Thursday Thanks (66-70)

fiveEach week (I aim for Thursday), I’ll use this space to list five things (items, experiences, people, whatever) for which I’ve been recently grateful. Consider it my “blessings count”. Ann Voskamp’s famous challenge to list 1000 gifts seemed daunting — I’m committing to 500, a task which will take me two years of weekly posts to complete!

Here are the most recent entries on my list:

1) Countryside
A relative’s wedding yesterday pushed me to drive hours out of the city into the beautiful parts of our province. Lush fields, golden canola, quiet grids — the city has lots of perks, but these aren’t them.

2) Hugs
I have three sweet daughters and a beautiful wife. All four are exceptional huggers. Count this man as rich!

3) Skin
A week ago, I had a nasty blister that had left a very raw and open sore. A bit of care and a bit of time — it’s nearly healed. Skin astounds me!

4) Music
Our church ran its Vacation Bible School a week ago. In the aftermath, we borrowed the DVD that contained all the songs the kids learned. It is a special joy to watch my girls, right down to my two-year-old find pleasure in worship as they sing and move to those tunes.

5) Quiet
Worship this morning involved a darkened room and some hushed moments. I’m all for energy and celebration — and I want to be even more for them — but somehow the stripped-down hush holds a special sort of essence for this fellow.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailYOUR TURN: Your input makes this post better!

  • Did any of this week’s list especially strike a chord with you?
  • What’s one thing you’re particularly grateful for this week?

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FAITH RE-VISITED (3): It Makes Him Marvel

faithAt church, our current series is about discussing how faith grows.

In the process of Sunday sermons and weekly Small Groups, a handful of observations are rising to the surface.

Here is one of them.

HOW TO IMPRESS

Have you ever wanted to impress someone?

  • Sometimes the desire is driven by earlier rejection. The dumped date, the traded athlete, the unhired applicant – all want to prove their worth and disprove others’ earlier estimates of them.
  • Sometimes the desire is driven by earlier praise. The scholarship student, the awarded artist, the promoted employee – such people can feel pressure to live up to expectations.
  • Sometimes the desire is simply driven by admiration. We desire praise from the one whose assessment matters most. We seek to place a smile on the face most dear to us.

Have you ever wanted to impress Jesus? How might one go about this?

checklistMost of us begin to generate a list of DO’s and DON’Ts. Some are likely Scriptural, some are likely additional. But our minds’ hamster wheels spin to determine what would be most likely to grab the attention of Jesus.

  • Go to church.
  • Don’t go to the wrong church.
  • Read your Bible and pray.
  • Be a hard worker.
  • Be a good share-r.
  • Don’t laze.
  • Don’t lust.
  • Don’t lie.
  • Don’t lose your temper.
  • Love your enemies.
  • Don’t love money.
  • Honor your parents.
  • Don’t kill your siblings.
  • Love your neighbors.
  • Don’t covet their stuff, not even their donkey.
  • Tell the truth, and keep your words kind.
  • Don’t use your mouth for swearing.
  • Don’t use your mouth for gossip.
  • Don’t use your mouse for eating food off the floor, unless a 5-second rule applies.
  • Be friendly.
  • Don’t forget to floss.

And so the list goes on.

Faithful Jews believed the Torah to contain 613 rules. If there was a way to impress God’s Prophet, you can bet it was tied into exhaustive obedience.

Unless it was tied into something else.

WHAT COULD IT BE?

Matthew 8 records an unsettling encounter for many intent upon impressing Jesus.

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

Scripture’s only mention of Jesus being positively stunned revolves around a Roman centurion. From the get-go, we note that this cannot be a “rule thing”. No mention is made of the man’s honesty or purity or generosity. No praise is passed for avoiding alcohol or prostitutes or cursing.

The disciples would certainly have despised the centurion for he was a multi-level enemy. As a Roman, he was one of the “bad guys”, an invader and idolater. These uncircumcised heathen were the godless oppressors of Israel, and most held deep conviction that God’s greatest priority must certainly be to devastatingly dethrone this empire and eject them from the Land of Promise.

So how does one summarize the disciples’ shock when Jesus expresses unhesitating willingness to compassionately visit the centurion’s home?

Even further, how does one summarize the shock of hearing the centurion’s reply?

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

One imagines a dialogue:

CENTURION: I’m not worthy to have you in my home.

DISCIPLES: Dang right! At least you have one thing figured out.

C: No, that’s not what I mean.

D: Then say what you mean, scumbag… um… with a sword… [Gulp]

C: You don’t need to come. You can do it from here.

D: Say what?!

C: There is a pile I don’t understand, but I grasp one thing fairly well: Authority. One hundred men do whatever I tell them. “Go”, and they go. “Come”, and they come. “Do”, and they do. I am not naïve. They don’t obey me from love. It is power, and it is not even my own. In the chain of command, I embody the power of Rome. You obviously carry authority, but I confess that it is a mystery to me. Forces of sickness and spirits of evil obey your words. Your teachings impart life, and your influence obviously ripples into invisible-yet-real realms. In light of this, it strikes me as obvious that you have no need to walk to my home in order to heal my servant. You can do it from here.

D: [Strangely silent]

And Jesus marveled (Mt 8:10). He marveled at the man’s faith, at his confident trust. Nothing mushy here, this belief was matter-of-fact. And Jesus was compelled to declare for all within earshot, “I have not found anyone in Israel with faith like this.”

One can imagine the outcry – spoken or silent – of the disciples: “Hold on! You are talking about a pagan power that governs Yahweh’s covenant people. He certainly doesn’t know the Torah; he likely cannot list the Ten Commandments. He would never be allowed in the Temple, and he may sacrifice to Zeus. And you are holding him up as a model of faith?!”

Jesus: “Yep. That about sums it up. If you want a free, on-the-spot faith clinic, this man is leading it right this moment. Note everything you have observed.”

And at that point, Jesus wasn’t the only one marveling.

leaveacommentYOUR TURN: Your input makes this post better!

  • Why is it so easy to imagine that Jesus values meticulous obedience more than complete trust?
  • Why do you imagine that trust receives so much emphasis in this story?

 

The Holy Spirit Heals

In Acts 2, we find Jesus’ disciples gathered. The city of Jerusalem is teeming with crowds for the feast of Pentecost, but Jesus’ followers are huddled privately, awaiting the arrival of a promised gift

Acts 2:1-4. When the day of Pentecost came. Pastel & pen. 26 May 2012.We read that the gathering was interrupted by a wind that rattled their venue. Fire proceeded to appear before them and descend upon them, resulting in the inexplicable ability to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus in all the tongues of the known world. Guests to the city were stunned to hear this New-Life message being proclaimed in the dialects of home, wherever home might have been!

Some Bible readers have connected unusual dots in this story.

“Hmm. A story about a crowd of people speaking all the languages of the world. Hmm. I feel like I’ve seen this before.”

TowerBabelWithin the earliest pages of the Bible, we read of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). The story is bizarre for at least a couple reasons: 1) It describes a united humanity setting their sights upon building a tower that would reach the heavens, glorifying them to god-like status.  2) It responds to itself by describing God in a way that appears petty and insecure, as if he felt the need to defend heaven’s borders against the invasion of these ancient architects.

Zooming out from the oddness of either story, one sees a fascinating connection…

Pentecost redeems Babel.

Where diversity (seen in the languages) fractured humanity at Babel, diversity (seen again in languages) depicted God’s unifying of humanity at Pentecost. The Creator who loves diversity and labours for its unity works intensely to bridge gaps, wreck walls, and to execute His all-consuming plan: “to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10).

Babel displays the losses incurred when we are driven by a desire for personal greatness. In ways that we cannot fully grasp, this motivation fragments and divides, actually opposing the universal goals we find at the center of God’s will.

Conversely, Pentecost reveals an image of Christ-centeredness, a wildly submitted desire to see his name spread far and wide based on the conviction that profound blessing and deep life come with him.

Two stories of many mouths speaking many words. Babel’s abandoned tower shows a dust-dry site of no-life-here, despite the sweat and strain spent there. Pentecost invites us into a wind- and fire-charged environment where embracing God’s plan in Jesus Christ releases us into an existence and experience that extends to the ends of the world.

Saturday Six-Pack (32)

Another week down, another Six-Pack up!

Here is my weekly gathering point of the best posts I’ve found recently. Most are ministry-minded or faith-focused, with enough flexibility to embrace a bit of who-knows-what as well.

If the number six intimidates you, start with my two *Picks of the Week*.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Inspiring quotes and engaging articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition is a beauty:

1) To Parents of Small Children (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Steve Wiens dares to speak out loud the thoughts of parents everywhere. In the process, he provides hope and encouragement for every parent who has ever feared they were among the worst in the world! If you are currently parenting small children, read some of the comments as well–you will discover a sense of community within a few lines!

2) Book Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About God
Here is the first review that I came across, concerning Rob Bell’s new book. Thanks to JR Forasteros for reading and sharing.

3) The Scale of the Universe
Click, scroll, and be amazed! Very cool site here.

4) Chris Tomlin, King of the Sing-Along
This CNN feature recently highlighted the vast influence of Chris Tomlin. An interesting read for anyone who has been touched by one of his many offerings to the Christian church.

5) The Sexy Wife I Can’t Be (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Mary DeMuth, for Deeper Church, has my respect for this gutsy post about sexual abuse and the very real struggle toward healing from such hurt. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself, Mary.

6) 22 Storytelling Tips by a Pixar Storyboard Artist
This may or may not alter your life, but I was quite fascinated by these bits of learning from a member of one of Earth’s best-known storytelling teams.

Blessings upon you, my friends.  May your weekend be refreshing in rest, play, and worship.

YOUR TURN: Direct other readers to the best stuff above by making a comment below, or weigh in on what you read.  Your input makes this post better!

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You Can Make Jesus Marvel!

It’s all been done; that’s what we are told.

And most days, we believe it.

Living in an age of accessible information and technological wonder, placed in a society of privilege and plenty, we are slow to be shocked. Skeptical and cynical, we salt everything. Amazement is nearly an extinct response, as extreme entertainment and non-stop stimulation have stolen such wonder from us.

Surely Jesus, one who had tasted heaven’s glory firsthand felt some such struggle as well.  Yet Luke 7 tells us of an incident that made Jesus marvel.

CenturionThe chapter opens with story of a Roman centurion. One of his dear servants was deathly ill. Having heard rumblings of a wonder-worker named Jesus, the centurion asked the Jewish elders of his community to approach the healer on his behalf. The Jews were quick to respond, as the Roman had constructed their local synagogue in a display of his affection toward the Jewish people and their way of life.

Jesus agreed to come.

But as he neared the house, he was intercepted by friends of the centurion. They carried a simple message: “Do not trouble yourself in coming, for I am not worthy to have you in my home. This is why I did not presume to come myself. Rather, say the word and healing will take place. I know how authority works as I serve under leaders, and soldiers serve under me. Commands are given, and action is executed. Please wield your power kindly toward me and my servant.”

And this made Jesus marvel.

One can almost imagine him stopping in stride. Smiling a sly grin and slightly shaking his head as he closed his eyes.

This was understanding. This profession of faith, from an outsider nonetheless, was profoundly insightful.

It carried conviction that Jesus was more than a tricky physician, who healed the insides by touching the outside. Rather this declaration professed a belief that Jesus was a spiritual power-broker, a mover and a shaker in the invisible realms. Every type spirit and force knelt before him, and a domain existed–even here and now–where his command was beyond question.

The centurion foresaw an answer to the prayer, “May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” He could see that such a kingdom was already at hand, and he was pleading humbly and honorably with Jesus to let it break into his life in great and gracious ways.

I want to make Jesus marvel just like that.

Brokenness Aside

My Twitter feed served up this devotional based on the song “Brokenness Aside” by All Sons & Daughters.  I only skimmed the article, but I have soaked in the song on numerous occasions.  Inspired by the concept, I offer the following reflections birthed from this artful piece of worship.

These touching lyrics are below, and if the song is unknown to you, then THIS will help you “feel it”.

Brokenness Aside
Leslie Jordan and David Leonard

Will your grace run out
If I let you down
‘Cause all I know
Is how to run

‘Cause I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing its another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies
You are the Savior
And you take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful
Beautiful

Will you call me child
When I tell you lies
Cause all I know
Is how to cry

CHORUS

“Will your grace run out if I let you down?  ‘Cause all I know is how to run.”

I lived in a state of fear for years, certain that God’s nature must be as fickle as mine.  In my finest moments, perhaps I am courageously consistent, steadily stepping toward God.  But how few are my finest moments!  The vast majority of moments involve failure to meet even my own lax standards, let alone the brilliantly holy nature of the One Without Beginning or End.  Wearied myself by my inconsistency and unfaithfulness, it seemed only logical to conclude that God must sigh an exhausted sigh every time I returned in need-filled prayer.  Stumbling the same path repeatedly was furiously frustrating to me, yet apparently it was not frustrating enough, as I was apt to be there again the next day.  Every taste of personal disappointment worked to foster in me a belief that God’s dominant emotion toward me must be, at best, an obligated kindness.  I mean, I would be frustrated enough to give up on such weakness.  Surely God would too.

How pleasant to be woefully wrong about Him!

Will you call me child when I tell you lies? ‘Cause all I know Is how to cry.”

What a joy to sense God speaking over me as “His son”.  The acceptance of the Father is staggeringly hard to accept.  Truthfulness is so foreign to our crooked-to-the-core natures.  Love freely given makes a mockery of the merit-based systems that we so proudly function within.  Surely God cannot maintain His affection and commitment toward children so quick to compromise, so prone to wander.  And yet, PRAISE GOD, He does, for His faithfulness is based upon the integrity of His being rather than than the fragmented states of the rest of us.

And that is indeed very Good News.

‘Cause I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing its another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies
You are the Savior
And you take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful
Beautiful

The distortion runs deep within us.  The moment we shore up one gap, we create another.  There is simply not enough wholeness within us to cover up our brokenness, not enough fabric to hide the nakedness.  Yet God, the Abundant One, wades into the depths of our deception, cuts the cords that bind, and miraculously brings beauty from ashes.  From Genesis 1 onward, the Spirit of God hovers over formless voids of darkness, shaping them into conditions that sustain thriving and God-honouring life.  There is One striving to work such wonders in every life today, and Yahweh is His name.  You can be certain that He is hovering over life as you know it today.

If you haven’t yet heard “Brokenness Aside”, then let your soul be fed by clicking below.

Peace on you today, my friends.

Calling Out to Jesus Takes Guts

Calling out to Jesus takes guts.

Matthew tells a story (20:29-34) about two blind men.  They were sitting by the roadside, when they heard that Jesus was passing by.  Sensing a tight window of opportunity, they cried out forcefully, “Lord, have mercy on us, son of David!”

The listening crowd rebuked the two, telling them to be silent. The beggars’ response?  They cried out even louder!

And Jesus stopped.

He inquired, and they responded:

“What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, let our eyes be opened.”

 Jesus touched their eyes and lost vision was recovered.

 Calling out to Jesus takes guts.

In a recent worship service, we were singing “Faithful One”, a longtime favorite of mine. During this instance, the worship leader had us repeatedly sing the line, “I call out to You again and again,” physically driving home the time-after-time nature of our dependence upon God.  Fascinatingly, yet frustratingly at times, God is the Creator and Re-Creator in perpetuity.  Yet the frustration appears to be ours.  His eagerness to bring healing and wholeness appears unfathomably deep to folks of flesh.  So hesitate not to “call out again and again and again and again”.

 Calling out to Jesus takes guts.

It takes guts because outside voices will chime in with words of deterrence:

“You really think He’s listening?”
“I’m sure God has bigger things to worry about.”
“Why do YOU deserve attention from HIM?

And if you can effectively plug your ears against the outer voices, then you must deal with the deadlier, often nastier, tones from within yourself:

“He’s tired of extending grace to you.”
“You’re not worth His efforts.”
“He doesn’t even love you—how could He?”

The path of faith contains many turns that appear counter-intuitive.  Dominant portions of our beings see the logic and safety of THIS move, while sometimes-slivers feel led down another avenue.  It seems silly.  It feels foolish.  But some small seed planted beneath our layers spurs us to cry out, to declare need, and to trust—to outrageously trust—that the goodness and graciousness of God are indeed insane enough to extend into our lives.

When we so call, Jesus stops.  Vision is restored, hope is granted, and home is found.

But make no mistake: It takes guts to call out to Jesus.

Go for it, my friends.

 

What have you found makes it hard for you to call out to Jesus?
What barriers are prevalent at silencing your voice in this way?

Your comments below will likely speak into the life of another reader.