Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Engine LIght

(Proverbs 3:6)  “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

I had just bought a later model used car. On a trip to Indiana for Thanksgiving, the amber “engine light” came on. I had been used to driving older cars, so this was a new experience to me.

This amber “engine light”, differs from vehicle to vehicle, but promises customers a safer and better driving experience, and helps to address problems earlier, and more efficiently for a broad range of problems. For this reason sometimes repair facilities struggle more to find solutions.

That particular Thanksgiving, I spent most of the day at the dealership, only to discover that the computer itself had incorrectly turned the light on. The manufacturer paid the bill.

The conversations that I had with several people while waiting, helped me to realize that my own spiritual “engine light” was on, and God was taking my life a new direction.

The working of God’s spirit can sometimes be like an “engine light” in our lives. Jesus experienced this when a woman touched the hem of his garment, and he felt power drain from his spirit. We are all spirits, who happen to have bodies, and they can be directed towards evil or good.

I was being introduced to this as a “new dimension” in the Christian life.

For example, I was surprised recently to see that the Bible says that a person of great wrath also has great confidence. Confidence alone, then, does not guarantee that you are operating according to God’s ways. (Proverbs 14:16) In other words, things can appear well without any indication of anything being wrong – but it is helpful to know that there are times when this may be the case.

God is holy, and will always be angry at sin. But the beauty of walking close to the Lord, is that you can learn to recognize his “slightest whisper”!

The root cause of all suffering on earth is the problem of sin. Since sin has been dealt with at the cross of Jesus Christ, what is left is a restored relationship with the Heavenly Father. Faith is what brings this about. But since sin is at the core of our entire human existence, outside of the cross, and the operation of grace necessary for all aspects of this new life, it is becomes a daily challenge!

Fortunately, our pain during these times becomes a picture of what a vehicle is supposed to be like, and attracts more assistance. Our pain draws the Savior!

As I write this, even our little Shitzu dog decided that it was time to get some exercise. I had not done this since yesterday morning. She actually seemed quite vicious as she was playing with me.

How do we know what is happening? We simply develop a regular routine for “checking in with Him”, so as to keep the “engine light” functioning appropriately.

I saw a few fascinating verses in scripture recently that underline this truth for me. The Lord knows what is going on. (2 Peter 2:9) In fact he can be recognized by what He evaluates in our lives, and the lives of those who walk away from Him. (Psalm 9:16).

The thing left, then, is to live our lives from these “roots” upwards and away from things that are dangerous to our “vehicle” – away from the contamination that addressed our lives early on, and from the time when they first began to influence our hearts away from Him.

All we have to do is to . . . acknowledge Him!

I needed to say it in that automobile dealership that day, and I also needed to say it to myself this morning, “Paul, in all of your ways make sure that you make His ways known, in what you acknowledge, and what you do, and he will act as director of your paths, and make them straight!

Is your “engine light” on?  (1) If it is giving out false information – take it the “Manufacturer”, and get it replaced with the “Word of God”; (2) If it is correct, align your life accordingly; (3) If someone else needs your understanding, share with them. (1 Peter 3:15)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

“What do you want me to do for you?”

It was half-time. The Twins were playing the Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit. The man went to the refreshment stand in order to purchase a pop for his handicapped friend, and a bottle of water for himself. Desiring to be good to his friend, as well as quench his own thirst, he had already decided to have a good attitude towards the significantly higher prices of soft drinks and water.

He was surprised at the refreshing attitude of the clerk at the counter, “What do you want me to do for you?”

It occurred to him that when people are willing to have an attitude of service, they are far more likely to be treated as a good customer!

Farmers can teach us much by a service approach to the food needs of people. For example, Psalm 126:4-6 demonstrates that the Israelites saw hope for aching hearts in captivity, when they related it to a farmer’s attitude, “Return our people from exile, Adonai, as streams fill vadis in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy. He who goes out weeping as he carries his sack of seed will come home with cries of joy as he carries his sheaves of grain.” (CJB)

Interestingly, a friend had just sent me an e-mail indicating that he had seen Jesus from a new light, as he responded to blind Bartimaeus when he used those very same words, “What do you want me to do for you?”

As I studied the 10th chapter of Mark to review the story, I was surprised that the Lord would remind me of a principle I have often seen in the Gospels: Jesus’ words to religious leaders were often followed by a miracle illustrating the same point!

Jesus actually used the same phrase, “What do you want me to do for you”, in addressing James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who had just asked to sit on his right and left hand in his coming glory!

Isn’t it ironic that they wanted a little favor – that of sitting on His right and left hand in the kingdom – when he was about ready to die as a seed in their perception of eternal life, and in preparation for an eternal kingdom! That is like asking for a pair of glasses when you cannot see at all!

Someone reminded me a few days later of the remarkable resemblance of the words of John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address on Friday, January 20th, 1961, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

Jesus’ gentle reminder comes back, “What do you want me to do for you?” In fact, Jesus reminds us that a desire to be first, implies that we should be asking others how we can make them first. It is, after all, the “Golden Rule”.

The implication of this section of scripture is that people can be blind in more than one way! James and John were blind when it came to the real reasons for positions of trust. They were blind to Jesus’ ultimate mission – to pay the price of redemption, and save the world.

They would also demonstrate, with the other disciples, that they did not understand that physically blind people, like the rest of us, could be blind to their own attitudes that tend to surround handicaps. For example, Bartimaeus didn’t even treat Jesus as one who could actually do something about the problem.

So how does this apply to other areas of life? When facing any kind of a crisis, would it be good to view the Lord as the One who asks to serve us in our crisis? When running short of funds, does He not ask first how he can serve us, then shows us what is involved? When in an emotional crisis, is it not appropriate to tell him the whole story, and then allow Him to show us the way?

Crisis experiences are sometimes reflections of what is really going on in the background. We become frantic trying to fix the small problems that tend to keep arising. It can be like trying to tighten a misaligned nozzle on a hose, after the water is already turned on! Stop, turn the water off so as to care for the small problems, and the irritation goes away. That is so often the case in prayer. He longs to serve us, so that our lives are useful and not in total disarray.

The heart craves the satisfaction that only godly contentment can provide. It keeps relentlessly seeking our souls. Saint Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are only satisfied when they are satisfied with God.”

King David pursued many things passionately, including women, kingdoms, and power. His pursuit had its effect on succeeding generations, as borne out in his son, Solomon. His thirst was not quenched until he fell to his knees and admitted that he needed to passionately pursue the touch of God more than these things.

His thirst was not quenched until he was brought to the place of falling on his knees to admit the main need – the touch of God. John Wesley said that we should not “seek a ministry”, but rather the “fruit of a disciplined life”.

He writes in Psalm 63, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you.” When God is seen clearly, the hope that our world seems to promise comes into focus. “My soul longs for you,” writes David, “in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Jesus once said to anyone who would listen, “If anyone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink.” Generations of thirsting pilgrims have prayed that all would find their way to these waters: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)