Of Serpents and Doves…


T’is the season for those that, some would consider, “condemnation” Christians, to come out of the woodwork. You know…the ones that put the ‘E’ in C(Christmas) M(Mother’s Day) E(Easter) Christians.

No judgment.  Honestly. I totally get it.  You want to make Momma and Grandma happy, and they will take your attendance to a church service, however they can get it. As a mom, I completely appreciate the desire to see your children attend church in the hopes of receiving more conviction than condemnation.  

Please understand…this is actually dedicated to the ones that make others feel like hot garbage, if they don’t, AT LEAST, go to church on certain holidays.  There is NOTHING saying if you don’t attend a church service regularly, that you will die and go to a burning Hell. The trouble is, the average Joe, that knows anything about the bible knows that…which is why the guilt trip rarely works.

Again, no judgment. Honestly.

So many people avoid church because they don’t want to be ‘preached’ to.  I know that you want to be a witness and share the love of God. And, I KNOW you don’t feel called to a ‘door knocking’ ministry. There has to be a way to share the Gospel with those around you, without beating them over the head with the bible.  Think about the people where you work, or the other parents in the PTA, or the neighbors on your block that you see when you are taking out the trash. Your heart is to give them the good news in a way that actually makes it seem like good news!

The struggle is not that people don’t necessarily know that they need God or a relationship with Him.  It’s more a point that they see Christians that seem unapproachable and their lifestyle unattainable. It’s like someone telling you what you already know: you’re pretty much screwed up and there’s not much you can do about it. It’s depressing knowing that there are people who  aren’t quite as screwed up as you. It’s even MORE depressing when it seems like they are holding their near perfection over YOUR head.  Nobody wants that. And, even when that’s not how we mean for it to look, that’s how it ends up appearing. Our reputations have preceded us.

It is into this kind of scenario that Jesus sent His disciples for, shall we say, “missionary” training. He sent them in as “sheep” to a den of wolves, instructing them to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. It was like giving them a ‘bad news, worse news,’ scenario.  You’re gonna look like sheep – lost, confused, air-headed, even flighty, but you have to be clever, crafty and even attractive, while maintaining an innocent, childlike trust in God and His plan for you…in the face of wolves.

Are you getting it, yet?

It’s as simple as it is complicated. We are not to lord our salvation over people. We are not to glorify our lifestyle by condemning that of another’s.  We have to be an honest representation of Salt and Light and Love.

Salt is tricky business.  In proper measure, it enhances the flavor and preserves what’s good in a thing. Too much can burn, like acid. Too little is perfectly useless.

Light, illumination, creates the same complication.  Too much, too fast can be painful and blinding. But, if presented like the dawn, it’s a gentle joyous revelation of what’s really around you, so that you may govern yourself accordingly, thus garnering an appropriate response.

Love SEEMS to be the easiest…on paper.  It’s in the practical demonstration of it, that people tend to get hurt the most. Part of the problem is that everyone has their own definition of love, based on their life experiences, that doesn’t always look like the biblical definition of it. Love, when properly displayed, can look mean, sometimes hateful. Sometimes, love makes you look stupid or naive.  Like serpents and doves.

It is in combining the forces of salt and light and love, that people become thirsty for what Christ has provided; aware of what the cost is of a life without Him as well of the benefits of a life with Him; and they become open to what true love will do in the life of an ordinary, human existence.

Then, and only then, will we see CME Christians become anchored members of the Family of God, devoted to a part of the Body of Christ and DISCIPLES. I mean, that was the original assignment, right?

Jesus did not say that hanging out with a bunch of people, just for the sake of pleasing our parents, would get us into heaven.  And, that is all a good guilt trip gets us. Reluctant attendees to a Sunrise Service and the subsequent brunch. We were never called to make congregants. We are called to make disciples…people who have active relationships with God, through Jesus Christ, that are supported by other branches who are also connected to the Vine.

So, at the close of this Good Friday, as we focus on the sacrifice of Jesus that made a way for us to be adopted into the Family of God, let us not get so wrapped up in who makes it to church this weekend.  Let’s start building relationships with the people in our communities that make them thirsty for a relationship with God, enlightened to the benefits of that relationship and fills them with the Love we’ve been given, so that they can freely ‘pay it forward.’

That’s what this weekend is all about, anyway.

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Did Someone Say, “Cake?”


I’ve got Heaven on my mind, today. That’s not entirely uncommon, though.  Quite often (truth be told), I’m thinking of how I can’t wait to get off this rock, because of how much being here sucks. And sometimes, it’s because I’ve just experienced something beautiful, and I’ve said to myself, “It just can’t get any better than this.” That immediately triggers the response, “Yes…yes, it CAN get better than this.”

I’ve got heaven on my mind.

But, I gotta get there, first.

Part of getting to Heaven is being able to live it out, here on this sucky rock. Jesus said so, when He taught us to pray…”Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” He would not have instructed us to ask for it, if it were not something we should expect to have accomplished. But, like anything good on this earth, if you really want it, you’re gonna have to fight for it.

This is no fight that anyone with carnal knowledge is used to.  Anyone born into this world is aware that life is a fight. Some call it survival of the fittest.  You could call it the fight of the fast and the furious, or a fight of the sly, the slick, and the wicked.  It could be called the fight where he who hesitates is lost.

God calls it a fight to the death…of YOU

Being born into a sin nature, creates a piece of us that naturally distracts from our goal of Heaven. There’s a glitch in the matrix: part of us that is determined to MAKE a life for ourselves here on earth, as if THIS is all there is.  Having to live here, if we’re not careful, we can actually come to believe that this IS as good as it gets. That kind of thinking will damage our eternal perspective, and THAT is where the fight begins. This fight going on in us, here on earth, is meant to be the fight of our lives…to the death.

It is from the elements of death that the substance of victory is created.

Kinda like in baking a cake.

I love baking. It’s different from cooking meals.  There are very deliberate measurements that are required, if you’re going to bake a cake. I mean, people who are familiar with the recipes can take more liberties with them: you can go a little more or less on many things, but, deviate too much from the recipe and you will have some inedible mess on your hands!

Have you ever tried to eat the ingredients of a cake, by themselves?  Let me assure you, it’s DISGUSTING. Eating any one ingredient, in excess, can make you VERY sick. But, in their proper measure, in the appropriate combination, they are all integral to making a delicious treat.

Death of that carnal nature is of primary importance. It is akin to baking powder. The bitter work of dying to our selfish and fleshly nature is how the Spirit of God rises in us. You can’t make a victory cake without death being in the mix. Mixing is a painful, violent process…there is a reason that the phrase, “mixing it up,” is used for a fight AND making a cake; and “batter” is what’s left to be poured into the pan!! The ingredients are forced to accommodate one another, in order to produce an end product that is greater than the individual ingredients. Only after your flesh has had all the fight beaten out of it, can you blend successfully.

Finding a purpose for the pain of real life is the breakthrough. The point of life and living is in the BECOMING…becoming what God created us to be; becoming available for God to use, in helping others ‘become.’ It’s not enough for us to be Heaven-bound. We need to bring Heaven down, so we can make it into Heaven, TOGETHER. There are things about becoming that we have to maintain while, others need to be let go of.  We start out innocent and naive. While we’re maturing, it is necessary to shed the naivete. Circumstances of life will strip us of our innocence too, if we’re not careful. That innocence is the thing that keeps us light and hopeful and heaven minded. It’s the thing that Jesus was referring to when He said we must come to Him as little children – fully convinced that the Father loves us and will keep His promises to us. We lose that, and just like a cake that is over beaten, we become tough and tasteless. We can’t trust God, because PEOPLE have disappointed us…and that’s just SILLY.  People fail (we all do it, all the time), but God (who NEVER fails), is familiar with the recipe. He knows how to make provision for that, and STILL make Heaven on earth for us…if we trust Him.

It’s a daily death walk, to be sure. But, that’s why God provides new mercy for each of us, every day.  Every moment of every day presents the opportunity to be Heaven on earth, or Hell on wheels.

Oh, it’s a fight alright.

If you do it right, it could be a piece of cake.

 

Fool Proof Failure


Life is a ledger.  It’s a careful accounting of wins and losses…of failures and successes.  To some, that may seem pretty black and white. But, in the grand scheme of things, so many things, that we would considers successes in the here and now, are the exact opposite from a Kingdom Perspective.  Considering how we cannot see the big picture, most of how we see things will change in the rearview mirror.

I am not surprised by my failures. Sometimes, I do get frustrated, though.  It’s hard to know what the word of God says about me and what God has called me to, when I see where I am in my life and how long it has taken me to get to the bottom, coming from so far below. I wish I had gone farther, sooner.  

That’s the thing about failure.  The inevitability of it. When you are striving to do and be more, it’s vexing.  That whole thing about being made of dust and vapor gets lost in the quest for perfection. Apostle Paul put it in the best nutshell, talking about wanting to do the right thing, knowing what the right thing to do is…and still mucking it all up.  

Dust and vapor. Vapor and dust.  

Something else about failure: If you’re open and willing and LISTENING, your failures can teach you things that your successes cannot. You learn the importance of not letting your failures define you.  You learn your weakness, and how to strengthen them.  You learn your strengths, and how to capitalize on them. Mistakes are the most excellent teachers of what NOT to do (and, as I’ve said before that is equally important in effectively learning what TO do).  

God is as fully prepared for your failures as He is for your successes. He has calculated them into the plan He has for you and will use even the failures to bring you to your expected end.

Failures humble you, because you learn that God is bigger than they are, and He’s on YOUR side.

I am not surprised by my success (I bet that surprises you). That’s really easy to say, because I know I have virtually nothing to do with them. The whole thing about being vapor and dust is that you realize how much nothing you really are.  Dust can be swept away. Vapor gets lost in a breath of air.  That kind of insignificance makes you painfully aware of what you are NOT capable of, except in the hands of the All Knowing Creator.

Coming from where I’ve been, I have every right to be relegated to a statistic.  And, as it turns out, that makes me the perfect candidate for God to make a masterpiece out of me.  I could easily say, in causing me to be successful, He has truly taken the foolish things of this world to profound the wise.

Vapor and dust. Dust and vapor.

The only thing I have to my credit is my desperation for God.  I know that, in my pursuit of God, like a good lover, I did my best to learn to love what He loves and hate what He hates. I know that He only wants me to be ME.  And, if that’s good enough for Him, it’s perfect for me, because that’s about the only thing I am good at (most of the time)!

I was horrible in a classroom setting.  I was sickly and sleepy all the time…but, I tested well. In writing this, I recognize the natural/spiritual parallel of me. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an education.  Just not one that would qualify me for someone else’s career. I am a student of life, though. I am an avid ‘people watcher’.  And, in watching is where I learned it is equally important to know what NOT to do as what to do.  

And, even in watching, I have learned it’s okay to celebrate my own mistakes as well as my successes. If one never learns to celebrate them both, either can easily destroy in their turn.  

THANK GOD FOR PRAYER…

It is in the prayers of others that support and protection can be found.  In the prayers of family or friends, even in the prayers of those who have gone before, that faith in, and identity of one’s self can be restored.  I love the fact that Jesus prayed for me, as did many others in the Bible.  I thank God that I can recall my mother’s prayers and the prayers of my grandmothers.  And, I can hear the sound my own prayers in my head, as well.  

With all of that, only a fool can lose in this life.  And, even in losing, we of the Kingdom will STILL win.   

 

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