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Waiting on God in Faith

I’m sitting in Cracker Barrel, waiting. Waiting again. “Every time I meet with this guy he’s late,” I complain to myself. He strikes me as such a self-important sort of fellow. I ask God to forgive me for thinking ill of him…but I still feel that way.

Few people in this life are dependable. I mean to be on time. You know.

We were supposed to meet at 8 AM for breakfast. At this rate, we’re going to have an early lunch. I’m ready to leave!

Just as I was starting to get ticked, God reminded me of something.

He reminded me of His patient perseverance in waiting for me. His love led Him to be patient with me, confident in His work that He would complete in me regardless of me.

You see, He’s sovereign. I’m not.

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9 NASB

So often we describe God like this, “Come on God! You are so slow! Let’s get moving! Okay?” We see Him as slow. Because we see Him this way, we also believe He is condescending and always late.

Then we start thinking of Him with the same way that I’m thinking of my friend who is late, with irritation and impatience.

We start believing that He’s disengaged, distant, aloof, and disinterested in our lives.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The God who waited on you to “come around” to seeing Him as He really is – unchanging in His love for you and proving it through Christ – is worthy of your waiting on Him now.

Be patient. Persevere. Endure. He’s moving at just the right speed and in just the right way, bringing just the right things to bear, to give you a future that you could never have imagined.

Continued faith in Him is the key. Faith always is.

Read the words of the prophet Habakkuk. He waits for God as a guard on a watchtower waiting on a messenger to arrive with an important message…

“I will stand on my guard post
And station myself on the rampart;
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
And how I may reply when I am reproved.
Then the Lord answered me and said,
“Record the vision
And inscribe it on tablets,
That the one who reads it may run.
“For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal, and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.”
Habakkuk 2:1-3 NASB

What does Habakkuk’s faith do for him? In faith and trust in God he stands, he watches, he listens, and he prepares to respond. He’s looking for God to correct Him for being so impatient.

And, as always, God shows up. He may “tarry,” and He may call us to “wait for it;” but He will “certainly come” and His timing will always be right.

Many times God is waiting for us to be ready for what He has to say or for what He wants to accomplish in our lives. It’s not God who’s delaying. It’s us.

He’s waiting for us to express faith.

There are three kinds of faith you know? First, there’s easy faith. It’s the kind that we just have. There’s no work to it. We easily trust God that our car will start, we’ll make it to work on time, the kids will get to school, or our family loves us.

Second, there’s intentional faith, the kind of faith that takes a bit of work. I have to say, “God, I’m a bit concerned here, but I know you’ve got this!” This is the kind of faith that we have to express when life becomes uneasy. I lose my job; my car breaks down, and I can’t get to work on time; and other significant inconveniences in life.

Third is radical faith. Faith must become radical when the word cancer is used by a doctor when he describes my physical ailment. It becomes radical when a family member dies, tragedy strikes, a flood ravages a town, or a hurricane hits the shore with devastating force. Radical faith is the faith that says, “Oh God why? Why did you allow this? None the less God, I trust you!”

Most of our waiting upon God won’t require radical faith. It may require intentional faith, but most of the time it will just require easy faith.

Will you wait? Will you wait on God? If you do, it will be because you trust Him to be right on time with just the right answer or blessing.

And, when you do, you’ll be much more patient with others too. Maybe that’s why we’re not patient with others? Maybe we simply don’t trust God?

Peace,

Pastor Mark

God Is So I Am: Merciful not Moralizing

Welcome to the inaugural service of Renewal Chapels. Today we began what God was leading us to love all in our community and city. We are excited to see were God leads us are we are lead to be merciful and not moralizing to all. Thank you for join us.

 

Struggle & Relief

Thank the Lord I don’t have to go anywhere this evening! In the words of my best friend while in seminary many years ago, “It’s thick!”

No birds fill the air tonight with their flying, flipping, and forward darts and dives. Absent are the barn swallows as the early evening comes upon us. It’s just too hot!

Only the bugs are buzzing and singing. Oh, they’re very happy! The demon-bred wasps leave the shaded wooden-paper nest to spend this evening on the brick wall of our home, baking themselves in the torrid evening sun. Only insects are enlivened by this kind of heat! And maybe snakes, but thank the Lord I don’t see any of those Satan-like slitherers.

The creek behind my house is languishing, a slow flow. Brown water from all of the recent rains, thick with mud, sticks, and limbs slowly oozes its way past our back yard.

The heat is exhausting and sticky. I reach up to scratch the back of my neck. My fingers stick to my neck and my upper, and lower arm has to be peeled apart as I lower it back to the arm of my chair.

We won’t be enjoying the porch swing tonight. With this kind of humidity, the mosquitos will be ravenous after the sun goes down; leaving their itchy pink whelps all over our legs and arms.

They always go for my wife first. “Your blood’s sweeter than mine, Honey,” I laughingly exclaim to her. I know though that it’s really because her skin is more soft and supple than mine; much easier “pickin’s” for those tiny blood-sucking beasts!

Afternoons and evenings like this remind me of the days of woeful burden that our life can become at times as Jesus’ disciples. It’s not that God lays terrible burdens upon us all the time, although at times He does.

It’s more that life as Jesus disciple is simply not always easy. It does take discipline, hard work, the “girding up of the loins” of your mind, as the King James Version portrays the challenging task of being “on mission” always as Jesus’ friend and servant (1 Peter 1:13 KJV).

Sometimes the Jesus-Life is work. Burden. Struggle. Sweaty and sticky-dirty. Exhausting.

Yet God always gives a gift. It’s the refreshing rains that come and fall, cooling off the afternoon and evening, and giving new life.

As the rain is drunk up by the heat-thirsty grass and trees, the air is cooled by its falling. The smell of rain itself can be so burden lifting.

I sense my parchedness as my cotton-covered tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I need a drink.

Then He comes to me. God that is…and Jesus. In His words to the woman at the Samaritan well…

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
John 4:10 NASB

And later in His life-giving conversation with this lose-living lady…

“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst, but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14 NASB

“Springing up” doesn’t seem like something that I’d do right now, given the weather. But inside my heart is enlivened and comforted by the reality of the life that my Savior gives.

Yes, indeed. There are times when the life that I have as Jesus’ disciple is a more of a trudge and sludge than a refreshing walk.

While I may be covered with sticky sweat and dirt and grime and even tears. Inside life is radically different. It’s filled with…

…refreshing mercy from God in a merciless world;
…life from Christ in a dying and decaying earth;
…hope from His Spirit who’s with me always, even in a culture that is angry with hopelessness;
…a permanence in my life that only Jesus disciple understands, while everyone else around us struggles with the temporary pleasures that can be had today;
…a protection as God’s own power garrisons me around, above, and below, keeping me safe and secure;
…and a joy, an honest-to-goodness joy that is unspeakable to anyone else but me because it’s grounded in the faith-life of Jesus’ disciples, even on days when I feel on the inside like I do today on the outside (See 1 Peter 1:3-6).

The Hebrew prophet speaks of this cooling refreshment from God through Christ too. Read Hosea’s own words of the love of our Merciful Abba…

“He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”
Hosea 6:2-3 NASB

You and I can indeed “press on to know the Lord!” Even in the throws of terrible struggle in blood, sweat, and tears, we can move forward to experience God.

How? Because in everything, He is always coming to us. He’s Immanuel. He promised He’d do no less. He always keeps His word!

Because we know that, as bad as things are now, He’s always delivered us through them in the past, and He’ll deliver us again this time.

Our intent then is to keep our hearts and minds fixed on the hope that He’s present now, and coming in the relief that is due any moment.

Just watch. The One who’s in the struggle will be the One in the relief He’ll bring soon enough!

Peace,

Pastor Mark

Being Triumphant Every Day – Part 6

In my last post, I discussed our insecurities and our need for change. I stated the obvious — “the foundation of our anxiety-producing insecurity is that we are not at all we were meant to be. Not even close.”

We all “fall short of the glory of God” in one way or another (Romans 3:23).

But God is always working, coming to us in a variety of ways to draw us closer to our true best selves in Christ Jesus as our Lord. It always requires modification, growth, maturity, or some form of change.

Typically, we all see change as something bad.

Even if we know that change will improve us, draw us closer to God, closer to our true best self in Christ as our Lord, and closer to our loved ones, we still fight it. Why? Because we look at change as something bad.

Understanding Jesus as Immanuel Makes Change Good

If you’ve been reading my writing for very long, you’ve heard me speak of Immanuel. It’s the name the angel told Joseph to give Jesus when He was born. It means, “God is with us.”

If Jesus is God — and He is — then Jesus is also Immanuel. In everything that comes our way as His disciples, Jesus is always coming to us. Even in the bad and painful things, He is moving toward us.

Romans 8:28 says that “…we know that in all things God is working together for good” in our lives as His children. He has an amazing plan for your life. In achieving this great plan, you must overcome your insecurities that caused you to set up a false version of yourself so that you can experience your best self in Christ.

God Has a Monumentally Better Plan For You

Living out of our insecurities and fears is never God’s desire for you. It’s a painful life, a false life, and one filled with shame and guilt. Besides hurting yourself, you end up hurting others; usually those who are closest to you.

How? Because you never give to others your real self. You never show them your true self. You give them your false self, never giving yourself fully or truly to anyone.

God doesn’t want that for you, or those you love. He loves you and has a much greater way of life for you!

And to help you to overcome your insecurities, He’s going to bring things into your life that will bring you opportunities. We all love opportunities. Accept opportunity to move beyond fear.

Fear Locks Us Up

The fear of being open when we’ve been closed for so long can be too great to overcome. The fear of being vulnerable when we’ve been guarded can be simply too much to handle.

So we stay closed and guarded, never moving beyond the facade of our false self.

It feels safe. It feels secure. But it’s not.

Distance and Isolation

There is a sense of safety in our false self. It’s worked for us for a long time. There is a sense of security in remaining the same.

The problem is that we are at best at arm’s length from everyone around us, and at worst we’re miles apart from even those we love. This false-self hinders our ability to love others, and it doesn’t build our intimacy. It actually tears it down.

We end up alone and lonely. We end up with people in our lives who feel unloved and uncared for. The distance between us and those we love enlarges. Our isolation becomes more and more pronounced. The sense of being pushed away increases exponentially for our loved ones.

A New Thing

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth, I proclaim them to you.”
Isaiah 42:9 NASB

“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:19 NASB

“You have heard; look at all this. And you, will you not declare it? I proclaim to you new things from this time, even hidden things which you have not known.”
Isaiah 48:6 NASB

God’s always bringing His beloved people something new. He’s always coming to you, in everything, with a new opportunity.

Notice the reticence that God’s recognizes in His people? He says, “will you not be aware of it,” “look at this,” and “will you not declare it” again!

He senses the doubt, the hesitation, the fear in His people. The doubt in their eyes reveals the fear in their heart at His different and new way of working!

So It Is With Us

God’s always coming with a new way of working, a new way of living, a new way of seeing life, a new way of relating to Him, and a new way of living in relationship with those in your life.

Stop rejecting change. Trust in God, not in your poser, that imposter, that false-self that you’ve set up to protect yourself.

Move forward into the unknown with a God who knows everything about you, loves you unchangingly, and has a much better way of life for you than you have for yourself!

Peace,

Pastor Mark

If Your Looking, He Will Come.

It’s very early in the morning as I write now. It’s a sticky warm muggy morning. It’s August. I’m outside.

Below the trees the light is dim. Ever brightening shadows make the cool damp summer-green grass luminescent. The heat of the day is not upon it yet and the coolness of morning’s shadow-grass is wonderfully refreshing.

Tree trunks are brown and gray, calming down the glow of the morning’s brightening shadows. Straight and thick, they hold up the branches and leaves that shade the ground.

Above in the treetops, the blue sky is evident. Cloudless. Azure. Brilliant. A gleaming contrast to the disappearing darkness beneath the leaves and branches.

The sun is radiant though I can’t see it or feel it’s blistering late summer heat just yet. I can see its glow on the leaves in the tops of the trees beyond the those closest to me that are still in the morning’s slowly illuminating shadows.

The world is waking up. A rooster is crowing at the house across the creek. A neighbor’s dog is barking. The birds have already begun their morning song-fest.  Sam, my German Shepherd sits by me, ears alert, head turning from side to side quickly.  He too wants to take it all in.

Everyone’s excited! Tune, tenor, and tremor reveal a passion for another new day that God has provided.

God is here. He’s in everything all of the time. He’s coming to me right now.

Obviously in the brilliance of the sun, the luminescing summer-green grass, and the topmost leaves, now alive with color because of the sun’s morning gleam.

He’s in the shade too. The shadows. The gray and brown tree trunks. The dead and decaying leaves on the forest floor below. In God, even the shadow of death brings new life!

There is a strength and power and majesty to those firmly well-rooted behemoths holding up their grandiose glory and beauty above them. The tree trunks lift the upper leaves and branches to catch the first glimpse and grandeur of the morning sun, and not a bit jealous themselves. He’s a powerful and selfless One, our God!

The neighbor’s dog has ceased his barking. He’s chasing his tail now, playing in the cool, damp morning grass. It’s a dance. He runs then bounds, slides to a halt in the slickened grass, and jumps almost vertically coming down legs pumping, darting off to do it again. God’s playful heart seems almost entirely unleashed in his running and chasing!

The rooster has stopped his trumpet call of daybreak. The hens and chicks are out now. Their clucking and cheeping is the only sound from the coup and yard now. The security of God’s watch care over them is unveiled to me!

Now the sun is striking the grass turning it from summer-green and cool to an almost fluorescent green-yellow. And the brown-gray tree trunks of some minutes ago are now alive and vibrating as the sun begins to warm them as it did their uppermost branches earlier. God’s selfless patience and perseverance always pay loving dividends!

Bugs are buzzing, and the birds’ song is different. It’s a chirping now. Flying to and fro; hearty fun through multiplied mid-air acrobatics.  The contentment and happiness of God become a part of me now too!

God is indeed always coming to us in everything. No wonder David wrote these words of our God and His creation…

Psalms 19

For the choir director. A Psalm of David.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.

Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.

In them, He has placed a tent for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.

Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.

They are more desirable than gold, yes than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover, by them, Your servant is warned;
In keeping them, there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.

Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.

(The New American Standard Bible)

Enjoy Your Day With Your God,

Pastor Mark

Being Triumphant Every Day – Part 5

Change Confronts Our Insecurity

Change. You can either embrace it and grow exponentially; try to control it by keeping it at arm’s length and live out of your worst insecurities; or ignore it, refusing to grow and be entirely controlled by your insecurities.

The foundation of our anxiety-producing insecurity is that we are not at all we were meant to be. Not even close.

Like Adam and Eve, we’ve discovered that we’re naked, and we don’t want anyone to know it. But everyone does because they are naked too! So we all cover ourselves with a false-self. It’s part of what Paul called the “old man.” We create our “imposter,” as Brennan Manning calls it, to present to others what we believe is our best selves. But it’s not our best selves!

When we are children we all create this “old man” that denies our true self that is created in the image and likeness of God Himself. We create this false-self to protect us from the world that becomes more painful the older we get. It’s a broken way of living. We establish this false-self because of our fears and insecurities. Any version of self that’s grounded in insecurity and fear is always a false-self.

Instead of our best-selves that are God’s creation recreated through Christ Jesus, we present something vastly different. We show people something more acceptable to us, and wildly opposite of our genuine best selves. We present this self-creation based on fear, insecurity, and apprehension. That can never be our best selves!

Opportunities to Change are God’s Gift

God is always moving for the best interests of His children. Every change that we must make, therefore, is God’s attempts to move us back to our true-self and away from our false-self.

The Bible says that “perfect love casts out fear.” The minute you truly experience God’s love, insecurities built upon fear begin to fall away. As your relationship with Him grows, more insecurities diminish, and the safety of our false-self become less important.

Every needed change, therefore, is a gift from God. It’s an invitation to trust Him, and it’s an invitation to allow Him to release us from the prison of our insecurities in our false-selves, into the freedom of our true-selves.

More To Come

We’re going to talk more about this topic in this series of posts. One question comes to mind though as we continue to walk together in this journey of growth through change.

Will you embrace change and grow exponentially; will you partially accept change trying to control it and still be influenced by your false, insecure self; or will you completely reject any change and thereby reject God’s work to return you to who you were created to become?

Only you know the answer to that lengthy question!

Peace,

Pastor Mark

Solidarity: The Great Challenge

The church is not a place of solidarity. There. I said it right from the outset. Christ created it to be a place of solidarity though.

Solidarity is oneness. It’s not unity in diversity. It is a oneness that surpasses unity because a deeper loyalty and mercifulness permeates all members of the church toward one another and toward others.

Jesus speaks of oneness. Paul speaks of oneness. John too speaks of oneness. Each of them is referring to solidarity.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines solidarity as: “…agreement of feeling or action especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.’

Good definition. Right?

Well, not really! Not when you consider Jesus. Though the definition above is a good definition of humanity’s view of solidarity but it falls far short of God’s definition of solidarity as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Transcendent God Became Transparent Man

Consider John’s words about Jesus as transcendent God…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.”
John 1:1-4 NASB

Then read John’s words a few lines later…

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14 NASB

When John speaks of Jesus in verses one through four, he speaks of Jesus as God Himself; the Creator God of Genesis chapters one and two. Yet when he speaks of Jesus in verse fourteen, he speaks of Jesus as a man. He “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw…”

Jesus was one-hundred percent God and one-hundred percent human. The Transcendent had become Transparent in Jesus.

Now That’s Solidarity!

It’s exciting when men and women come together in solidarity, but it’s even more exciting when a transcendent God seeks solidarity with us!

How could God have “common interest” with humans? Other than He created us, there is no other common ground.

Therefore…

Real solidarity is when I seek oneness with someone who I might even consider completely different than me. That, it seems to me, reveals a real desire for oneness and solidarity.

It’s easy for me to seek oneness with people who are like me. But real Christ-like solidarity and oneness is revealed in me when I seek oneness with someone who is completely different than me.

Tolerance Is Not The Goal

Our media today is full of talk about tolerance and intolerance. Integration back in the 60’s was a horror to both sides, and there never should have been “sides”! Yet it would have never been needed had we sought real oneness and solidarity with one another from the beginning.

Racial barriers, disunities, segregations, cultural differences, and hatred are all grounded upon the church’s refusal to see, let alone reflect, the great desire for solidarity that God has for us. If He has done all that He’s done in Christ to bring us into solidarity with Himself, we must do the same to be in solidarity with others.

And this word – “tolerance” – is not the goal. To tolerate someone is to “put up” with them, to “endure” them. It’s never to come near to them and know them and to find myself at oneness with them! Yet that’s what God did for us and it’s what He’s calling us to do with one another.

Let’s not tolerate one another. Rather let’s seek oneness and solidarity with one another as God did in Christ for us!

Grace,

Pastor Mark

Being Triumphant Every Day – Part 4

Everyone is a servant. There are no exceptions to this rule. Some of us realize they are only servants and not only accept this but revel in the freedom of it. I simply won’t enjoy a day of true triumph unless I begin, spend, and end the day serving God and others!

Zig Ziglar even said, “You’ll get what you want out of life if you help enough other people get what they want out of life!” A truer statement was only made by Jesus, as always…

“…Jesus *said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.'”
Mark 10:42b-45 NASB

Two Important Servant Roles: Marriage and Child Rearing

As a wife or husband, you are a servant to your spouse. When you get married, you agree that you will be this woman’s (or man’s) servant for the rest of your days — not a slave, but a willing servant.

In our culture, we see so-called Christian husbands demand submission by their wives, forgetting the Apostle Paul’s previous verse:, “Be subject to one another for the Lord’s sake.” An overbearing husband is even more painful than a contentious wife! I would venture to say that every marital abuse or unfaithfulness is rooted in having forgotten the role of a willing servant. Again, you are not a slave, but a willing servant.

As a parent, you are not only a servant to God who gave you your children, but also a servant to your children. Anything less ends up in frustrated, angry children who are broken by demanding, exasperating parents with unrealistic expectations. Paul says, “Fathers do not provoke your children to wrath.” Why? Because men, usually quicker than women, forget that we are servants to our children.

Being a servant to your child, however, does not mean being a doormat or providing every opportunity; which unfortunately is the path many mothers take. Some opportunities are best unexperienced and not just the bad ones! From limitations, our children learn they are not entitled to everything they want. Only a parent who realizes they are a servant to God first and their children second will be able to find the appropriate balance in providing opportunities for their kids.

If Jesus, Then What About Me?

Since Jesus says that He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give up His life as a ransom for many,” should we not always see ourselves as servants? Jesus also said, “The student is not greater than his teacher.” Should we not follow His example and see ourselves as servants? You and I both know the answer to those questions!

Wherever we go, whatever we do; we are servants. If we have that attitude, everyone around us will receive our best, not because they demand it, but because we realize our job is always to give our best.

The Two Realities of Servanthood!

The first reality is simply that our purpose on this earth is to serve. If it was true of Jesus, then it’s true for us. We are here to serve — God first, and then everyone else.

The second reality is more complex. It’s about our attitude — a willingness to serve. We should serve willingly and generously, sacrificing ourselves for the benefit of others.

Jesus includes purpose and willingness in His description of Himself to set the example for us.

What About Me?

Do I see my purpose in life to be successful, victorious, on top, promoted, or always gaining? Or do I see my purpose in life as making those around me successful, victorious, or promoted?

Is there a willingness on my part to serve with generosity, giving up what I want so another might have? Or is there within me a willfulness instead? A willfulness that says, “I’m going to get ahead?”

Little doubt resides in Jesus statement. You and I have a purpose, and that purpose is to serve. And you and I are called to a willingness in that servanthood toward others more than ourselves.

Think about it. Are you living a life “to be served” or “to serve”?

Really daily triumphant living comes to those who see themselves simply as servants of God and humankind. It takes away all of the “striving and chasing after wind”!

Peace,

Pastor Mark

Being Triumphant Every Day – Part 3

Separateness vs. Solidarity

Each day we unwittingly buy into the mistaken belief that we are separate from everyone else. We are radically different and therefore opposite of everyone else we meet. Each moment we live by this mistaken belief, and it causes us so many problems, disagreements, and dissensions with others.

The reality is nothing could be further from the truth. This lie leads us to inflated egos or deflated unworthiness.

Our God wants neither of these to control us!

When God, in Christ, chose to become a human being through miraculous conception in Mary’s womb, our definition of solidarity changed quite radically.

For human beings, solidarity is defined as “unity of agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group” (New Oxford American Dictionary).

Yet when Christ became a man, He proved that He longed for solidarity with humanity. Christ who was transcendent became transparent. His solidarity with us became evident, and our understanding of solidarity had to change. The God who is “completely other” became completely, 100% human as well!

In His incarnation, He seeks unity of purpose, a partnership, a union, and solidarity with us. And He paid the ultimate price to obtain it for us – generously sacrificing His very life for ours.

As a matter of fact, Jesus sought out the marginalized outcast. Whores, publicans, sinners, tax collectors, rough-cut sailors and fishermen, lepers, crippled, and blind are the ones with whom Jesus reveals a deep desire for solidarity. And, to shock everyone even more, He rejected and even openly attacked the leaders of the religious establishment of His day.

Jesus was a radical seeking solidarity with the marginalized. He was not a “good ole boy” seeking a political position with the powerful! But He was willing to hear them out, as we see in His telling conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus, and to see them into the kingdom of God like the rest of us! Jesus was always seeking solidarity with everyone, and willing to sacrifice Himself to gain it for everyone – Jew, Samaritan, Greek, Slave, Free, Pharisee, and Prostitute!

Similar or Different?

It’s easy for me to feel united with people who are like me; to not believe I am separate from them. It’s abundantly challenging, however, to see my solidarity with those who are different.

With the addict and alcoholic…
With the abuser as well as the abused…
With the suspect politician whose political views are radically opposed to mine and with the elected official whose position I would die supporting…
The thief…
The liar…
The one who hates me…

With all of these and more, I can long and seek for solidarity, unity, and therefore peace.

You and I do not achieve Christ-likeness by being in solidarity, union, and therefore at peace with people who are similar us.

We find Christ-likeness in seeking and being in solidarity with those who are different from us. God in Christ sought solidarity with us, those who are radically different than Him. We are called to do not less.

Jesus, as always says it best…

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
Luke 6:32-38 NASB

What About You?

For me, it took a huge failure to come to grips with this reality. It took a loss of faith followed by a life for a time of selfish pursuits. I walked away from God and everything He stood for.

But He loved me back to His side. He was not finished with me yet. He’s not finished with you either, even if you really do believe that you’re better than other people.

I hope and pray that you don’t have to go to such an extreme to see yourself as you really are – a human being in solidarity and unity with not only the best of humankind but the worst too! Why? Because none of us are any better than any of us. As Paul said, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Not some. All.

Begin by taking simple and small steps. At church find someone who you believe is different than you and seek them out. Talk with them. Invite them to your home for dinner after church. Engage with them. Don’t find someone who can reciprocate either. Seek someone who you believe cannot.

Go to your local Christian drug and alcohol rehab center and volunteer. Ask the chaplain at your local hospital how you might help him out. The man you know whose son is in jail for some drug-related offense, go to lunch with him, get to know him, and even make plans to visit his son in jail.

Simply reach out to those who are unique and different.

You’ll soon find out that you do indeed have solidarity with them, and the separateness that you have felt will melt away.

Grace,

Pastor Mark