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Archive for June, 2010

Draw Me Close

(This is the last of the ones from my old church newsletters.  At least the last of the ones I’m going to re-cycle… This one is from June 2004.)

…to hear you say that I’m your friend.
You are my desire, no one else will do,
‘Cause nothing else could take your place,
to feel the warmth of your embrace.
Help me find the way, bring me back to you.
You’re all I want. You’re all I’ve ever needed.
You’re all I want. Help me know you are near.
Words by Kelly Carpenter

I am certain that many of you are familiar with the above song. It has been sung in chapels and church services for several years now. I have voiced the words in Indiana, in Kansas City, in Pennsylvania and here at MCC. Two of these occasions in particular stick out to me, and I would like to share them with you so that we both would be encouraged to draw closer to our Heavenly Father.

The song itself is beautiful. A heartfelt prayer voiced to music. The words express a desire to be in an intimate relationship with God, the one to whom we sing. Many a time have I uttered the words when I felt alone or anxious, dejected or despairing. In many ways, this song penned by another has become the cry of my own heart.

But last fall I saw a vivid picture of what the song means. I was at my church in Pennsylvania, seated in the balcony a few rows back from a young couple and their toddler son. The mother handed the young boy over to his father to hold while she prepared their tithe check. The boy was unsatisfied with this new arrangement – he wanted his mother. As we started singing “Draw Me Close,” the scene before me became a living example of the words.

The young boy wanted to be close to his mother, he did not want to be let go and no one else would do. As I watched his uncompromising reach for his mother and the way he clung to her once back in the comfort of her arms, I began to think. Do we really long for God as the little boy longed for his mother? Are we unsatisfied with the riches and pleasures of the world so that they mean nothing to us compared to the surpassing joy of an intimate relationship with God? Can we truly say to God, “You are all I want?”

But that is really only half of the story.

Back in Kansas City in 1999 at my first mime workshop, Paul Fischer, our worship leader, led us in this same song. Towards the end he spoke to us saying “now imagine God singing to you,” and he proceeded to sing the chorus. “You’re all I want, you’re all I’ve ever needed. You’re all I want, help me know you are near. ”

At first I was disturbed. God singing that to us? Isn’t that sacrilegious? But then it began to make sense.

You’re all I want. God wants us, He wants a relationship with us. He provided the way, through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, so that our sins would not be a barrier between us. That’s how much He loves us!

You’re all I’ve ever needed. He doesn’t need our promises or our pretenses. He doesn’t need our help or our advice. Just us.

Your all, I want. Now I’ve changed the grammar, but it sounds the same when sung. And it’s true. God wants all of us. Not an hour on Sunday or fifteen minutes a day for Bible reading, but our whole selves, our whole lives. God created us and He loves us, more than we can possibly imagine. God desires a relationship with us and He tells each of us “I want you. Not who you try to be. Not who you promise you’ll be or what you promise you’ll do. You. All of you. Your hopes and dreams, your fears and tears. Your problems and your victories. You. All of you.”

Oh that we may hear His voice, today and everyday! And that we would respond saying “Yes, Lord, I’m here. Have me. Take me. I’ll give everything away to have You. For You are all I want and You are all I need.”

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So I am finally trying to get around to this list of a half dozen or so “blog ideas” that I’ve been collecting for over a year!  Figured this one should be short and sweet.

Late last spring I heard a Sunday School teacher teaching on 1 Corinthians 13.  And I can’t remember where or when she said this thought struck her, but she mentioned an analogy or word picture for the whole love “keeps no record of wrongs” part.

A cache.  Like in a computer.  Like in your web browser history.  Forgiving someone (and keeping no record of wrongs) is like clearing your cache – clearing out your web browser history and cookies.

The picture struck a chord with me.  And not only that, but my mind continued on further…. including remembering how a pastor in California once included in a sermon how we can’t move on and forgive when we keep rehashing (rethinking and retelling) the incident.

In many browsers, though I am now most keenly aware of it in Google’s Chrome, if you start to type an address, it will fill it in for you from places you’ve been before (your browser history).  In fact, with Chrome, you can type the website name and even as you start with a few letters it knows which sites you visit the most and will fill in the rest for you…

These browsers have an amazing memory.  Unfortunately, we as humans also tend to have an amazing memory when it comes to ways in which we were hurt or wronged.  It doesn’t take many keystrokes for our memories to pull up the places we’ve been hurt.  Just a few keystrokes and there it is again, that place we were wronged.  And, like Google’s Chrome browser, the more often you visit the site, the quicker it comes back.

This is great for web browsers, but bad for us as Christians.

1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love “keeps no record of wrongs.”  We are called to love and we are called to forgive.  Now, forgiveness doesn’t mean that we excuse the wrong done, or sweep it under the rug, or immediately trust and have an intimate relationship again – but forgiveness does mean that we choose (by the power and grace of God) not to hold the wrong against the person who wronged us, not to hold onto a grudge or take revenge.  In other words, to keep no record of wrongs.

The old song relays God saying to us:

What sins are you talking about
I don’t remember them anymore.
From the Book of Life they’ve all been torn out
I don’t remember them anymore.

 

God forgives and chooses not to remember.  To keep no record of wrongs.  To clear the cache.

And we as His followers are called to do the same.  So allow God into the “preferences panel” of your life.  Allow Him to adjust your settings.  Delete the browser history, get rid of the cookies.

Keep no record of wrongs.

Clear your cache.

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This is another one taken from a church newsletter I did (back in August 2004), though I think I originally did a part of it in one of my personal newsletters.  Enjoy and be encouraged!

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
(Psalm 42:1-2)

 

Do you thirst for God?  Really thirst for Him?  The psalmist does. The psalmist is eager for God.

When can I go and meet with God?

Say this line aloud with me: When can I go and meet with God?
Now don’t say it like you’re going to the dentist!  Try again.  Say it with the eagerness of a child on Christmas morning: When can I go and meet with God?

Now say it with the anticipation of a bride about to walk down the aisle: When can I go and meet with God?

Now say it with the desperation of a soldier oversees waiting for news that  he can go home: When can I go and meet with God?

The psalmist’s words are full of eagerness and anticipation. When we read Psalm 42:1-2, we tend to picture the psalmist on a warm sunny day, relaxing beside a stream and watching a deer quietly lap up water.  At least I always did. But that’s because I never got to verse three.
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?” (v. 3)
The psalmist’s words are also a cry of desperation.
Here’s another picture for you. The psalmist, breathless from running, is suffering in physical pain and emotional turmoil. He collapses to his knees by a stream to wet his parched throat and cool his hot face. Looking up he sees a deer lapping for all its little tongue can lap. And just as his overwhelming problems seem so vivd, suddenly so does the very desire of his heart, to be with God. To praise God. Wearily he lifts his hands high into the air and begins to praise God.
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God (v. 5)
Now I don’t really know if the psalmist fell to his knees before a stream or saw a deer.  But I do know he lifted his hands to praise God.  How do I know this? Because of the word he chose to use here.
The word which was translated “praise” in verses 5 and 11 is the Hebrew word yadah, which includes in its definition of praise an extension of the hands towards God. When I first discovered that word there, I was awed. It suddenly hit me what the psalmist was saying. Even in the midst of his pain, even though his emotions are down, he is going to lift his hands in praise to God. That’s how much he longs for God.
  • It’s a toddler lifting her little hands for Daddy to pick her up.
  • It’s a person who is drowning lifting his hands so the life guard will see and rescue.
  • It’s a criminal turning himself in saying “Okay, I give up. I can’t do this anymore. I surrender.”
  • It’s a spectator at a sports game with her hands lifted high exalting the players.
  • It’s the picture of Job after he has lost everything, saying “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.”
  • It’s the picture of Jonah sitting in the slimy stomach of the big fish surrendering his will to God’s.
  • It’s the picture of Paul and Silas praying and singing in prison after they had been severely beaten.
It’s when we come to the end of our rope and realize that God is still there. Waiting for us. Holding on to us. Loving us.
So we raise our hands to our Heavenly Father in surrender and in praise, desiring nothing but God himself.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

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And just so the last post doesn’t seem too warm-and-fuzzy-feel-good-but-unbalanced…

While it’s important to get our esteem from God and know, truly know, that God loves us, names us, ascribes status to us…

… it’s also important to know that God has called us from, to, towards and for

Called us to be His children (and made the way through the death of His Son, Jesus, who took our sin upon Himself so that we could have a relationship with God and be part of God’s family).

Called us out of sin.

Called us to repentance.

Called us to be holy.

…called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time… (2 Timothy 1:9)

Called us to go and make disciples.

Called us to love one another.

Called us to be like Christ.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

Back in high school I read many, many Max Lucado books.  One of my favorites was Just Like Jesus.  And though this theme ran through the book, it was the few words on the cover that stood out to me then and have continually stuck with me.

God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be Just Like Jesus.

God loves us, esteems us and gives us our worth.  He calls us out of sin and into His family.  He calls us to be like Jesus and to follow.  And in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

… grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.  It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.  Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.

We are greatly esteemed.  But we are esteemed for a purpose.

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Esteemed

I found some old church newsletters I’d written little articles for a half dozen years back and thought I’d recycle some through here.  Hope you find them encouraging.  Here’s one from July 2004:

Everybody’s thinking about self-esteem
On talk shows, Oprah knows she read it in a magazine
‘Cause we don’t like ourselves so much
We just need to feel the touch
Of someone who’ll accept us in our need
(from “Nothing to Hide” words & music by Geoff Moore & Phil Madeira)

 

Some time ago I heard a pastor preaching from 1 Peter 2:9-12.  One of his points (in talking about us as a purposed, chosen people) is that we are precious. Then he said something which has stuck with me – all our worries about self-esteem go back to the old sin, namely, focusing on ourselves.

We’ve probably all heard the description that the word “sin” revolves around the letter “i” and that “I” (ie. selfishness and doing self’s will rather than God’s) is the root of all sin.

So here’s a new spin. As Christians we know that glorifying ourselves and worrying over how good (in other’s eyes) we are is wrong. But we’ve generally bought into the worldly way of thinking in that we sill need a healthy self-esteem.  I’d like to propose that we do not need a healthy self-esteem!  We need a God-esteem!  [editor’s note: Wherein the first word “self” or “God” is the source of the esteem.]

The problem with self-esteem is that no matter how humble we try to be, we are still focusing on us.  What we do, our looks, our money, our success, our good deeds, our prayer life, our acts of service.  IT’S NOT ABOUT US!  It’s about God!  Who He is!  What He says!

Who is God? Well, in (very) short, God is the omnipotent, omniscient, all good, perfect, loving, just, creative Creator-Redeemer who lovingly created you and I. Not because He was bored or lonely or wanted to experiment. But in love so that we could share in the love and joy of the relationship of the Godhead (Trinity).

So what does God have to say about us?

“the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

“what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:4-5

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I could easily go on.

In my sociology class in college we learned about two different types of status. The one is achieved status. This is based on what a person does, his or her achievements, and is often the one more highly praised in America. The second is ascribed status. This is based solely on someone giving you a name, a title, a position. We tend to try to achieve status – even in God’s eyes. What we’ve got to realize is that nothing we could could ever say or do can change the love God has for us (see Romans 8:28-39). God has given us a name, His own name, and that is the sole basis of our worth.  We are esteemed!

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

“But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 (spoken to God’s chosen people, note our connection through 1 Peter 2)

Again, I could go on.

Let us focus not on what we think about ourselves or what others think about  us. Let us understand just how much God loves us. It’s not because of who we are but because of Who He is! You can’t do anything (no matter how good or “religious” you are) to make Him love you more. And even when you are bad and sinful, He still loves you just the same and still wants to be your Father, bringing you into His family and transforming you.  Do you see it?  It’s not about us, it’s all about Him!

Note Moses’ reminder to the children of Israel,

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.  The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.  But it was because the LORD loved you… (Deuteronomy 7:6-8a)

It’s based on God and God’s love!  There is no higher love, there is no higher esteem!  Know it, believe it, understand it, live it, be content with it.

And be grateful. Love God, serve God, praise God daily.  Not because it is a condition of His love (it’s not) or because it earns us more love (it can’t) or because it gives us more worth (it never could).

When you get up in the morning, look at your matted-haired, bad-breathed, fuzzy-toothed self and know that who you are is who God called you – His child. And know He loves you.

So in the continued words of Geoff Moore (and the Distance),

 

 

 

 

We’ve got nothing to hide, nothing to loose
Nothing to fear, and nothing to prove
He loves us just the way He made us
And no matter how high, no matter how low
No matter how far we still have to go
He loves us just the way He made us
He can’t love you more,
He won’t love you less

 

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on dreams…

What I like best about listening through the Bible this year (as opposed to reading) is that different things tend to stick out to me.  Was doing my daily Bible audio on the way to work this morning and was struck by these verses out of 1 Kings 8:

17 “My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 18 But the LORD said to my father David, ‘Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart. 19 Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, who is your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’

Of course, I think the translation he was reading from today (it changes weekly) used the word “desire.”  So perhaps it was this version:

It was in the desire of my father David to build a temple for the name of the LORD God of Israel. 18 But the LORD said to my father David,”Since it was your desire to build a temple for My name,you have done well to have this desire. 19 Yet you are not the one to build it; instead, your son, your own offspring, will build it for My name.”

And it came to mind that sometimes we have desires.  Desires that are good, or godly or can even come from God.  But that doesn’t mean they are intended to become reality.  Or at least not in our lifetime…

I desire to get married and have a husband.  In itself, that is not a bad desire.  In fact, seeing as how we were created for one another, it’s rather a good desire.  But having a good desire is no guarantee that it will be fulfilled.

I have desires – dreams even – of these various mime tours and shows.  The Beautiful Tour, the one on Revelation, the one on The Cost of Discipleship, the one I imagine being called “Mimes on Broadway.”  And I believe them to be good desires, godly even.

But that doesn’t mean that they will necessarily come to fruition – or even at my hand.  Perhaps someone else will come across the notes and ideas and “blueprints” that I have jotted down and bring them to reality.

And my point is that I take comfort in this.  I take comfort because sometimes we have to see the promise from afar.  Sometimes it is not meant for our lifetime, but for others.  And so I don’t have to get frustrated or depressed that I have all these dreams and ideas stuck in my head that seem so distant.

I’ve already noted how I seem to be a person that God uses to plow the road.  To prepare.  To dream and envision and sometimes plant seeds that have a very long germination period!  And that’s okay.

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