Sunday, May 07, 2006

Pepperdine 2006

Last week's Pepperdine Lectures trip was another enjoyable and rewarding trip. Classes were great (Cope, Shelley, Anderson, Beam, Walling, et al.), and the key notes were pretty good too. Weather was a bit of a downer the first part of the week - overcast and rather cold for southern California, but the last couple or three days were as expected - sunny and warm with just a slight breeze to cool it down a bit.

Ate way too much at our evening group meals. Fresh fish is great, but too much of it will add a few pounds and inches - especially when paired with creamy crab and shrimp sauces. By the end of the week I had reverted to my now regular habit of hitting some morning classes, buying some books, eating lunch on the university plaza, and talking to folks. Hit a couple afternoon classes, but generally the conversation, sun, and flowing Coke and tea were enough to keep me on the plaza until dinner time.

Bought just a few books, mostly from some of the speakers - autographed of course (Tippens, Olbricht, Spivey, and Beam). Also bought Rochester's series book "Preaching the Eighth Century Prophets." Since I'm partial to Amos and Micah, I'm looking forward to reading through that one. Has a chapter by Marrs which is bound to be good reading.

Back to work tomorrow. Hope you all have a great week!



January is routinely resolution month with many of us making the same resolutions we made last January and gave up on in February. Let's face it, if we were going to exercise more, do we really need to make that decision in January? And if we do, what does that say about our earnestness in making that decision?

What kinds of resolutions have you made in the past? Have they had to do with you - eating better, exercising more, reading better books? Most resolutions I suspect are usually me-centered. After all, there's little to no accountability with those. What's wrong with a banana split for breakfast every now and then anyway? While there's nothing wrong with resolutions that deal more with me, how much better would be resolutions that improve the way we interact with people. Resolutions that have to do with learning to be, and trying to be better parents, better spouses, better Christians seem to be higher resolutions because they are focused on becoming the kinds of people we know we should be - the kinds of people God calls us to be.

Perhaps all this resolution talk is much ado about nothing. Maybe the energy we use in deciding on the resolution is all the energy we will ever put into it. Or perhaps, maybe the whole resolution cycle simply serves to soothe our psyches - let's us believe that we are making an effort.

This year, pick one thing to resolve. I recommend something like "to become more like Jesus every day." Or perhaps, "to yield myself, my money, and my time to do whatever God reveals to me." Making a resolution to take Me out of the center of my life, and let God really show me who I am to be could be the best resolution I could make. Not very flashy. Doesn't need a new $100 gym outfit. But it would be the most far-reaching and satisfying resolution available.

Resolution making and renovation seem to go hand in hand. Max Lucado compares God to someone who redecorates and renovates a house to make it better than it was. To fix up the sagging roof, clean off the walls, and repair the foundation. Our job is to yield ourselves to God so that He can work His renovation in our lives. Keeping this resolution won't be any easier than the others. In fact, it might be harder because it will require us to surrender ourselves, our rights, our freedom to God and to other people. But the results will be far better than flatter abs.

Well, the results will be better, but we might not recognize it for that at first glance. The following is a prayer written by a World War II concentration camp resident and illustrates the kind of personal, spiritual renovation God wants to work in our lives.

O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we bought, thanks to this suffering: our comradship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.*

Do you see the grace in that prayer? Instead of calling for brimstone on the heads of his tormentors, this God follower seeks to bless them. Amazing, isn't it? Why is it that some humans are capable of such open-hearted humility and the rest of us don't seem to be? This kind of renovation of our hearts and resolutions to live by it are not easy and chafe against our pride, our sense of fairness.

What might happen in your life, in your marriage, in your family if you could extend this kind of grace to your spouse or your kids? How much are you willing to let God renovate your heart, right now, today, to get you to such a place?

It will hurt. Pruning and renovating always does. But what satisfaction you could have when your relationships reflect the character, the humility, the tenderness that God seeks for them. Seemingly overnight, although it will take longer, the slights you used to perceive from your family members will disappear and you will become more giving, more forgiving. And you will look like God.

So what do you say? Want to make a resolution?

Have a great New Year! Now, where are my tennis shoes?

*From Rob Goldman, "Healing the World by Our Wounds, The Other Side 27, No. 6:24, in Richard Foster, Prayer Treasury, 1992, HarperCollins.

Note to Graduating Seniors

Congratulations on achieving a great milestone! This is but one of many to come over the next few decades, leading to the one that will usher you into the presence of our God. It is that milestone on which I urge you to keep your focus. All the others between now and then will simply be steps in that direction which, if you choose wisely, will keep the track of your life directed squarely toward that final marker.

God created Man in His image which means that somewhere in all of us – in you – is the image of our God. That image, that imprint, that spiritual DNA if you will, is the real picture of who you are called – who you were made – to be. In reality, it is you. Many people see their life’s journey as an outward trek, one that reveals more of themselves to themselves as they experience more. It is true that we grow as we experience life, but our journey to ourselves is really a round trip journey – we end up where we started and where we are meant to be, discovering in ourselves a deep communion with God.

That communion – that being one with God – is a liberating realization that with God we are safe regardless of the physical, the seemingly real, circumstances of our lives. As we become more aligned with, as we yield more to God, we come to realize that everything we see around us has some aspect of God in it. Because we are secure in God, we can take greater risks in loving others, enjoying His creation, and taking care of people and that creation. We need not worry about being hurt or embarrassed or abandoned by people and things because we are with God. We perceive ourselves participating in His essence all the time. While we cannot become God, we can let the rigid distinctions between Him and us dissolve so that we become extensions of Him in working His will in this world. In seeking to yield ourselves to our God, we like Him, so love the world that we give ourselves for it. We become no longer concerned about Me. Not because we are “doing” something, but rather because we become the Lover of Others that we were made to be.

This may seem hard to grasp now. It is difficult to write clearly. But our legacy, your legacy, is to be an example to others of someone who so deeply loves, that so closely walks with God, that they see in your life, and will remember once you are gone, that God walked in you. Strive to meet each milestone in your life in the spirit and in the essence of the person you were made to be, who you are.

There is a string of verses that I urge you to make part of your being. The first is Micah 6.8 and it describes what God expects of each of us. We are to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Strive to do those things and they will serve you well throughout your life. John 3.16 and 17 tells us that God, in who’s image we are made, so loved the world that He gave Himself for it – not to condemn it, but to save it. We would do well to shape our lives so that we can so love those who the world, and even ourselves, find difficult to love, to help, to accept. The last verse is Paul’s admonition in the fifth chapter, verse 21 of his letter to the Ephesians that we submit ourselves to one another. It is often easy to love and serve someone at a soup kitchen, but often much harder to submit to people who are close to us. This verse reminds us that we are to love everyone, even those who are so close to us that they can often hurt us the most. God strives to love, not condemn them too. If we are to become like Him, we must let our submission and forgiveness to those closest to us reflect who we are.

I pray and trust that our God will be with you for the rest of your time on this earth, and I urge you to submit yourselves to Him, letting Him reveal His image in you, so that your legacy will be one that blesses the world.

April 27, 2006

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