Saturday, April 30, 2011

Do We Get It?

"The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this , and it is marvelous in our eyes." (Mark 12:10-11)

I've had this thought running through my head today. Do we get it?

Get what?

Do we get how great God's mercy is?

We talk about it, sing about it, teach about it: God's mercy that He has freely given us. We just celebrated it last Sunday on Easter. We contemplated His sacrifice. We rejoiced in His resurrection. We proclaimed that He is Lord! But do we get it?

Where we would be without His unconditional love? Does that thought make you shudder?

On the flip-side, does your belief in His mercy make you thankful, hopeful, loving, at peace, joyful, and unafraid? Do we see how blessed we are? How secure, free, and alive? Do we feel it, or is it just a nice idea? Do we believe? Do we live it? Do we say with confidence, 'If God is for us, who can be against us?' Do we recognize that as a rhetorical question, or do we secretly have answers? The economy, the government, gas prices, the boss, family, adversity, difficulty, losses, enemy #1, #2, and #3--or perhaps the worst enemy of all--ourselves.

God is so many things. He is powerful; the almighty creator and sustainer of life. He is living, spirit, truth, justice, and righteousness. But above all, He is mercy. He is love. He is our Father and we are His children: His dearly loved children. In spite of our sin, shortcomings, weakness, shortsightedness, stupidity, selfishness, and unbelief.

He is mercy, and we are forgiven. We are blessed. We are secure in His love.

Do we get it?

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him." (Mark 11:23)

Have you ever been inspired with a really great idea? Have you ever thought about doing something, gotten the details all worked out in your head, and then found that a few days, weeks, or months later, it pretty much fizzled into nothingness? Perhaps you tried something that didn't work out. You didn't have enough know-how to make it happen, or you did but the idea just failed for some reason. Or maybe you never got to the doing-stage. It was a good idea, but you didn't have enough time, money, or courage to go through with it. If that was the case for you, somewhere between having the idea and implementing it, doubt likely crept in. You had doubts about the idea itself, or you had doubts about your ability to make it happen.

In Mark 11, there's an interesting scene that takes place. Jesus is involved, and so is a tree. A figless tree to be exact. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. It's the day after what we commonly celebrate as Palm Sunday, just a few days before Jesus would be crucified. He is headed for the Temple where He ends up showing some major anger over those who had turned it into a marketplace, but along the way He is hungry, so He stops to have a little snack. But the fig tree doesn't have anything to offer Him. Jesus is upset by this, and He curses the fig tree, saying that it will never bear fruit again, and the next day they see that it has withered and died.

I find it interesting that Jesus would act this way toward a tree, and even more so because it says that it wasn't the season for figs. So, He's not only upset that the tree didn't have any fruit, but He also was expecting something that He knew it could not produce. He was expecting something from it that was not natural. He was expecting the supernatural from a tree that was just like every other normal fig tree.

Why? Why would He expect that? He made the tree. He knows what it's capable of and what it's not. He made trees to bloom and bear fruit at certain times of the year. This is the natural order of life. Why would He get so mad over something that wasn't even possible?

Like many of the stories Jesus taught, the tree is symbolic of something else. The tree is an object lesson for us to glean something from. But what? What was Jesus trying to say? In John 1:48, Jesus says to Nathanael, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree..." This was a common saying that referred to someone who had studied the Torah. Someone who was well-versed in the Law of Moses, as most educated Jewish men were. The figless tree then could represent the unfruitfulness of the Law. It wasn't producing the desired effect. The Law as given to Moses was meant to draw people to God. It was meant to bring them into a right relationship with God, but it wasn't working because no one could keep it. Instead of drawing people into God's presence and making them holy, it was just exposing their inability to be perfect. It was a good idea, but it wasn't working. It was expecting the supernatural from mortal beings.

Jesus came to change that. He came to provide a new path to holiness. Not one that was based on man's ability, but on God's power. His supernatural power that can transform us to live beyond ourselves. To love as He loves. To give as He gives. To do things we could never do on our own with our own limited thinking, resources, and desire.

Paul used a word picture when he talked to the Galatian Christians. 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.' (Gal. 5:22-23) He was explaining how these qualities are not something that we produce on our own, but that they come from God in an unlimited supply. When we are engaged with God and living by His Spirit, we become people that we cannot be on our own apart from Him. He infuses us with the supernatural, like a tree that produces fruit both in season and out of season.

The day after Jesus cursed the fig tree, He was walking by with His disciples and Peter noticed that it was withered and says, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"

"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you have asked for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him."

Does this mean that Jesus wanted them to go around cursing all the fig trees and ordering mountains into the sea? No. He had far grander things in mind for them to triumph over: Envy, greed, worry, fear, doubt, and unforgiveness; our natural tendencies that keep us from living the lives God wants for us. Don't let these negative attitudes and actions rule your heart. If they rule your heart, they will rule your life. Choose instead to live beyond yourself.

Easter...It's about you. Celebrate who Jesus has made you to be in Him!

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:12-13