Thursday, March 3, 2016

Philip's Reflection


Jesus chose us to be his family, his brothers and sisters.  He wants us to get in on his inheritance.  He chose at the beginning of time to set his affection on us and he still does today.  He loves us like crazy, and we get the amazing pleasure of loving him back.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Sometimes the refusal to let memories be forgotten and the harsh focus on our won faithlessness causes us to forget the meaning of grace, and what Jesus has done in our lives.  As believers, our faithlessness or self-criticism, be it true, false, or exaggerated, never cancels out Jesus’ faithfulness, his forgiveness and grace always rises higher.  We will fail often, but Jesus never intended for us to focus on our human weakness.  We don’t have to earn enough good points to negate the bad.  Jesus makes all things new.

Irritability or jealousy or self-protection can become treasures I guard at the expense of spiritual, emotional, and relationship blessing.  And then there is fear.  If I allow that to take hold, in essence I’m choosing something lesser above my faith in Jesus.  And how about free will?  If I value that more than Jesus’ truth, I am treasuring something that will not last. 

 When I hold onto anything more than my connection with Jesus, my treasures are misplaced.  Today is the perfect day to purge anything that allows moths to eat our joy and steals our connection with Jesus. That’s why I love Jesus’ words in Matthew.  I catch a humorous tone here, as if he is saying, “Really, you don’t have enough actual challenges to face?!  You have to waste energy mulling over imaginary ones?”  He longs to free us from our need to control each possible eventuality.  He invites us to turn our focus on him.  If the plane goes down, we are in his hands; if society crumbles, he is still our savior.  We don’t have the power to avoid all of life’s troubles, but we face, we can trust that he will be with us.  By entrusting our lives fully to him, we can stop living in fear.

Obedience is not easy.  It takes patience to drive my grandma around town on errands when I would rather be working on my own projects.  It’s difficult trying to calm a newly adopted child who is lashing out.  Following Christ in these ways invites suffering into my desire for a comfortable life.  But isn’t that what we are supposed to do?

1Peter 2:21 says, “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering.”  Christ is your example, and you must follow in his steps.  I wonder what would happen if more Christians obeyed these directives.  Would the watching world be drawn to Christ-in-us in new ways?  Would we stop worrying about being good and, instead, start working at being available?  We have discussed how loving the familiar and stepping into the unknown can be unsettling.

On a positive note, however, change is often necessary to promote personal growth or to spur us on to new ventures.  We might resist change initially, but in the end, we realize it was a good thing.

So long as we are warm and breathing, we will fade change.  We will quit a job to start a different one, welcome new family members and say goodbye to others, move to a different house or city, adapt to life as empty nesters, deal with challenges that health brings and more.  No doubt, like most other people, you have encountered change.  Maybe you, like my friend, find it difficult.  If so, be encouraged today in knowing one thing for certain—Jesus remains the same.  His presence offers stability when circumstances shift.  His peace prevails when we focus on his promises.  And his power undergirds and strengthens us to navigate our changes successfully.  My relationship is not all about what I can get from him, although he overwhelms me with his blessings.  my relationship is also about what I can give him:  my love, my time, my service, my praise, myself.  He of all deserves it.

A reading from Numbers 6:24-25:  The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make his face shine on you.”  Then he sends us off with his encouragement.  Remember you may be the only Jesus someone sees this week.  We represent Jesus to a world of people suffering from the effects of sin, hungering for acceptance, longing for love.  What a privilege to carry his invitation to find forgiveness of sins and unconditional love through a personal relationship with him.  It is crucial that we represent Christ not just with our words, but through the way we live.  Each of us is surrounded by people watching our attitudes and actions.  They take note of how we respond to negative circumstances, on how we treat others.  Their opinion of Jesus will be influenced by what they see through us.  To be his ambassador means treating others with respect, responding in a spirit of forgiveness and love.  That’s why I need help from an active prayer life, study of the Word, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

For me, the time of business does not differ from the time of prayer, even in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things,  As a youngster, I wanted the approval of others.  I was trying to live up to unrealistic expectations I had set up in my mind.  And I was trying to earn Jesus’ approval.  Instead of understanding what he has already provided through his grace.

If we take our meaning in life from our family, our work, a cause, or some achievement other than God, those things enslave us.  I don’t need the approval of others to be worthy.  I already have Jesus’ approval because of what he has done for me and in me.  God sees me as his child, and he loves me completely.  When I live my life out of these thoughts of approval, everything changes.

When Jesus asks us to follow, he challenges our normal routines.  Some changes may make us or others uncomfortable.  We and those around us may react initially with fear if there is too much change too fast.  But as we tell the good news of what Jesus has done for us, just like the healed man, we will find the moment of change worthwhile—truly a holy moment.  A new life with Jesus is always better than the old.  How many times have I suffered stress and sleepless nights worrying over a problem without seeking divine help!  The bible describes Jesus as the ultimate source of wisdom and knowledge.  I seem to forget how that translates into practical answers for everyday problems.

His Spirit within me helps to apply truth to difficult situations.  Sometimes he connects me with people or resources needed to solve a problem.  Other times he simply opens my eyes to see the circumstances from a new angle.  But it all starts with asking him about it.
Jesus looked up to heaven before he fed the five thousand and when he raised Lazarus from the dead.  Far from hiding it, he made his connection with God obvious.  Jesus always lived like an arrow aimed at the Father’s heart, and he told us to follow him.  Jesus said, “Walk with me and work with me.  Watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”  I want to look to Jesus, not around me or behind me, but with my gaze fixed on him.  By his grace my aim will be straight and true.

Comfort washed over me as I remembered that our Good Shepherd doesn’t prioritize whom he loves the most.  We certainly differ in many ways, and sometimes fill specific roles, but ultimately, we are one in Christ Jesus.  We share equally in his grace and acceptance.  None of us who follow Jesus can feel superior to our siblings, and none of us need to believe we are inferior.  Our ethnicity, or social or vocational standing, our gender, all fade in importance as we follow Jesus.  All are equally loved by the Shepherd of our Souls.
Jesus’ heart toward us is always love.  Jesus’ aim is newness of life and the hope of something better, of growth, of coming to a place of peace and healing.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in everything—I wonder how in the world anyone could fulfill these instructions, especially the one about praying nonstop.  Seriously, I grew up believing that God would hear me only if I assumed the prerequisite body posture—closed eyes and folded hands.  Easier said than done when driving on the freeway of supervising kids on the playground.  Thankfully, scripture’s commands are always doable, and this one is no exception.

So how can we pray continually when we are at work, watching our kids, engaged in a critical conversation, or suffering to the degree that we can scarcely string a sentence together?  Here are six simple suggestions that work for me.  When I am in a difficult situation, I pray, Jesus—wisdom.  When circumstances cause anxiety, I pray, Jesus—peace.  When finances fall short of monthly bills, I pray, Jesus—provision.  When noise and activity surround me, I pray, Jesus—rest.

When a difficult person offends me, I pray, Jesus—love.  When I don’t know what to pray, I pray, Jesus—help.  I find this prayer method helps me maintain awareness of Jesus’ presence and power.  It prompts me to talk with him as with a good friend, not only when I need something, but at all times.  It even helps me obey the other command in today’s verse by saying many times each day, Jesus—thank you.

2 comments:

  1. My blessed Uncle, thanks so much for sharing and for letting God shine his light thru you with you words . My prayers are evermore with you.

    Your Nephew,

    Rev. Ricky A. Sommers, Sr

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome words that blessed my soul and lifted my spirit brother Phillip...I have a conviction to Love God and others more fully more eyes on Him not me thank you brother Anthony

    ReplyDelete