strength but on His own.  He knows that we can persevere through anything if only we are set on Him.  There's a lesson to be learned here.  You see God can sympathize. He gave His son up to endure the same kind of pain that we are stricken by.  And He didn't do this just to experiment on His Son, but to be that much closer to us, to our humanness and pain.  Isaiah 53 reminds us, "He was a man of suffering, and familiar with pain" (vs. 3b).  

So truly familiar with pain that He had to endure a very physically painful death.  Surely not the type of death due to the very son of God.  And not only did He bear the physical torment but He carried the weight of this world.  Just think for a moment of all the terrible things that take place on this earth.  All of the painful things you've witnessed and possibly endured.  For a moment grasp the thought of  all the abandoned orphan children throughout the world, the innocent being abused and stripped from their God-given freedoms, the ones still being sold into slavery, the voices of all the unborn children crying out, the sorrowful groans of mothers whose children are brutally murdered, the many and many faces of ill-stricken hospital bodies, the mentally tormented, and on and on. Our world is a heavy place.  

That weight was placed on our Lord Jesus.  Hence, it wasn't just the weight of the cross He carried.  It was the weight of our fallen world that caused Him to regress and pray, "Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:4
And God's response was in essence,  "persevere", "finish it", "go your way till the end"... "it will be worth it."   To which Jesus ultimately responded with "'It is finished.' With that He bowed His head and gave up His spirit." John 19:30  And God proved faithful when on the third day of His death, Jesus rose from the dead.  You see, God had the complete picture and the end in His hands.  He allowed for His son to suffer in our place knowing that He had the power to bring Him back to life.  

So how does all of this tie in to our day today and the suffering or hardships we may be dealing with today?  Well, let's see... if the son of God endured the suffering and death that was truly ours to bear.  If He took our pain and suffering over 2000 years ago, He doesn't want us to carry it today.  He wants us to know that no matter what kind of hardship it is that we are faced with, He is greater; and He not only knows the complete picture but has the end in store.  And although we are limited, and on our own it makes more sense to give up, His strength is greater.  It is great enough to get us through. For it is not our strength but His that can free us from the burdens, heal us from the torment, and mend and restore what is broken.  Therefore, we should "go our way till the end".  Persevere till the end. Not because we are stronger than any but because He is.  Let us trust that truth today.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


I was reminded the other day during a discussion about the well-known grumbling and wandering Israelites, that our grumbling translates to mere rebellion.

I don't think I've ever really thought about it that way, but it makes great sense now.  I couldn't help but think about my grumbling kids, often complaining about not getting their way.  So it makes sense to me now that they are not just complaining because the circumstances are making them feel uncomfortable at the time, but because they are displaying their own rebellious nature that does not want to conform to the guidelines set up for them.  Sound familiar?  Too familiar, if you ask me.  I am that grumbling child.  I too have the tendency to rebel.  

What's interesting is that we look for ways to justify our grumbling.  We rationalize the complaining by explaining that we "just don't feel good about it" or are somewhat uncomfortable with it, and I cannot do this or that Lord because "I'm just not 'feeling it'".  And so I make my way out of obedience and slouch right into my comfortable estate which is found in my rebellion.  It'll hurt God! I say, You don't want me to hurt, do you?  Or it will cost me too much... too much of my little time, and too much of my hard earned money, and too much of my self-disciplined patience. And I know you don't want me to run out of patience!  It's clear then, that what you're asking of me is just too much.  And so we have these types of dialogues with God, the one who governs over all.  And we expect that God will obviously understand, if He's at all reasonable or logical.  If being the key word.  

You see, the one who created our human estate by simply blowing a breath and mixing it with dust, the one who calmed the roaring seas and brought people back to life; in essence, the one who has defied all forces of nature to make them succumb to Himself, making all things seem somewhat illogical and/or unreasonable, He is the same God who is longing for our commitment.  Free of the grumbling.  He longs for us to desire to know Him more and more and want to obey Him just because we love Him, and not out of mere duty. That we'd draw closer to Him in search of His perfect will for our lives, wanting to please Him with the breath of life He granted us.  That we'd obey Him because we trust Him enough and know that He knows what is truly best for us.  So much so that we'd no longer grumble.  We'd no longer complain.  

Although He can empathize with our refrain, He wants us to turn from our rebellion and accept fully whatever He'd want for and from us. That we would just step toward Him, even when it doesn't feel good, even when we can't understand things.  We'd trust Him enough to obey Him and we wouldn't hold anything back from Him. This is the perfect estate as a human being in relation to God our maker.  

And yet, we find a way to see it fit for us to grumble.  What is it about us that makes us prone to it?  Where is the root of our rebellion?  Whether or not we find its origin, it doesn't change the character of God.  We might be undeserving, but He pours out mercy.  We may not always be trusting, but He provides.  We may hold back and dig our feet deep to keep from following His lead, but He continues to shine His light on our walk.  He is not pleased with our rebellion; but nevertheless, He remains committed to His will and plan for our lives.  

So whenever you feel like you have every right to complain about the mundane you face today or about where God is clearly leading you, realize that you are on the brink of rebellion toward the God who granted you this day.  Turn it around! Turn it around with praise to a Father God who has not only hand-picked the kind of sunrise and sunset you will have, but has loved you enough to let you experience it.  Turn it around with submission to the One who gave it all for you.  

The Root of Our Rebellion

Tell me Lord, what is the root of our rebellion?
Tell me now, that I may go deep and uproot it
For it serves no good purpose
And it proves to be deceiving

Its force is like weeds tormenting the beautiful terrain
And though the surface is fine, deep down it's causing pain

It appears to show loyalty
Defending our cause
Protecting our rights
But only to mislead us when we think we are doing right

We want to obey you
We want to show we care
Still there's something between us
Somethin's not clear

So tell me Lord, where can I find it?
That I may use all forces to bind it
For its burn has left its mark
And it will be long before we're mended

What must I do?  Where must I go?
May my response be so....

I hear you Lord
And I'm willing now
I feel you nearer
To your call I vow
I feel freer Lord
I'm on higher ground
The root has been shaken
I'm no longer bound

Friday, April 4, 2014

Unworthy Entitlement

At times our kids feel so entitled.  At least that's how they conduct themselves.  It's as if we owe them something.  Like "hey, you brought me into this world, now make it worthwhile for me!"
So they make their demands and whine when we don't meet their expectations.  They can even grow resentful and become disrespectful if we don't grant their wishes.
Boy!  Had I known all that parenting entails, I don't know that I would have volunteered for it.
It's definitely a humbling experience.  It's sacrificial at its best.  It's self-denying.  It's giving without measure.  It's hurtful at times, although it can be rewarding.

Nevertheless, I'd declare that although there are a few rare cases when a parent purposefully hurts his/her child, most parents adore their children.  It's like we were wired to love them.  We are honored to care for them as infants.  We welcome the challenge of guiding them throughout their primary years, and we determine to be there for them during their tough adolescent and teen years.  We find comfort in being able to counsel them.  We proudly stand by them in their accomplishments, and we still stand by them in their shortcomings.  We love them!

We see their imperfections and we still love them.  We know they can be "selfish brats", and we can't help but to love them.  They reject us, and we wait for them.  They hate us, and we anticipate their next embrace.  And we look beyond their self-absorbed demeanour because we see their true potential.  Have you ever witnessed it?  If not with your own child, with someone else's?  A very bratty mouthy kid and a mother who only sings his praises.  It' kind of funny.  And it's not that she is crazy and cannot seem to accept reality.  It's simply that she loves him and sees what he can be, even if he's not there yet.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not talking about parents who see the wrong their children are capable of and then look the other way.  I'm talking about parents who see the sin in our children and choose to love them in spite of it.  That doesn't mean we "okay" it.  And at times, we have to show "tough love", we have to discipline them, and "hold on for dear life" with a firm "NO."  We love them but we don't always say yes.

Well, I can't help but think about the loving dad of the "Prodigal Son".    What an experience that must have been for that father!  To see his son walk away with his "rights" (aka. Entitlements) and not even look back.  This dad watched his son walk away without a glimmer of assurance that he'd return some day.  I find it interesting that this loving dad did not run after the son or try to persuade him to stay.  He simply let him go.  And that's what we do sometimes with our children.  We let them go.  It's another form of loving them.

But I would dare to say that this dad never took his eye off the road.  The same road his son walked off on would be the one to lead him back home.  And this father most likely never gave up the hope that his son may learn his lesson and return home.  And I"m sure that neither the distance nor the lapse of time, decreased the amount of love he had for his son.  I'm certain that although he was probably hurt, he never stopped loving his prodigal son.  Therefore, on the day that this child came home again, his dad simply opened up his arms of love to embrace him once again.  He didn't interrogate him.  He didn't turn away.  He accepted him and loved him, just as he had done all along.

I can't help but think about our relationship with our Father God.  Yes, we are the children of God, and we too have to admit we too suffer from this "entitlement" syndrome.  If we are honest, we too have been bratty and mouthy and relentless at dishonoring our Dad in heaven.  We make our demands and we whine when our wishes are not met.  We walk away at times; rather, we stomp away at times feeling entitled.  We go to the extent of walking away for an unmeasured lapse of time, hoping He never finds us in our own little "pig sty".  So many times, we play the part of the undeserving prodigal son; feeling entitled, and yet so unworthy.

And how does God respond?  What does He see?  He responds in  and with Love.  He is ready to forgive and show grace.  He shows mercy and grants us peace.  So why does He do this, if we are so undeserving?  It's not like he doesn't see the sin in us.  He's not oblivious to our nonsense.  He's not looking the other way.  He sees right through us.  He knows us, our good and our bad.  He sees beyond our imperfections, and He chooses to see our potential.  Better yet, He sees His one and only Son's sacrifice for us.  That is His ultimate motivation to love us.  It's not because we are behaving or because we are in any way deserving.  He loves us because His Son died for us.  He loves us because He sees His Son's blood covering up our ugly estate.  He loves us because He is wired to do so, and we are His!

*Luke 15:11-32