The Future’s So Bright, We Gotta Wear Shades

 

On their own the Gospels can leave a person unsure of what Jesus was trying to tell us exactly. He spoke of judgement for all who have sinned, but he also spoke of God’s love and mercy and forgiveness.  He told us to be perfect as God is perfect then pointed out that none of us are.  He called all sin evil… but then he would freely forgive the humble and broken sinner.

It starts to make sense when he dies on the cross and you remember the things he said about being the good shepherd and the good shepherd laying down his life for his sheep. Things get a little less foggy when you recall that he said He was the way and the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him.

Then you remember that parable Jesus told about the sinful, ungrateful, disrespectful son, and you remember that the Father loved him anyway–and forgave him when he had done nothing to deserve forgiveness.

When his tomb is found empty things get even clearer and noticeably brighter.

Of course, Paul spells it out for us in letter after letter to the churches.  Jesus took our sin upon himself, all of it.  He didn’t die for most of our sins, then leave us to atone for the rest.  Our debt is paid in full.  John records Jesus’ last words as: “It is finished.”  Do you think he meant his life was finished, or the purpose he came to fulfill?

It is finished! It’s done and gone!

“…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

The sin is gone.  The condemnation is gone.  The shame should be gone.  Not that we aren’t supposed to do God’s will, but the pressure to do God’s will should be gone as well. We have been set free. If we truly believe that, all that weight we have been carrying for so long can be traded in for a nice pair of shades because suddenly things have gotten a whole lot brighter.

A.J.

No Limits

I chose a “working man’s” life…
I am one of those who truly hated school even though I was good at it.
I would have denied it, but I liked school well enough as a grade schooler.  That changed when my parents split.  We bounced around after that and I was in a new school for six straight years, from fifth grade to tenth.
The first couple transitions weren’t too bad but it became harder and harder to be the new kid.  It might have been easier had I been a few years younger;  younger kids are more accepting. But, being the new kid every year of junior high was pretty rough.
I came out of those years with a genuine hatred for school.  Even though high school was a little easier, I had zero plans of furthering my education beyond that.
Some think that is a waist, that not finding a way to go to college was limiting myself, but I never did.  I did not resign myself to a blue collar life–I chose that life, and I have never regretted that choice.  Not that I wouldn’t have minded us having more wealth or financial security, but I never desired to chase after it in any way that might compromise the peace in our home.  I found a solid, honorable, and creative profession and I work really hard at it.  Every night I come home tired and dirty, reeking of the chemicals used in my profession.  I am proud of the work I have done over the years. Well, most of it anyway.  And, it has paid the bills–mostly on time.
I don’t feel little when I am in a crowd of better-educated men who live in bigger houses and drive nicer cars.  Yes, they know some things that I don’t, and they can do a lot of good things that I cannot, like brain surgery or rocket science.  But, there is much that I can do that many of them cannot, like fixing a lady’s car on the side of the road.
I can appreciate and admire what those other men do and have but they are only men.  Their houses may be much bigger and nicer–but their homes have nothing on mine.
I grant you that if I compare myself to other men or women and their accomplishments, maybe I don’t look so good.  But, if I compare myself to God, the difference between myself and the best-educated and most well-rewarded man on earth seems infinitesimal.
Don’t misunderstand me; A college degree is great, and important.  We encouraged all of our kids to go. But, I never really felt limited by my lack of a degree.  I always thought that if I wanted to branch out in some way, that I could do that if I applied myself, and do it well, whatever that may be.
You see, here is the thing: I am made in the image of the One True God.  I am His child. I belong to him and it is unwise to underestimate or put limits on anyone or anything that God has created and called His Own.
You know who else was made in His image?   You.
A.J.

Woe Is Us!

Boxed In

I have been kept in a box most of my life–not told to go no further than its parameters, but expected to go no further.  “A.J. is this kind of person; he belongs in this box.  He should stay there.”

I didn’t tell people what I was doing so they didn’t know until I was already outside my box.  I see that as a mistake now, because the shock has been too great for some.  Had my friends been allowed to watch me painstakingly scale the walls of the box, perhaps they would have been caught up in the doing of it, and rooted for me, instead of feeling blindsided, or abandoned.  Many of the reactions have been so strange and even hurtful, that I would rather say nothing and pretend that I am still in the box that was assigned for me, than to tell another person that I have accomplished something good, that I am not exactly the person they had me pegged as being.

All this makes me wonder… Who have I been keeping in a box?  Who, when they break the confines of the box I have put them in, will need my encouragement?  Will I stare at them dumbfounded, with my jaw on the floor?  Will I say all the right things but hold resentment in my heart for leaving me behind in the box I used to be so comfortable in? Or… will I be joyful for them and proud of them for becoming more than I believed them capable of becoming?

Will I remember that God has gifted everyone, and recognize that regardless of their current state of education, or health, or wealth, or status–God has the power to bring out the boundless potential in every one of us?

A.J.

 

 

 

 

Vacate the Throne!

This world was never about us. We are not the lead character in our own story. God cast Jesus in that role. Our own story isn’t even about us. Every person’s biography should start and end with Jesus. The sooner we see that, the sooner we can understand. Understand what? Everything we need to understand, everything important. We have to get off the throne of our hearts because that throne does not belong to us. Without the humility to accept our place as less than God in every way, even in our own soul, we will never understand our place in the universe.

Does this make us worthless? On the contrary. We have a part to play in Jesus’ story. There is nothing more important than God’s business, and he has work for us to do and nothing can fulfill us more. Nothing can give us a stronger sense of worth.