Wanna Be Somebody?

Slide2

I want to start out with a simple statement, one that will make no sense nor hold any appeal to any except for those who are committed and fervent in their desire to follow Jesus, those who love and know the love of our Savior. That statement is: A true servant must die to self.

What that statement just did in your soul is an indicator of how you are tracking with the Lord because that is indeed what we are asked to do over and over throughout the New Testament, all of which echoes and expands on the words of our Savior. Our title verse is an indicator of that. “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

It is just human nature, self-preservation even, to want to be served rather than be a servant, to be first rather than last—we all want to be somebody, but our notion of what that means is very skewed.

Garbage

It’s a tempting and an easy snare to fall into, thinking you’re somebody. I was in the bathroom at Hope Center one day. A bathroom I had built in a church I had drawn the floor plans for and then headed up the remodeling as the foreman for the General Contractor that did the work. I was standing there as an ordained pastor, something I had worked long and hard for. I was the head of the children’s ministry in a church I had helped start, had 30 or more kids team volunteers serving under me and all the kids loved me.

I had people telling me how wonderful and wise I was and everything I did seemed blessed. So I am standing there in the bathroom between services after having just washed my hands, looking at the nearly full garbage can and thinking “someone needs to empty that, that is unacceptable.” I then reached for the door handle ready to go do God’s work and dazzle the kids and teachers with another great worship session when I heard a voice in my spirit say—”Why don’t you empty the garbage?”

When I heard that it hit me like a ton of bricks and I knew it was from the Lord. And I was convicted; the Lord just asked a simple question, he didn’t have to say anymore. My conscious took over at that point and I asked myself: who do you think you are?

I emptied the garbage. And you know what? I am still emptying the garbage. Every Sunday, after every one clears out I help my wife empty all the garbage cans, and the diaper genie, before we go to lunch. And trust me, in a church with as many little ones as we have, emptying the diaper genie will keep you humble.

We all want to be somebody, but who do we want to be, and why? If I get to be too important to take out the garbage then I am somebody I do not want to be and certainly not honoring the one who called me to serve, the one who really is somebody.

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Jesus said this. And Jesus, the one who is asking us to be first by being last, to lead by serving, to worry less about ourselves and more about others, was and is certainly somebody—yet he didn’t just ask us to be servants but he showed us how to do that. The humbling of the King of kings and the Lord of lords is a lesson we must look to and keep reminding ourselves of lest we get too full of ourselves and bristle at the notion of being a servant.

So let’s look at a picture of Jesus in the New Testament.

His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Rev 1:14—18

Now picture this; the King of glory kneeling before his followers wearing the garments of bond servant, slipping off their sandals and washing dirt and dung off of their feet. Feet filthy from having walked miles and miles of country roads and city streets where animals roam and chamber pots are emptied into the dust to be churned up by countless feet and hooves.

 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God,  rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. ( John 13:3—5)

 

The apostles were aghast, no doubt the heavens were as well, as those myriads of angels who knew and worshipped him in his glory now looked on and marveled at the humility of their maker. Jesus was now clothed in humility in every sense of the word.

On this evening as he washed the feet of his chosen ones he was of course making a point, one he had been trying to get across to his followers for years. We think we know what that point is—but do we really get it?

—Who do we think we are?

Certainly not who we are supposed to be, humble servants of God and one another. Children of God yes—but the children of a functional family who move in the role of a child in a family God has ordained, obedient, respectful and diligent in doing our chores, learning to serve and share. We are all brothers and sisters, none of us any better than another. We are all God’s favorites and he would lay down his life for each of us—and has. He asks us to do the same.

That’s the big picture point Jesus is making with the foot washing thing.

Wanna be somebody? Then be a servant. . .

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Barbarians in the Kingdom

Slide1Following is the Introduction to my latest book, enjoy! —

When I first did the series this book is based on for my church back in 2014, I struggled a bit with whether or not I should. I had contemplated it for a few years actually, ever since the earliest days of our church plant in Red Lodge, Montana, because I just felt like a barbarian; charging forth with little finesse and even less real direction, at least from man, when we started Hope Chapel. I knew in my spirit what I was supposed to do and, as those few who came with me know, we just made it happen—they even jokingly referred to us as the barbarian church. Fighting, it seemed, against even our own denomination who seemed intent at the time to make things as difficult as possible for us.

“Maybe we should just break free and be an independent ‘barbarian church’. . .” Was the sentiment that the handful of brave souls that helped me plant the church only half-jokingly sometimes expressed in frustration. I knew I did not want to be out there without any covering or accountability so we stuck it out and kept paying our tribute to the ruling council in the motherland out west (to put it in barbarian terms)—and I’m glad we did. Our denomination has since gone through some major, God-ordained changes and things have gotten better, and much simpler, which was all I really wanted and what we all needed.

So anyway, the barbarian thing had been on my mind for some time but I just wasn’t sure it was biblical. I mean, barbarians aren’t usually thought of as exemplary citizens worthy of anything but disdain. What redeeming quality does a barbarian have that would make him a worthy topic for a sermon, let alone a series of sermons? Will people think I’ve lost it? Well, a couple of years ago, this son of the frozen barbarian north was fasting and praying about where I was to go next in my teaching and the Lord spoke to my heart, assuring me it was time to tackle the barbarian thing. As I prayed and sought the Lord further on this—“Really, how does that preach?” I wondered—he explained to me why it was important and showed me that it would preach.

The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to how it really does speak to who we are, why my own ministry exists, and where I believe the Spirit is directing his church. In a nutshell, back to the basics, to what’s important. The Lord impressed on me three things—barbarian qualities—that exemplify why the kingdom needs barbarians to rise up and be heard in the church if it hopes to survive till the end.

The barbarian exemplifies:

Simplicity of purpose

Singularity of mission

Determination of spirit

It was this that convinced me that the church needed to hear this barbarian’s message. I am glad I followed the Spirit’s lead because this turned out to be one of the most empowering things we have done in our church as far as advancing the kingdom of God goes; lives were changed and hearts set free. So here we go again—this time with you along—storming the gates.

“Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight” (2 Sam. 10:12).

(From Barbarians in the Kingdom to be released this fall)

Hope is a Promise

 

Down but not out.Slide1

In 2002 in the prime of my life, or so it seems looking back, at 41 years of age, I was as strong as a mule, had a good job, three kids, way too many pets, and a wife at home depending on me to provide, I was in the middle of helping start a brand new church with huge potential while still taking night classes to become qualified to be a preacher with Foursquare, when in an instant the accident happened that would set the stage for all of that to start to come undone. I fell 17 feet off a ladder while working as a foreman on a big concrete Job for the City of Billings Water Dept.

It would take a year or so but finally the pain in my back became so bad that I couldn’t drag myself into work anymore. I remember sitting in a chair by the back door of our house one morning, struggling to bend over and pull my work boots on, telling Donna; “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” The pain was literally unbearable and just saying those words out loud to my wife was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had to work, that’s what I do, that’s who I am, everyone and everything depended on it.

About that time my Chiropractor ordered an MRI, something my workers comp doctors deemed unnecessary, “It’s just deep tissue bruising, do more stretches.” The MRI revealed that I had two herniated discs, if not more, in my lower back that were pressing against the nerves going into my legs.

My hope in my own ability to provide with my hands for my family was gone. That diagnosis almost seemed like a death sentence to me, I remember beating on my dash board and yelling at God; “Now what am I going to do?” as I drove away from the doctor’s office.

I had no idea what I was going to do now, how we were going to get through this. After several months of missing work and surviving on workers compensation payments I finally had a very painful surgery which got me by for two more years during which time we went through a bankruptcy, the missed work being the final nail in our coffin of debt accumulated by desperately trying to raise a family on one income so Donna could be home with the kids, and by a years long drought that drove our little ranching operation into the dusty ground.

Then, two years after the first surgery, I was as bad or worse than I was before. So I went in for a second surgery, this time they just took out those discs altogether and fused my lower back together. This caused me to miss several more months of work. You know what though? The Lord always took care of us, money and groceries would just come from unexpected places when we needed it the most.

We never went hungry and the landlord of the house we were renting after having sold the house on the ranch to try to avert bankruptcy was very patient with us as we struggled to pay the rent. And the ministry the Lord had given me at Hope Center was very fruitful.

The hard part for me, the trial that challenged and threatened to destroy me was the feeling of worthlessness. Not being able to work to earn a paycheck for my family, to not be able to work on the house, to take my family camping, to help with the chores or much of anything for a while, was just killing me inside. I was wired to work, I was wired to provide, a man is supposed to take care of his family and I was now dependent on the state for a meager allowance and struggling to not get too dependent on the pain killers that often made me someone I didn’t want to be.

Stand by me

In this time a word from my wife could have destroyed me, my self-respect was hanging by a thread and respect—if you’ll remember what I have told you in the past—is the food that feeds the soul of a man. But, my wife never belittled me, she never made me feel like any of our hardships were my fault and that I was anything less than loved and respected by her—and my girls. She fulfilled her vow to be there for me in sickness and in health, good times and bad, richer and poorer, even though all the negative parts of that equation were hitting us at once.

But, then that was never an issue I really worried about, we had vowed even before we married that divorce would never be an option.

That commitment and support, along with my faith in the Lord, gave me hope, was a spark of peace and joy that got me through and even allowed us to find happiness in that troubled time, to be husband and wife, friends and lovers, to be our kids parents, and servants to our church family. Hope is knowing that someone is always there for you, no matter what. That goes for, especially goes for, our Lord, the one who gave his all for us even when we deserved it least.

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 5:1—8

I had hope, in part because my wife stuck by me, supported me and has proven time and again that she will, good times and in bad…I know someone is always in my corner, I have a faith in that, and that gives me hope. Hope is a promise that will not be broken.

Our greatest  hope comes from the knowledge that our God will not let us down, that he will never abandon us, will never stop loving us. He proved that by dying for us before we even knew him, while we were still sinners with no thought toward God whatsoever.

I want to leave you with three things to ponder:

What do you hope in? Whom do you hope in? Who are you giving hope too?

Man with bright lights
. . .  tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Rom 5:3—5

 

 

The Free Heart

“I had to wonder if the grace I lived in would be sufficient if that was all I had left; if my faith would see me through even the prospect of life in prison.”

 

Dreamscape VIII

 

He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts Mark 3:5

 

 

I want to talk about the heart some more this week, the bible certainly talks a great deal about the heart as the heart is really who we are deep down inside, the us beyond the surface, beyond the mind of reason and function, past the veneer of the flesh that we put out there for the world to see. The heart, as we looked at last week, is the core of our being, the home of our souls and the place the Spirit of the Lord has chosen to dwell. The Lord looks at the heart and knows us even better then we know ourselves. And he loves us because of, and in spite of, what he finds there.

 

But, as evidenced by our opening verse, he doesn’t always like what he sees there, for the heart is also the home of our attitudes and, we have to admit, we are often lacking in the attitude department. A good attitude is an indicator of a healthy joyful, grateful and optimistic heart, a heart that actually trusts the Lord and doesn’t just say it does. While a bad attitude only sees the bad, expects and focuses on the worst in any and all situations and usually wants everyone else to share their point of view. Misery loves companyboy aint that the truth.

 

That miserable attitude is a heart issue that is often the result of a hard heart

Part of the assignment the Lord gave me in pastoring was to make our church a place that would bring healing to wounded hearts. That is a tall order, a very tall order, because I am finding out more and more that a wounded heart is often also a hard heart. Jesus ran into this same issue.

 

His disciples asked him one day why he always taught the people in parables and in response he quoted from Isaiah:

Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;

For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have clos

 

ed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ Mat 13:15

 

I believe Jesus is saying here; ‘if people want to understand they will.’ ‘If their hearts are open to receive truth then they will see with their eyes and hear with their ears and receive the blessing and the healing in my  words.’ ‘But if their attitudes are selfish and they assume they already know everything, they will profit nothing from my teaching and miss the healing their hearts need.’

A person has to want to be healed, has to want to get over and get on—and you might ask, “Why would a person not want to be healed from a wounded heart?” The answer is quite simple; because they are angry and the anger blinds them to the truth—the truth of their hardness. A hard heart does not want to see.

 

A angry heart is an unforgiving heart that cannot receive forgiveness because it cannot give it, an angry heart revels in the anger, seeks only revenge and appeasement, becomes cognizant only of self-preservation, and even seeks the hurt of others, the hurt of those who hurt them or who are perceived as threatening to hurt them—real or imagined.

A hard heart sees ill intent where there is none and throws up barriers between them and any who would try to point out the selfishness and darkness that is threatening, and following, them. A hard heart is nearly impossible to break through because the anger is always justified by pointing back to the hurt. And the hurt will always be there as long as there is justification. A wounded heart becomes a hard heart. A hard heart is a dark heart and is a lonely place to be.

 

God’s biggest challenge in revealing himself to the human heart, is getting past that hardness. Fortunately he never stops trying and can even use our own stupid choices to get us back on track. It sometimes takes extraordinary measures, attention getters that can come in many forms.

 

Jail time

I remember years ago, when I was doing Bible studies in the Yellowstone County jail, talking to a broken young man who was coming truly seeking the Lord. There were always those who came just to make it look good to the court, or seeking an opportunity to play someone. There is no one more clever than someone who has devoted all their time and energy to pulling one over on someone, and in jail all you have is time. And I had been duped a few times.

But this young man came truly seeking. I can still see his face, he looked like he as barely out of his teens, long curly blonde hair, a wisp of a beard, and blue eyes that looked like they had seen hell and escaped only yesterday. Eyes full of pain and sorrow and gratefulness all at once. What he told me has stuck with me ever since. “I thank God every day that I am in jail so that I cannot hurt anyone else.”

 

You have heard the saying that everyone in jail is innocent? That isn’t entirely true, usually it’s just someone else’s fault that they did what they did, so this really struck me. Here was someone taking full responsibility. He confessed to us that he had killed someone who didn’t deserve to die, because of a drug deal gone sour, and he knew that he deserved to be in jail.

He said he was glad he had gotten caught because the Lord had used jail to get his attention, that he had met Jesus, and knew that he was forgiven. But, he said, I thank God that I am here, and will probably be here for a very long time—he was awaiting sentencing.

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36

 

There was someone who had a heart of stone replaced with a heart of flesh, who had received forgiveness and knew that aside from Jesus, he might fall back into the pit of darkness. His thoughts were no longer for himself but his heart was now seeing the good in others. In his mind, in his newly healed heart, his way of loving others was to protect them from himself. He also said that he felt free for the first time in his life, sitting there in jail, because he had been delivered from darkness and loneliness by Jesus.

heart-fire

I don’t know what transpired in his life to get him to a place of darkness that had so ensnared and hardened

 

him that he would resort to drugs and violence, even murder, to try and appease the pain, but I knew he was now on the right track. Perhaps another reason it struck me so was because I had to wonder if the grace I lived in would be sufficient if that was all I had left; if my faith would see me through even the prospect of life in prison.

Lord, keep in me a heart for you, a heart of love, a heart that both receives and offers healing.

 

Digitized You?

 

Cyber girl-Creative_Wallpaper_Cyber_girl_041138_

There was a series on TV recently that was supposed to be a look at some unspecified time in the future based on the projected evolution of the technologies we have and are developing. The show started with a couples’ teenage daughter getting injured in a car accident. The parents rush to the scene to find their daughter lying in the road taking her last breathes. Suddenly a drone shows up, does a quick scan of her vitals and declares, “you have 90 seconds to decide if you want to proceed with the cognitive download.”

Then ensues a quick but intense debate, “should we or shouldn’t we?” Is it right, should we just let her go, will it really be her, at the last second they say, “Yes, do it!” The round floating drone thingy then emits a light beam, a MRI looking scanner light that works across and around her skull— proclaims, “Scan complete” and then zips off like a flying car in the Jetsons cartoons.

A few months later the couple is at home in their perfect—carbon free, I’m sure—future house when the door opens up and in walks their daughter, Hi Dad, Hi Mom, just like nothing ever happened and she was just off on a short vacation. The scenario was, that her body was synthetically recreated as an android and all her thoughts and memories, her personality and potential had been uploaded digitally by the drone just before her death and was now downloaded into this android.

Thus their daughter lives on, immortal in the form of a perfect, non-corruptible, human-like android. Not only was it supposedly their daughter in every sense, but she now had access to all the knowledge of the world as her now digitized silicon brain was tapped into the future version of the world wide web. Reminded me of the Borg from Star Trek, she was now part of the collective.

Don’t think we are not headed there. Aside from being made into cyborg drones with digitized brains, they are figuring out ways, even as we speak, to get us all hooked up to the cloud, brain implants, chips or what have you. It’s just the next natural step up from where we are today—having a device in our hands that our eyes are always glued to with access to the whole world 24 7.

You will be assimilated, resistance is futile.” Watch the Next Generation Star Trek movies knowing what you know today, it’ll freak you out.borg

Anyway, back to Cyber Daughter. We haven’t gotten to the disturbing part yet. And that is, they then interviewed neurologists and techno wizards of today who are working to figure out how to do this, download our brains into a computer. They are convinced that they will and that it is not all that far down the road. So, the question of what makes us, us, becomes very relevant. Of course I was thinking the whole time, that’s all sounds very convincing and you all sound very smart, except for one little detail; it’s not going to happen and if it does it will just be a computer program that mimics the thought patterns and retains the memory files of a person who is dead and gone. Gone being the key word here.

These scientists and computer nerds are completely discounting the very heart of the person they purport to be resurrecting by synthetic recreation; they are denying the existence of soul, the soul that is us, that is life, and is a gift from our creator —and is his alone to give or take.

Jesus, while teaching a crowd on a hillside one day said:

“Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.”

An interesting choice of words from the master teacher, Son of God, Son of Man. There was of course a lot of precedence as the Hebrew scriptures had spoken many times about a pure heart. And I don’t know for sure if Jesus is talking about the literal heart or something in the heart of us that we have not perceived, visible or invisible, but it is differentiated here, as it is in many places throughout the Old and New testaments, from the mind.

I believe that he is talking about the literal heart and that the heart is the seat of the soul, it is the consciousness and the you that makes you, you. I know science tells us otherwise but there seems to be a lot of biblical evidence that would confirm that. The heart is mentioned hundreds of times in the bible in regard to the condition of man’s state of being, especially as concerns good or evil.

Yes the thinking, the calculating practical, information storing and retrieving function, no doubt comes from the brain. As does the motor functions, speech and sensory interpretation, all the things that depend on that big ball of nerves and electrical impulses functioning as they do to survive. No doubt all that is centered in that mass of fatty tissue between our ears, and the Bible also tells us about the importance of properly training our brains to dwell on the proper things—to focus on the good—to  set your minds on things above.

 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 1 Cor 3:2

Bottom line is; the thing that makes us unique, the thing that many say is the part of us that is created in the image of God, is the soul. The eternal part of us that is temporarily housed and severely limited in this flesh who cannot perceive beyond what its five senses are telling us, at least that’s what we tell ourselves. If we are listening to our hearts, we know and long for the unseen, we ache in our hearts, not in our heads, to have more; more love, more understanding, more wisdom—relationships, affection, love.

We ache for knowledge of the creator who placed our souls into our hearts, who breathed life into us. And we ache to have the life, the life that was lost when the spirit that was meant to dwell in our hearts, to bring light, life, and completeness, to the soul, to give us direct connection to the God of the universe, to give us perceptions above and beyond the physical realm our minds perceive, died– and now we ache to have that life restored.

It is an ache that can only be satisfied by the Spirit of the living God, the one who created and placed the spirit in us and made us unique and fully aware of what we have, or what we are missing, and what we are missing can only be found in him.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Rom 5:5

The heart is the seat of the soul and the Holy Spirit. The spirit of Jesus makes our hearts his home, making our bodies a temple of the living God.

You are more than a random collection of carbon based tissue animated by an electrical spark–you are a spiritual being who is unique and loved by your creator.

We don’t need no stinking downloads, we are going to be upgraded beyond imagination…

cross-and-light

Background Noise?

 

ps 22

As children of the living God, redeemed and restored to a right relationship to the Father by and through Jesus Christ, we can boldly approach the throne anytime and have our petitions heard, for ourselves and on behalf of others, if we’ll just believe it and do it.

But we all also still need to be heard by those around us, to be known and loved, seen and heard, by the people in our lives that are important to us— by anyone for that matter. And, conversely, the ones who see and hear us, I mean really hear us, are the ones who become important to us.

The Father’s heart breaks for the broken people. Jesus’ heart aches for the lonely people. Jesus knows what it is like, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

What do you see when you look at people, if you even bother to look at them, many people don’t. It’s easier to get caught up in yourself, to ignore the people around you, to not see the people trying to survive another day, to not notice the hurting or destitute, the stressed and the burdened. It’s easier to look ahead, focus on the goal, bury your head in your phone or pretend you didn’t notice someone.

Everything, everyone, becomes background noise. Do you suppose we are background noise to the Father?

Millions and billions of prayers are being said every day, every moment, yet God hears them all. He even hears the things that are not directed to him as a prayer, he hears the anguish, he hears the laughter, he hears the sighs, he hears the groans, he even hears the silence of a vacant, “I just can’t take anymore” stare.

And what do we hear? Noise—‘I just need peace let me be, I can’t deal with your issues, I don’t need this, I have my own problems—noise. That’s the natural response, that’s the survival mode—the flesh needs comfort and seeks a trouble free life, you are trouble so I am gone—selfishness of the flesh mode. And we embrace it, even as a church. “Just come and be taken care of by the professionals and someday when you are healthy and whole we will allow you to help other people.”

I mean, surely Jesus—who experienced the pain of rejection, who knows the anguish of being forsaken, of being unheard in his darkest hours, a man of sorrows and grief—surely Jesus is okay with us just dwelling in our own little comfortable safe space worlds where the blessings flow and my cries for more healing and more breakthroughs are always heard.

No, Jesus is not okay with you withdrawing into your little pity party turned, bless me in this safe space, world. Yes, we need to come to him for healing, yes we need a safe place, that’s why they call the big room in  the church a sanctuary, but the whole point of his healing, the whole point of his hearing your cries, of setting you free and giving you the strength to go on is so that you can be his eyes and ears, his hands and feet, so that you can share what you have received with others, so that you can see people, hear people, even and especially the people you do not want to hear.

Here’s a kingdom dynamic that turns the typical church modus operandi upside down, if you want to get healthy, if you want to grow, if you want to feel the love and joy of a life in Christ, you have to look past yourself and give it all away to others. Remember; God uses the things that are not to nullify the things that are. (1 Cor 1:28) The average church leader would require level of perceived perfection and training before they were encouraged to reach out to others with the Love of Christ but the scriptures make no such demands.

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Gal 6:1-3

Bear one another’s burdens. That isn’t a suggestion, that isn’t an option to take or leave or a mandate just for the pastors, that is the law of Christ. I hope that rocks your boat a little; “the law of Christ?” that’s what it says.

We think of Jesus as abolishing the law, that is not the case, Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it—which he did— and he asks us to live in that fulfillment. That law being as he said, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and a new command he added, to love your neighbor as yourself. If you do that, he said, you are keeping all the law. So what is the law of Christ? To love our neighbor, and how do we do that, how do we flesh that out— not just say it but do it? We bear one another’s burdens.

When? When we are worthy, trained and feeling good about where we are in the Lord? No, right now, not when we have deceived ourselves into thinking we are something, but now even while we are weak, while we feel we have no right to judge or look down on anyone so that we can do it in gentleness fully aware of our own weaknesses, causing us to lean on the Lord to deliver us from temptation so that we can lead the way, bringing the hurting and ensnared to freedom. Leading those from the flames even while we still smell like smoke ourselves.

No one is more passionate about helping the hurting than the one who’s tears are still drying from their cheeks.

 

Hear Me

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We all want to be heard, to be known. For those who love, and put their hope in, the Lord, the most important ear of all belongs to God.

We live in a culture that values fame above all else, a weird phenomenon that I think rose hand in hand with the invention of Thomas Edison’s movie projector, moving pictures…an idea that would change the world. Suddenly everyone with a nickel could go downtown and sit in a dark theater to watch actors moving across a screen, bigger than life, in black and white. Beautiful people having dreamlike romances, dancing in lavish ballrooms most had only heard of in stories, daring heroes on horseback like Tom Mix and Will James, saving damsels in distress.

There were the clowns, those what made us laugh with their slapstick antics and goofy looks; Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Larry, Mo and Curly. Where before only the rich and privileged got to see actors portraying characters on stage in the big productions in places like Broadway or Paris—those actors only known to the few who saw them live—now everyone recognized the faces they saw in the Saturday matinee’s, and as the silent moving pictures became talkies everyone fell in love with the singers and everyone learned to talk like James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and Mae West.

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Soon the movie companies were willing to pay their actors, their stars, more and more money, and we were willing to pay more and more to watch them on the big screen and we all dreamed of being like them, not just their characters, but like the stars themselves. They get to live in mansions and wear diamonds and tailored clothes, go to all the best parties and hire people to do everything they don’t want to do.

Everyone loves them, everyone knows them, everyone listens to them, ‘if only I could be like that…’ So we try, maybe we won’t be big stars but we want to be known, people will go on reality TV and make total and utter fools of themselves just to be seen by lots of people. People will do amazingly dangerous stunts just to get lots of people to watch their videos on YouTube.

Like the woman who shot her boyfriend with a fifty caliber handgun thinking that a phone book would stop the bullet, just to make a video that would make them famous, for a few minutes. He died as their young child watched.

When I was a teenager we all just wanted to hang out together, to be part of the cool crowd, or any crowd that would have us. In Billings in the 70’s it was the freaks and the jocks, the cowboys and the nerds, it didn’t matter, what mattered was being accepted, being known by someone. Now things have shifted more to virtual “hanging out” How many friends do I have on Facebook, how many people liked my last post, how many Twitter followers do I have? But there is a disconnect there. We can interact with more people than ever before, anytime and anywhere, yet we really don’t know these people, and worse, they really don’t know us.

The big movie stars figured this out years ago. You can be known and loved by millions of people, yet not have any real friends. In fact you have to hide from most people because everyone just wants to use you, either just to brag that they know you, or to get some of your fame and fortune for themselves, many would even mob you just to say that they touched you, got a piece of you. Just because people recognize you or know your name doesn’t mean they know you. Just because people remember a line you said in a movie—or on Facebook, doesn’t mean they like you. All they know is a persona, a character or a face.

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All that to say; life can be lonely. It is lonely because we all have an intrinsic need to be loved, to be heard, and because we crave it so desperately, we try to attain it the wrong way, often leaving us more lonely and disappointed than ever. Because even if we get noticed, it is often not what we hoped for, it just is never enough. That’s because the only thing that truly satisfies the heart’s need for love is to have a heart that is grounded in the love of our God. A heart that is assured that it is heard by our God, heard and known, is a heart that can find joy in the love of others, a heart that can give that love and hear others, is a heart that engenders that reciprocal love and attention in others.

If you want to be loved, love, if you want to be heard, hear. But we have to start with the knowledge that our creator hears us, not just hears us but knows us and cares about us. That’s what Psalm 139, a psalm of David, is all about. Long before moving pictures and never ending seasons of American Idol, there was a King in the land of Israel who knew that his life, his lot, and his happiness, all hinged on his knowledge that his God knew everything about him, knew him better than he knew himself, yet still loved and cared about  him.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it. Ps 139;1-6

I certainly wouldn’t want everyone to know me like God does, in fact I wouldn’t want anyone to know me like God does, but I am glad that he does. Because his knowledge of me is so complete, I know he understands the reasons behind some of the things I do and think, that I desire to be a good person and long to do better, to be Holy and pleasing to him. Yet I often fall short. Praise him that Jesus makes up the difference and has purchased my salvation, because he knows that deep down inside, I truly do love him.