How Human Are You?

human-touch

I am learning that real life, a miraculous and full life, usually happens outside of the plans and boundaries I think life is contained in, but when I am under it, I can’t always see it. I’m still tempted to ask WHY when the tragedy, sickness and pressure occurs although I am recovering faster now.  I’ve been through enough experiences that seemed hopeless only to see them reverse and I marvel at how precisely and amazingly I or someone I love is delivered when I look behind me with perspective.  Even in those situations where circumstances didn’t change, grace and peace rush in to fill the gap left by devastation.

So when my wife Lesley (who already has a weakened immune system due to chemotherapy) had to be rushed into the emergency room for the second time in a week and all the doctors  had no clue as to why she had high fevers, nausea, vomiting,  and severe migraines for several days, I didn’t ask God why.  I kept my peace knowing “this too shall pass”.

Jesus addressed the question of WHY with his disciples revealing God’s take on sickness, brokenness and tragedy.  When the disciples saw the man born blind ( John 9) they asked why.  They assumed he was disabled out of judgment. They asked if he did something wrong or his parents. Jesus’ response was revolutionary and still is.  Any disability, lack, tragedy or sickness exists ( from God’s perspective) so that his glory can be revealed in meeting the need and restoring people. I am not saying he causes the negative situation, I am saying regardless of why it happens, it is not an obstacle for him in revealing his glory. Jesus revealed the glory of God with a HUMAN touch that restored the man physically and spiritually.

Joseph (coat of many colors fame)  said it this way to his own brothers who beat him and sold him into slavery.  “ What you intended for evil, God intended for good”.  I am sure it took Joseph some time to gain that perspective.  It seems to me that every difficult situation and circumstance can be viewed under these two paradigms.  The first one is a false understanding that we are being judged and God who is good is blamed for the cancer, death or other calamity. God has already made his judgment concerning you and me, he has judged us righteous in Christ. We may incur consequences for our actions (or not), but not his judgment.  The second one is that regardless of how devastating the situation we find ourselves in, God can and will reveal his glory.

Lesley is out of the hospital today  after a week’s stay this time, and at home resting, so my vantage point is clearer as I look back.  In my heart and mind I slow down to consider how God’s glory was revealed.  Just like the man born blind, glory was revealed by HUMAN touch.  Jesus the great physician touched my wife with HUMAN hands, and it didn’t matter to him if they were believers or unbelievers.  His glory was revealed when he incarnated himself in our friend Dr. Scott Lee who is a world class doctor with a ridiculous schedule. Dr. Lee stopped everything to come and comfort and to consult with her doctors and pray.  God’s glory was revealed through friends like Laura, Melanie,  Kimberly, Cheri, Diana and Judi who cooked meals for my family or sat for hours holding Lesley’s hands and loved her while I was at work. The glory of God was revealed when Michelle and Stephanie came over and cleaned my house with human hands.  The glory of God was revealed when family called or hopped on a plane to come help.

Christ did not come to demonstrate to us how to live Godly, but to demonstrate how to be really human. The incarnation ( God in HUMAN flesh) happens 24/7 through his body, through human touch.  “Our humanity is not an obstacle to spiritual living but the conduit; you are not an earthly being looking for spirituality to save, change, rescue, complete, compensate or escape you but you are a whole, perfect and complete being wanting to experience and express it in the context of the human reality and condition. ( Jim Palmer)

I got emotional as I drove into work today listening to Hillsong’s “I will Rise”,  because I was appropriating for myself and claiming for my wife, the resurrection power and life giving touch of the perfect HUMAN for the future and giving thanks for his glory revealed during this last week through his body.

 

Mike

Your Lens Might Need Fixing

 

All different kinds of lenses I have used at one time or another to better perceive depth, texture, detail, color, mysteries, size, perspective and a redefined reality. Without 3-D glasses the excitement and thrill of an added dimension (cobra snake coming out of the screen) does not occur. Without a microscope, the discovery of miniaturized universes full of strange new life is impossible. Without a telescope our perception of our own environment, size, value, and relationship to the universe and creation is cloudy and unclear. Without the lens of grace, (not the doctrine of grace), but the filter of grace that is personified in Christ himself ( 2 Tim. 2:1) we cannot see ourselves or others the way God does and because of that we make errors in judgment, (i.e. – the world is flat) except our judgment is against people.

Grace is not a component of your salvation, it is an unfolding revelation of the person of Christ ( Eph. 1:6-8). Grace is not a doctrine, theology, philosophy or brush it under the rug forgiveness. Grace is how the love of first Corinthians 13 is expressed toward those who can never do anything to deserve it or reciprocate. If you try to “repay the favor” then you don’t understand grace, in fact you are flat out insulting the gift and the giver, grace has finished the work and does not require payment of any kind from you. That is why following the rules (10 commandments) and religious duties intended to please God borne out of performance are an enemy of Grace. Tragically in many churches across America and the world for that matter, our performance ( instead of our identity as adopted Sons and daughters) is the measure of our standing with God and people.

Grace restores dignity to whores and drug addicts, grace embraces those who reject grace with out expectation and celebrates the son who crashed the car and encourages him instead of berates him . Through the lens of grace, (the person of Christ), we see past the behavior to the value of the relationship with the person and build up instead of tear down even when that person curses us to our face or embarrasses us . Grace seems contradictory to justice, even unfair, but is the ultimate justice and fulfillment of the law.

Unlike 3-D glasses, microscopes and telescopes which are used temporarily to aid our perception, Grace lenses are to be worn permanently, otherwise we are blind leading the blind.

What lens are you wearing?

Drawn By {Love} – a repost

I posted this over a year ago.  So much has happened since then.  I have been able to spend more time with my middle boy in the past 5 days, than I have in the past 5 months.  The questions I have in the midst of the current circumstances are answered by this simple statement:

………For such a time as this……………

So no matter the situation or position you find yourself in today.  My encouragement to you is this:  Let the Lord who holds the day in his hands  “Draw you to himself in LOVE”

I saw his car in the parking lot.

What was he doing here?

It wasn’t time…….What time was  it?

I wanted to just walk by, so he wouldn’t see me.

But I was pulled in.  Drawn by what?

Drawn by LOVE?

As I got closer, I began to get fearful.

Would he be angry?

Would he accept me?

I saw his head leaning against the half open window.

And all of a sudden, yes,

I was being drawn by LOVE. 

He sensed my presence and he lifted his head.

Our eyes locked.

I took the initiative.

“Hi.”

He rolled his window all the way down.

“Hi” he replied.  “What are you doing here?”

“This is the park that I run the dog.”

“Oh” he said and he looked down.

I stood there, not knowing what to say next.

“Invite him” was all I heard.

“Do you want to come and join me?”  I asked.

He looked at me, with questioning in his eyes and said with uncertainty,  “sure.”

He rolled up his window,  I stood back as he got out of his car and locked it.

We began to walk ….  in silence.

The warmth of the son beating down on our heads as the wide open space that I loved so much came into view.

I let the dog go, and he immediately took off….”running at such speed that spoke freedom to the very depths of my soul. “

We both watched the dog run and he grinned and chuckled a bit.

“WOW he really LOVES this doesn’t he.”

“Yes,”  I replied.

Again we were quiet as we watched and stood side by side.

“It’s all hitting me at once.” he started.

“Yea, I know.”  I replied.  “So many changes.”

“I don’t know where to even start” he continued.

He looked down , curling up his key chain in his left hand.

Then gazing out again  to watch the dog, who was continuing to run.

The past 18 years all running together at that very moment for me.

I was drawn by LOVE. 

I touched his arm lightly and strength allowed me to hold back the tears.

“Just  start with today.”

He looked at me, not able to hold back the tears.

“Thanks mom.” he said.

“You’re welcome. “  I replied.

He was drawn by LOVE.

and the dog kept running.

Jeremiah 31: 3 – I’ve never quit loving you and never will.  Expect love, love and more love.

Who Touched Me?

Image

 Some families are more touchy- feely than others and some family members are more open to expressions of affection than others. When my kids were little they would randomly hang on me, jump on my back and wrestle with me or hug me and kiss me or my wife for no special reason. As they got older, they became more secure, independent and less affectionate with us and each other ( “Dad, Jordan is touching me!”) and I have become more affectionate, to the point they tell me to stop hugging them and kissing them all the time, but I know that they really like it and will someday appreciate it more than they do today.

Clinical studies in hospitals have proven that babies who are touched and held and handled beyond basic care actually grow more physically and are substantially more healthy. What is true in physical application is also true spiritually, socially, and emotionally. We need to be touched to grow.

Old Testament Law and modern day religion set boundaries of exclusion so that people cannot touch or be touched. The unclean, the leper, those with sores, those who are bleeding and those who are dying or dead can not touch or be touched. People with these conditions spiritually are avoided like the plague. We do our best not to be touched by them for fear of infection or becoming unclean ourselves.

I don’t think we realize how radical then, it was for Jesus to touch what represents current and future generations through being touched by the woman with the issue of blood for 12 years and touching ( gripping) the 12 year old daughter of Jairus who died before he got there. (mark 5/Luke8)

Jesus said “who touched me”? Not because he was afraid of becoming unclean and being excluded by the temple, but he asked so he could commend her faith and bring inclusion and healing (sozo) to every part of her life. The hallmark of Jesus’ coming and kingdom was to bring life abundant. He was accessible by everyone. John the disciple says in 1John 1 in wonderment, “He was from the beginning, we have heard, seen and touched him. The book of Hebrews says he is a high priest who is “touched” with the feeling of our infirmities, he is not made unclean by them. He identifies with us in every capacity. We aren’t exiled, we are included, we are touched and healed and made whole and so are others when we touch them, as he is so are we in this world.

Have you touched him so you can touch others?

Image

Kingdom Parable Series Week 1 – Parable of the Leaven

Don’t miss the most important part of the parable, it is usually the first statement or question and gives us our point of reference.

“To what shall I liken the kingdom of God?”

( God’s rule and reign in our lives, not some future disembodied place of rest). The kingdom is like leaven or yeast which a woman took and hid {(en) ekrypsen}- the word for hid in the original language is where we get the word cryptic or mysterious. A characteristic of the kingdom is its mysteriousness. She hid it in three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.

God is characterizing or personifying himself as a woman here, he is not ashamed or concerned with the typology as much as showing his nurturing and concern, even expertise at something that would normally be a woman’s job;  making bread. Remember Jesus called himself a mother hen who wanted to protect people under his wings at one point. Both femininity and masculinity are being displayed, she is a woman who is doing a man sized job. She is not baking one loaf of bread, three measures of flour is 16 –  five pound bags and when you add the water its over 100 lbs of dough.

Jesus says the whole, all of it,  gets leavened. The lump stands for the whole world. It includes the doughnuts, croissants, pumpernickels, Kaiser rolls, monkey bread, not just the church wafers. The dough in its present form is indigestible until the kingdom leaven permeates it. The universality or catholicity of the kingdom seems to be Jesus’ major emphasis. The kingdom is hidden in the whole world, not just the church .

The Word who is the yeast or leaven has always been hidden in his creation. All he did in his time on earth was show us his face and tell us his name so we could tell everyone about the leaven inside them.

The yeast inside the dough is so intimately a part of the lump that it can’t be separated again and so is the kingdom in this world. The kingdom is the very thing hidden in the dough, not something produced by the interaction of the leaven and the dough. If the world alone is represented by anything in the parable, it is the flour (the world without the kingdom) and not the dough. In this parable the dough has always had the kingdom in it. It is not a progression from non kingdom to kingdom, but progress from a kingdom in a mystery to a kingdom made manifest when the finished product provides nourishment and life.

The baker watches over the lump and knows when the leaven has done its work and no one (enemy) had better interfere. What is our response to the leaven hidden in the dough? Patience and discernment, to be able to recognize when it (the leaven), not you has done the job. No matter what you do or don’t do, the leaven does its job. At the very most our responses to the leaven (kingdom) increase our satisfaction, but not the success. Even if our responses are negative, if we resist the kingdom, it only makes things inconvenient, but doesn’t stop the leaven from working. Unless the dough is kneaded thoroughly, unless it resists and fights the baker the leaven doesn’t get worked in evenly and rise as high as it should.

How does leaven cause the bread to rise? The pockets of carbon dioxide expand when heated, in other words it breathes. I think of the imagery of the Spirit of God breathing life into men and Jesus breathing his Spirit on his disciples after the resurrection. Our belief or faith doesn’t make the bread rise all we need to do and all we can do is simply trust that the leaven is, was and always will be entirely mixed in the lump and we will rise.

So where are you seeing the leaven in your piece of heaven on earth?

Red Rover, Red Rover

Rejection and exclusion from “the game” begins when we are young. I can still feel the anxiety and stress of my 6 year old mind. “I hope they call my name, I want to be included, I hope they think I am cool enough to come over.

We all want to play, to have fun, to be included in “the game”. Many a parent has consoled their child who was not picked for the baseball team or the cheerleading squad. We empathize with the pain of being left out because all of us have experienced it and for most of us rejection continues in our own lives, it is raw and it is real. The spirit of rejection is magnified by the enemy of our souls, amplifying the pain and the lie that in the game of life we have not been chosen to play. The strategy is fiendishly clever, we are too short, too fat, too tall, too thin, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, not spiritual enough, just too late. We are convinced we are left out and create our own game instead of participating in the great game of life that the Father, Son and Spirit invite us to.

My point is simple; we are included in the game.

All of humanity is included.

It is not a goal to be achieved or an attainment of any kind. It is real and the way things are right now. All of humanity was included not just those who believe. He included all whether they know it or not. There is nothing ordinary about our existence or our role in the game. We have underestimated who Jesus is and because of that our identity in him. His life flows continually into our ordinary life, our participation in the game has never been in question. Jesus declares he is the light of the world, not when people decide to follow him or clean up their lives or when the church does its job. It is not an invitation, it is a declaration. His light shines over all. Without our approval or consent he took the human race and altered our identity and existence. He took us down in his death, removed all alienation, lifted us up in his resurrection, made us a new creation through the Holy Spirit, made us to sit with him in his ascension, and included us in the joy, fellowship and the very circle of life, into the game. We are playing the game and don’t even know it.

Jesus is already sharing his life with us. The game is happening right now in your ordinary life, you have been included. He is already sharing his joy, his fellowship, freedom, glory and fullness without us even asking for it. How do we play? It is only as we understand who we are in Christ, our inclusion, that we have light to understand the lie of rejection. Only as we see ourselves not outside the red rover circle, but inside, not excluded, but included can the lie of rejection be exposed. When we see ourselves and others for who we really are, not merely human beings doing our own thing, but people caught up in the fellowship, glory, joy and love of Father, Son and Spirit in our everyday lives. Think of it this way, was Jesus any less the Son of God during all the years he ate meals and made tables as a carpenter? The game happens just as much in the mundane as the supernatural. When he included you and me in his cross and resurrection we became part of the game. He continues his Sonship today and forever as a human being, just not alone, but in union with us and through us, through our work and play and gardening and fishing and art and music and eating a meal. It is just too human for us to understand sometimes, too ordinary, too close, too real to see.

Do we really believe that our love for our children, our delight in nature, our creativity and concern for others and our tears and pain originate in our own hearts? We are playing the game, we have been included. It is just as much the game to play with your children as preach a sermon, to smile acceptance as say a prayer.

Christian faith is not something we do that gets us in the red rover circle, Jesus already did that. Faith does not move us from the unforgiven and unincluded column to the forgiven, included column. Faith does not reconcile, sanctify, save you or include you, Jesus already did that. Faith is just discovering what has already been done. Luther said “faith is like the eye, it does not create what it sees, it sees what is already there. That discovery, that inclusion begs us to live life content in the dignity, joy and freedom of seeing ourselves and others as chosen by God to play in the game.

Entering into depths of grace

Reveal the contours of your face

Eyes inviting with warmth and smile

Arms outstretched all the while

I’ve nothing to offer, not even shame

You took it away, that’s why you came

Acceptance, inclusion and increasing joy

I’m made to feel like a very good boy

The separation removed forever

The Father’s plan, very clever

Access to your kingdom and your throne

I’m never lonely and never alone 

You took me there when you ascended

For eternity as you always intended

Sharing divine life and untold treasure

At your side in total pleasure

In the game with you,

Power Struggle?

I was startled and thought someone was hurt when I heard the sound, but then I realized that a man was screaming from across the street at another young man. I stopped to watch the scene take place. Apparently It was a father fighting with his teenage son. I began to feel uneasy and uncomfortable. I was embarrassed for the man and felt sorry for the son who was being bullied and,  several incidents from my own years of raising two teenage sons raced through my memory.

They were on opposite sides of the street and the son was spewing venom laced with hurt, calling out the hypocrisy of his father who would make motions as if he was going to run across the street and hit his son. Instead you could see the father’s struggle of anger and disappointment in himself and his son that was playing tug of war with his mind and body. He would start to head on in the opposite direction, but then run back to the edge of the street to get in one last shout and challenge to his son. Neither one could hear the pain or hurt of the other for need of having to be heard. Like a yo-yo , he went back and forth all the while the son called out every one of the father’s weaknesses and hypocrisies. The son was truly scared of violent retribution and refused to go with his father.

I watched to make sure the situation did not escalate into violence and was relieved when a good Samaritan stepped in to mediate a truce. They walked away, quietly, but I knew it wasn’t over, the wedge was deep, and I was sad for them both. I walked back to my desk and started to relive some of the biggest tensions with my own sons, trying to remember where I was coming from in my anger and fighting with them. It went something like this:

I am the dad and I am your authority and you better do what I say, don’t you dare disrespect me or your mom.

Hidden in that statement or others like it, were threats of punishment and retribution. I would get so angry when they wouldn’t do the simplest tasks that were asked of them or when they sassed back to me and their mom. THEY made me so mad or so I thought at the time.

I realize now, no one can make me mad without my permission and when I released the need to control them, but saw them as individuals made in the image of God instead of a reflection of me ( broken or not) the anger pretty much disappeared. It’s interesting to me that the verse in the Bible about “not provoking your children to anger is in the spiritual warfare chapter (Ephesians 6). For most of us parents, raising children and releasing them in trust to God is very difficult. Most of us get the revelation after they are grown and then we become wonderful grandparents. My kids are grown, but still live at home, so luckily I still have opportunities to show them grace.

One day or over several days, but about 3 years ago, the truth hit me like a ton of bricks right in the gut. Authority empowers it doesn’t control. I demonstrate my authority by controlling myself not other people, including my kids. The ultimate authority has empowered all of us “ be fruitful and multiply, take dominion”- Jesus who said the Father had given him all authority, handed it over to us. Empowering your children, and others in your realm of authority is the pattern. We are made in the image and likeness of God, we are his children and he is our example. I am not saying there is no correction ever, but the spirit behind it is not controlling or angry, its empowering.

It was a foreign way to think at first, but then it became a habit to love, honor, respect and value my kids instead of belittle them ,ride them, and put them in their place like I used to. I knew we were on the right track, when one of my sons asked me why we were so nice now and how come we don’t get mad anymore.

When those you love including your children accuse and attack with the aim to hurt you and draw out a confrontation, you have a millisecond to decide how to respond. In the past I would have blasted them right back with( abuse of authority) threats of kicking them out of the house. Instead I now say to myself, “he or she doesn’t mean it, do not respond out of anger, show him or her they are loved and valued. I ask myself, “when I have responded to God in much the same way, what was his reaction toward me?” The answer was always that God reached out to me to maintain the relationship without demanding the behavior change first. The trap most of us fall into is addressing the behavior before placing a value on the relationship. I ask what I can do to heal the wound or solve the problem now and I mean it. When tempers flair, I repeat about every other sentence how much I love them, even through their continual ranting and crappy attitudes. The fire has no fuel and cannot burn very long that way. Reconciliation happens a lot quicker too, and really that is what we want, not to be right.

Here is an example of  the power struggles we now have in our home.  Healthy ones.

http://www.facebook.com/v/63182918573