The Way in the Wilderness; Streams in the Wasteland

Two things have been elusive to me: contentment and joy. The drive that pushes can also produce the anxiety that wishes. Wishes of better circumstances, less trouble, greater comfort or whatever can distract from the abundance of the moment. The feast that is evident with every meal when no meals are missed. The protection of shelter when the rain never gets on me as I sleep.

Never. Never a missed meal or homeless exposure. Yet, those things don’t seem to matter even though they are foundational to everything the rest of the things (according to Maslow). When they are overlooked, the top of the pyramid is always one or more anxious wish out of reach but seemingly within reach with a little more effort.

Lately, however, I’m seeing it differently. I’m considering the joy that is available within the problems. I’m intentionally orienting towards joy and contentment when the trouble squawks, opportunities tempt or worry taunts. I don’t have it figured out or mastered but I’m seeing the target and getting the words which are the ability to hit the bullseye.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19

The way is in the middle of the wilderness; not after deliverance from the wilderness. It’s right there among the wilderness and all the shadows that are inherent in wilderness culture. The streams interrupt the wasteland but they don’t overcome it. The enjoyment, relief, satisfaction and thanksgiving for the way and the streams are available within the context of the wilderness and wasteland. One doesn’t cease to exist because of the existence of the other; they co-exist.

I’m learning to sit in the stream and not care about the wasteland which is still looming. The emotions that are stirred from the observation of the negative possibilities that the wasteland holds don’t have to be given priority. The cool of the stream and sound of its trickling will prevail if they are given their due. The peaceful and consistent reassurance of their refreshment will be enjoyed right up until the point where I focus on the threats of the wasteland.

Peace is in the river despite the limits of the river banks but the shore of the wasteland will consume everything that I give it. Stepping out of the stream into the wasteland to fix the wasteland is a fool’s errand. In this world, we will have trouble; that’s not going to change. The way and the stream are not of this world.

It’s Easter. So What?

It doesn’t necessarily matter, does it? The day on a calendar or even the reason for the day on the calendar are irrelevant for most people. They don’t mean a thing until and unless they mean everything. For some people, they matter so little that the step towards church on this Sunday is their only real thought of God all year. For others, they routinely go to church but seldom go to the Cross. It doesn’t matter until it costs everything.

Easter is the celebration of resurrection of Christ from the dead, but many people know that. What they don’t know is why that matters to them. The religious nod in the cultural tradition actually reinforces the question for non-believers of “so, what?”

“That’s it? That’s all you got? A nice building, shiny people, a few songs and a story? Why should I care?”

There is nothing nice or shiny or song-ey or entertaining about the resurrection. Resurrection is the power of glory on display in the King of Kings to be made available to all of us . . . if.

If we’ll follow Him to the cross. If we will die to us and receive His life as ours. If we’re willing to give up everything and be hated by the world and be persecuted by church people and non-church people alike. That’s when it matters. When we are done with us and willing to make it all that matters. The love of the Father calls to us and His love is all-in for us . . . it is an all-in relationship.

The death of Jesus is our invitation into His glory but it costs us the death of our soul for the glory of His Spirit. We don’t believe until we give up and we won’t give up as long as we think we have a better alternative. For as long as our comfort, ability, compromise, religion, preferences, expectations and offenses else keep us from laying down our life, His death is not a compelling invitation. If His death is not inviting, then the glory of His resurrection is not attainable. There’s only one glory at a time; the glory of God or the glory of me.

I hope the churches are full today and I hope people decide that the story they hear matters to them personally. I hope that hope is better than control for people who go to church the other Sundays as well as the one time a year check-ins. I hope glory is birthed from people laying down their lives and that it matters more than it ever has.

 

Slowing Down to Live

I was starting to get a little consumed with the practice of law. There are all kinds of perceptions regarding lawyers lifestyles and work practices. What I have found is that it is challenging, rewarding and can sometimes be consuming.

We are invited into people’s problems and the weight of that kind of responsibility is real. I realized that I was carrying the weight to a degree that was affecting my own life in a slightly problematic way. Things were getting out-of-order.

Little by little, I was becoming too much “the lawyer” at the sacrifice of “the husband” or “the father.” It wasn’t drastic but my priorities and thoughts were increasingly sliding towards practicing law instead of being the man I was called to be in the rest of my life. When I got home, I was too tired and when I was there, I wasn’t fully present as I mentally recapped the previous day and prepared for the next.

One morning, almost by accident, the contrast became glaring and the solution emerged. For several reasons, there was a morning that I found myself hanging out a little longer at the house before heading to the office. I had an extra cup of coffee and sat with the kids as they began to get ready, eat breakfast and get going with their day. I enjoyed my family first instead of thinking I had to be out the door quite as fast as I normally was.

The time that it took to enjoy that extra cup of coffee at home was an incredible vehicle in re-ordering my priorities. I really enjoyed the peace and order of starting the day with the family and have started to take that time whenever possible. The physical act of staying home for the extra cup of coffee helped align my mental and emotional priorities.

Our physical disciplines and habits reflect the priorities of our character. A shift in how we spend our time and money reflects the priority we give to time and money. When either of those two resources take a top spot on our list of most important, then they knock other things from the top spot. Making first things first is sometimes as easy as a cup of coffee.

It’s Time to Go Fishing; You’re Invited

The opportunities we are given come by way of invitation but the invitations are a bit loaded. It is our choice to accept or not, but if we pay attention and have eyes to see, we will want to say “yes.” When we see deeper, shallow is no longer satisfying. From that place that lacks satisfaction, we will be willing to further.

In Luke 5:10, Jesus calls the first disciples to be fishers of men. He was talking to fishermen so the description was applicable and  somewhat easy to understand, I suppose; at least to a degree. What had to make it more clear happened just before the declaration.

Leading up to that invitation/declaration, those same fisherman had experienced the power of what they were being invited into. They had been fishing, unsuccessfully, and Jesus came with a word. The word He gave them about where and how to fish produced an abundant catch that was overflowing. It was so abundant, in fact, that the boats started to sink.

The result was an immediate realization of His holiness and their relatively un-holiness. They realized their depravity and the need for grace. From that realization, they actually wanted to send Jesus away in verse 8. But He stayed; in fact, He not only stayed, but He invited them.

We likely won’t realize our purpose in the agreement that results in being fishers of men until we see the abundance and holiness of Jesus and receive His grace for our depravity. When we see from those realizations, we will want to agree in the purpose of the Kingdom by seeing and reaching people. We’ll start to see people like He sees them after we see us like He sees us.

Being fishers of men is not a burden to be weird with people or threaten them with hell. It is a realization of your need for God’s grace and salvation through Jesus and the unbridled passion that comes from the abundance that you realize you have been given. Then, from the joy of your salvation, you simply can’t help but want to connect with people and share the treasure.

If you aren’t connecting with, relating to and fishing for others to share the treasure of your salvation, perhaps you have forgotten the abundance that you have been given? Perhaps you are shameful in your sin or focused on your lack? If so, it’s OK; simply remember and see. Then say “yes” to the invitation.

You Can Know the Answers to the Mysteries

We are not invited to be good. We are not invited just to read, meet, sing and give. There is more. We are invited into more.

The depth of what is available to us by faith in Jesus is the difference between maintaining religion and living in the Kingdom of God. When Jesus died for the sins of man, He did so on  the heels of preaching of the Kingdom of God. The promise He brought was for eternity and eternity starts immediately. There is no waiting period between the time when you meet Jesus and the realization of His Kingdom.

Jesus was asked in Matthew 13 why He taught in parables. Why not just be crystal clear and make it easy for people? Why the riddles? Jesus responded in verse 11, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”

When you are born again as a believer in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are invited into the mystery. Beyond the obvious and into the depth of knowing that exceeds knowledge. He will show you the “why” behind the “what.” He will give you new eyes to see things eternally, even now.

Unfortunately, most believers don’t look. The appetite to see more and to know the mysteries of the Kingdom are relegated to the super spiritual or the professional clergy. Jesus clarifies in the next verse that it is for “whoever” and He was speaking to tax collectors and fisherman. Not special people based on societies standards and not unique based on religious qualifications.

We are going to face trouble in the world, that is certain. What is left for us to decide is whether or not we want to face those troubles as confused and defeated orphans or empowered and enlightened royalty by adoption?

As you walk in your purpose today and as you encounter people and circumstances that require consideration, ask for eyes to see the mystery of the Kingdom of God in those situations. Ask for eyes to see so that you can agree with eternity in the middle of the temporal challenge. Go deeper; choose to live in the truth of Jesus’ promise. Be a mystery solver.

Safety Nets, Security and Source

There are only two choices; fear or love. One or the other is going to be the driver. Neither will be particularly overt most of the time, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in control. We are either operating from the security of love or the insecurity of fear.

As I’ve been writing previously the love that we know from our father can help us to know the love of the Father. In the absence of knowing His love, we’re left vulnerable where otherwise He willingly provides, protects and promotes us. When we know His unconditional love as our Source of love, then our supply is abundant. We can work from knowing that Source and tapping in when fears and insecurities creep up to attempt to hijack His purposes in our design.

The security of love is the fuel of greatness. Greatness is accompanied by selflessness and selflessness won’t breathe without security. True greatness is within what we do for others; it has an impact beyond us. Only those that experience that impact can declare greatness; it can’t be declared by the one that seeks the tag. It can be declared by another and the other is only like to declare it where they have benefited. That benefit comes from selflessness and that selflessness comes from love.

It’s not love that is conjured up, however. Love isn’t produced within us; it’s received to be distributed. We can’t work from an empty tank and we can’t give away what we don’t have.

Where we are not connected to the Father, we are left exposed. Exposed without a fall back. No safety net leaves us fearful, even if just a little bit. Even if just a hint. Even if just the absence of love.

Our dads could and should model the opportunity that the Father presents. They should provide, protect and promote us. They should, to some degree, be our safety net. No matter how good or bad they are, they are limited and are only a bridge or a barrier to the Father. He is the only legitimate Source.

Even a great dad, even my dad who was great, can’t be our Source. That’s OK, though, because truly great dads didn’t want to be our source in the first place because they were selfless. Because they loved. Because they were loved.