If/Then: I Surrender/He Saves - Monday
- What hope has become part of your life because of your relationship with the Father?
- Memory Verse: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
“The truth will set you free.”
There are times we can’t or won’t see overt truth. But we can see it if we disconnect our defenses long enough to let the truth do its powerful work in our hearts. Frederick Buechner wrote an insightful book called, “Speak What We Feel, Not What We Ought to Say,” in which he wisely puts forth the idea that, in fiction, we write what we actually think, as opposed to non-fiction where we have to hide what we truly feel. In fiction we can plausibly deny or disown what we’ve said… it’s fiction after all, right? Story is a conduit of truth when nothing else will allow it to flow. When King David was stuck in his sin, Nathaniel was able to break through by telling him a story. David’s heart broke and God’s power to heal and restore began to work in his life.
This week, we’ll end with a story: A man was hired to plow a field. He showed up only to discover that the job was going to be harder than he thought: the ground was dried up and hard as concrete. And it was hot as blazes. First, he was pretty angry about the fact he’d committed to do the job. But then he got a bright idea and made a phone call. After several dump trucks delivered piles of loose dirt, he proceeded to rake the dirt into long rows that looked like freshly plowed furrows. He summoned the owner of the field, showed the “results” of his work, and was promptly paid... for his deception.
Take a moment to reflect on how this story might intersect with your life, then think or talk through the questions below.
Some who are poor pretend to be rich; others who are rich pretend to be poor.
One of the most interesting moments of my life was thoroughly wrapped in the garb of inauthenticity. It feels like another life. It was a moment that was so totally outside of who I am. In many ways I was searching for who I was. I had recently come to Christ and been baptized. I had just finished two years as a Physics major, and had no idea what I’d do if I finished that pursuit. In the process, I found that my friend, Sara Baxter, who would later become my bride, had worked for a rising Christian rock band who would go on to be nominated for several Grammys and win numerous Dove Awards. All I knew was that I was slowly becoming disillusioned with my studies and I needed a job. Sara put me in touch with the right person and I discovered the band needed two roles filled: a bus driver and a dancer. I immediately set about investigating the pathway to get my CDL license to drive the tour bus, only to discover that I was three years shy of the 21-year-old minimum. So… I took the plunge and headed to Nashville to learn a few dance moves. A few days later I found myself sleeping on a tour bus, eating fast food, and standing on a stage with lights flashing, music blaring, people screaming. The people who really know me know how out of character this was for me.
The stressful part of it was trying to imagine much further down the road past the moment I was living and seeing it play out in a sustainable manner. Thankfully, when it came time to evaluate where to go from there, my friend who led the band was clear-headed enough to see, in the end, they needed something else: a dancer who could also play the drums at times... and I had zero experience on the drums. I was actually slightly relieved when the role was suddenly and clearly placed beyond my ability to continue striving to fill it. Do you ever feel like you’re pushing harder and harder just to hold it together? Like you’re walking a pathway you know is going to drop off in front of you at any moment? Stop pretending and reach out to the God who wants to help you become who He made you to be.
1 Corinthians 10:13a
But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.
Sometimes problems can be figured out with a little brainpower and creativity. But what if your problem isn’t a mere brain teaser? Sometimes we run up against questions which have no linear, logical answers we can comprehend. Whichever best describes your troubles, I do know this: A lot of us are like the rest of us. Whether it’s sin in your life, or something that detonated in your life due to someone else’s sin, or simply because we live in a messed up world, Scripture tells us that we’re all in the same boat. We face the same struggles someone else does… or has… or will. Don’t fall for the lie of the enemy that you’re unique somehow in your difficulty. Satan will back you into the corner and pummel you there, convincing you that God has abandoned you because of what you’re walking through. That God is punishing you while everyone else gets a free pass.
No, the truth is that you are experiencing what others experience in this fallen world as a result of choices we’ve made or that others have made, but most often a blending of the two. And God knew we would step in these situations, circumstances, choices, consequences—or get stepped on. Even so, He sent Jesus to begin the process of fixing what’s been broken. One of the coolest things that happens (when we realize we’re not alone) is that God starts to bring hope into our pathway. Hope that things can change. We can change. We can heal. We can stand up out of the misery and walk forward again. With God and with other people in our corner, the enemy has to lay off. We not only have others who are helping to watch our backs—and that’s pretty cool—we also have a big God who is starting the amazing redemptive process that looks almost like a clock working backward. Our struggles are redeemed, and as we help others, well, our wounds are patched up and healed as well.
Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
One day I was pulling out of the church parking lot and saw a guy in a trench coat sitting on the curb, an empty beer can next to him, a cigarette in his hand. I pulled over to see if I could help. The guy averted his face and said, “No, I’m okay, I’m okay…” The voice was a dead giveaway, “Brewster? Seriously? What are you doing?” There he was, dressed up to challenge his fellow staff on their way out the door and others on their way in to attend one of his Jesus Parties to see if anyone would stop. I love it that Brewster is such a trickster. He looks alot like Jesus in that way. “Say what?” Yeah. Absolutely. In Matthew 25 we discover that Jesus has been throwing on a disguise and showing up in our pathway - incognito. But His play-acting has massive significance. This reminds me that our God is constantly and playfully inviting us to a game of hide-and-seek. For some, it’s a challenging invitation that cuts to the quick. For others, though, it’s the loving invitation of the God who loves us and longs to be face-to-face with us and have us look into His eyes. At Southland, we want to jump into the game and be like Jesus - to love God, love people, and prove it daily. There are many ways we have figured out to get face-to-face with Jesus by helping people. If you need help, let the church be the church. Throw your hand in the air and ask for help. You can be a part of helping or even receive help in the face of loss, hospitalization, joblessness, a death in the family.
“I am with you always.”
We’re finishing a series about tough questions and difficult issues. Are you in a challenging season right now? There are so many people walking through difficulty in their marriages, health issues, joblessness, addiction, abuse, loneliness, financial problems. If it’s not on this list, it’s something else that is blowing up in your world. Or maybe it’s going great for you right now. If so, that’s awesome. Not to be a downer, but you may find yourself in need tomorrow. Things change from day to day. In the blink of an eye. Unexpectedly. Bottom line: We are surrounded by hurting people. The people who won’t make eye contact with you in the grocery store. The neighbor who drives into the garage and closes it without speaking to you. Even the people who will smile at you in church this weekend and say, “Fine!” when asked, “How’s it going?”
But what if Jesus showed up in the midst of the pain? I mean, what if the living, breathing Jesus walked up to your door, your desk, your devastating situation? How would you feel? You’d be face to face with the One who can fix your situation with a single word. Would you feel a little better? Like there’s a little more hope? Would you be strengthened and encouraged? I’d like to think I would be. But here’s the deal: Jesus is alive and well. And He is concerned with everything that happens to you. He is present in and through His people, the church. He never leaves us, doesn’t give up on us. If you’re struggling, don’t try to fake it or fix it. Bring your problems to Jesus - yes, when you’re alone and in prayer, but also by turning to the community of Christ-followers who can extend the love of Jesus to you, bringing hope in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.