When I was a kid we had no internet or video games and TV was something you only watched after dinner. We roamed the neighborhood in search of adventure. We found adventures in vacant lots and fields of wild flowers and forts we built in tree branches. I remember lying on my back in the large empty field behind my elementary school with my friends, looking at the sky for hours-deciding what the cloud formations looked like while we made necklaces from the wildflowers. Time had no meaning we were lost in the adventure.
I experienced that feeling again this weekend as I got away from civilization to a wilderness adventure. I was unplugged from technology and sat watching cloud formations. It reminded me of a simpler time-a time of innocence, wonder and living in the moment.
Faith in Christ was simpler then too. There was no worry about political correctness towards people who didn’t share your faith because we were the majority then and as the saying goes, “majority rules”.
Believers in Christ are not the majority now. Church attendance has declined, The darkness is growing. But is the darkness growing in the church too? Are we becoming like the churches Jesus rebuked in Revelation? Are we lukewarm? Have we lost our first love? Are we tolerating immorality in our midst? Are we dead?
We want to preach the comfortable teachings of Christ but are we willing to live the hard teachings? Are we willing to die to live? As the darkness grows our light must get brighter.
There is a song by 10thAvenue North about forgiveness and it has a line that says “I Feel Like the one Losing.” When we forgive a wrong or injustice we suffer or see those who live ungodly lives seemingly prosper, sometimes we feel like we are losing. We feel like evil is winning.
As I reflected on this recently in my life. God had two pictures for me.
The first one was of the good son in the story of the prodigal son as found in Luke 15. When the prodigal son returns after squandering his inheritance on loose living the grateful father orders a feast in his honor. The good son is so angry he won’t even go into the feast.
“So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”
For being the “good obedient son” there is a great reward. All that the father has is his. There is also the reward of not having to pay the price for disobedience and living in the blessing of the Father.
I was reminded that the reason I am obedient now is because I once paid the price of my prodigal living and never want to go there again. As the saying goes “Sin takes you farther than you wanted to go and leaves you there longer than you wanted to stay.”
God also reminded me of the story of Peter and Jesus as told in John 21. Jesus questioned Peter about his love for Jesus and asked him to “feed his sheep”. Peter looked over at John and wondered why Jesus had not questioned him.
New King James Version (NKJV)
21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
It was none of Peter’s business what John’s relationship with Jesus was about or what plans He had for John’s life.
Peter was to walk his own path and worry about his own relationship with Christ. A saying I have heard is “Swim in your own lane”. And so it is not for me to judge my Lord’s other servants, even those who seem to mar the name Christian. I must follow Him. I must entrust him with my life and not worry about another’s. As a saying I read recently states “Don’t be jealous of another’s success. God has enough blessings for all”.
Have you been ruined by love?
To reference one of my favorite quotes from the movie Moonstruck
“Ronny Cammareri: Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*.’
Has your heart been broken? You are in good company. There is a song that says “He died of a broken heart for you and me”. Jesus suffered brokenness of heart, spirit and body because of His love for us.
If we are to be joint heirs with Him we must also suffer with Him. In our brokenness He is glorified. Sometimes the pain is deep because the hardness of heart is deep.
I wrote about our tree removal in a previous blog “Reflections on Loss”. The tree was removed, new plants were put in place, but we just couldn’t get the yard to look the way we wanted.
My brother who is a paving contractor came to survey the project. He noticed that many of the roots had not been removed. He ordered major surgery on the yard. So today with heavy equipment the yard was once again ripped up, large roots were dug out-a deep gash was made in the lawn. After that, the dirt was graded and fresh sod put down.
Sometimes deep surgery is needed on our hearts to free them from the hardness we have built from past sin and hurt. The wall prevents a healthy heart that can shed the love of God into other hearts.
This is why James 1:2,3 says “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.’
In the brokenness of heartache God does the deep surgery to free our hearts to better feel and to give. Nothing touches our life without God’s permission. Thank Him and look to Him to allow your brokenness to better serve Him.
I talk about loss in my chapter “It’s a Heartache” God has taught me a new lesson on loss recently. We don’t understand why God takes things or relationships from our life. I have observed a picture of this in the recent landscaping changes made to our yard. We had a very large tree that was growing roots that were tearing up the sidewalk and taking over most of the lawn.
It was a beautiful tree and the thought of cutting it down was painful but we knew we had to because of the damage it was doing. So it is with those things that seem to be good in our lives but may be taking the place in our hearts and souls of God. We don’t see the damage they are doing, but God does and removes them like the pruning of the vine keeper in John 15. Now that the tree is gone, the rest of the yard is thriving and blossoming like never before and there is room for new plants to add a new beauty to the yard. You see the large tree was blocking the sun and the vital nutrients the plants needed. So those things we allow too much power in our lives prevent the Son from shining in our hearts and lives. Hebrews 12:1 Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run with perseverance the race set before us.
2 Timothy 3:1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
6They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Sound familiar? Sounds like our current generation to me. How did it happen? Where did this godless rebellious generation come from? As I thought about it, I realized that I and my generation are to blame. We created them.
We were raised by the Depression Era generation who were materially deprived in their childhood and so demonstrated their love to us through material giving. Our parents ruled their families with an iron fist. Children were to be seen and not heard. We were not allowed to be too happy or too sad. So, as a result, we are a generation who disconnected from our feelings and submitted to authority. For our parents it was more important to be respected than loved by us . We were deprived of the love that we hungered for.
In reaction to the parenting we received, my generation put our children on a pedestal. We celebrated their feelings and allowed them to question our rules and guidelines and gave them the power we longed for as children. Because we were starved of love from our parents, we looked to our children to fill that void. We wanted to be loved rather than respected by our children. We wanted to be their friend more than their parent. They became a generation who believed they were better than they were because they believed our inflated view of them.
Thanks be to God who can rescue both generations from themselves. Most of my generation tried to fill the void with sex and drugs and rock n roll. We ended up empty and beat up. We turned to Christ and found the love our parents could never give us. The love that we were created for.
So this current generation will have the cruel realization that the world is bigger and tougher than them and the success they are running after will not fill the void in them. They will be humbled by the hard knocks that life delivers and hopefully they will turn to Christ. In Christ they will learn that the equation for peace is to serve and love others more than ourselves. To be first, they must be last.