Thursday, March 23, 2006

What did you expect?

"And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all." (Luke 6:19)

One of my colleagues replied to the praise of an enthusiastic student after the concert, "Well, what did you expect?" The audience comes to be entertained. They pay for greatness and have come to expect it.

The crowd goes to a sporting event hoping to watch a dramatic win. Hopefully they leave satisfied. The sick patient enters the ER desiring to be treated immediately. In every area of life we have come to expect certain things, behavior, services. What is expected of a Christian? And how are we recognized?

Have Christians become known for being too critical, intolerant, narrow-minded, and countless other negatives? Or are believers identified by their love? Jesus was known on that day by the virtue that went out of his very being. Multitudes sought to touch him. All were affected by his presence. Granted many had selfish motives for seeking him, but he healed them all.

This is not to suggest that we ought to embrace anything and everything in the name of love. The focus is on that which emanates from Christ. Virtue comes from him, life, wisdom, kindness, compassion, and strength. He did not try to be all of these. He is all of these. They are traits which characterize him.

Since Christ resides in the believer, his nature is in us and has the capability of expressing itself quite visibly to others. We can wear the negatives of our own self-absorption, or we can demonstrate the virtue of Christ that we have been given. When others see us, do they see negatives, our trying to be good, or do they witness the powerful virtue of Christ himself?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Amazing Escape

The evacuation was a success! Mission completed! You have now entered the life zone, and you are about to embark on a brand new adventure. The scenery may look the same, but the rules have changed. You no longer are connected to the old support system. A new life line far superior has replaced your old responses. You are now free to access the new system. You are no longer living in the domain of darkness. Welcome to the Kingdom of God!

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son." Col.1:13

Fact: Your wiring for self-serving disobedience has been disconnected, and a new computerized response system has been installed during your flight. The old behavior patterns may signal you that it is still intact, but those responses are only "ghost" nerve endings that have been permanently severed. Your memory will remind you of what once was, but there is no more power there to control you. Heavenly technology has been implanted within your chest and new celestial mechanics are securely in place. Your new system works perfectly! In short, the old is gone, destroyed, rendered forever ineffective. Your new behavior is now driven by a highly sophisticated system which is empowered from beyond this known world. You should like the results.

Usage: You need to know how this new behavioral system operates. It is not driven by your five senses. It is fully dependent upon your being convinced that it indeed controls you, which it does. Your senses may tell you that it doesn't work, and your mind will try to explain away its reality. But it has the power to alter your thinking, your desires, your speech and your whole course of life!

It will thrive as it is routinely accessed by your belief in its effectiveness. Your manual is the Word of God which will create favorable conditions for your belief (or faith) to grow. Your faith will grow not by faith in the new system, but by faith in the One who gave you the system. Neglect the user's manual, and you will find this new technology strangely inefficient. Devour the manual, and you will know well its very Author!

This new life has been provided for you at enormous cost. Do not take it lightly. Become quite familiar with it. You may use it as much as you wish, for it will never fail you or need repair. You will even find that it will thoroughly acquaint you with its Maker and the One who purchased it for you!

Can you go back to the old system? You can pretend, but why would you want to?! You have been successfully delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Do not pass GO . . . Do not collect $200

The road is never smooth for long. It has its bumps, straight-aways, turns, climbs and downhills, but it always keeps going somehow. There are tedious treks, many short hauls, and even occasional smooth sailing, but the road continues for hundreds of miles, and the journey for all its obstacles is all still good.

Mile after mile the pavement stretches out meeting the horizon. Gas is cheap, the radio is loud, the car will drive forever, and we are all bullet-proof. But at some point up ahead the road is suddenly closed, apparently without warning with not even a detour in sight. The bridge is out until further notice and the journey comes to a hault.

In retrospect it was a good ride, driving full speed ahead with plenty of great times and rewards. Perspective changes quickly however. All of yesterday's storms, traffic and rough travel so sadly and effectively clouded a clear view at the time. Why is the pavement far behind and miles ahead always more attractive? A mirage of deception. The trip of the present causes whining and stress, while the look forwards and back is always seen through carefree glasses.

Somehow GO was always passed by, even if it said not to. $200 was always collected, it was automatic! It was owed us! We always got out of jail free, and eventually even landed on FREE PARKING. But fat city doesn't last forever and the game eventually ends.

One can take heart nonetheless that there was a warning before the road ended! Barriers and signs were there to prevent dissaster, dangers that we did not or would not foresee. Directions must be changed for the benefit of the drivers. A better way must often confront us without our appoval. Left to ourselves we would choose poorly more often than not. He who watches and guides our path always directs wisely. Another road, another destination, another kind of trip. Maybe this time the splendor of the journey will not be missed, and the precious few days of the rerouting might be enjoyed.

The trees or the forest?

Back in my tennis obsessive-compulsive days I tended to avoid back hand shots, preferring to smash as best as I could only with my mighty forehand strokes. My forte was the devastating forehand, while my backhands turned out to be slices and finesse deals at best. The slowness of those shots usually marked the end of the rally, giving my opponent plenty of time to rush the net and clobber his return mercilessly.

After observing some Wimbleton matches, I saw the powerful no-fear attitude, even in the backhands. In fact the players seemed to welcome them. Back on the court myself, I noticed an immediate improvement in my confidence having a fresh memory of my tennis heroes' approach to every shot. Hesitating and doubt spelled a weak question mark, whereas a well-rehearsed bold and aggressive stroke more often than not ended with an exclamation mark.

Attention to the details of technique is vital, but it should be secondary to the goal of winning and winning with style in the process. Worrying about the backhand should be followed with smart backhand practice. But when the game begins, all fear and hesitancy should be gone. What carries one through the rigors of set and match is that relentless pursuit of excellence, not obsessing on details of technique, at least not by that point. Style and drive, like a dog with a bone, usually win more points than boring perfection. Winners keep the forest in focus inspite of the trees.