Friday, August 26, 2016

Be not the hypocrite

"Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over." (F. Scott Fitzgerald)  Many times we focus on whether we have what it takes it to make it to the finish line when all the while what we are probably more likely to need is a fresh start!  Mom has a plant on the patio she has been watering faithfully, taking good care of, but recently it began to show us it was not too happy with something - the environment, the heat, or maybe even the pot.  Even a little bit of fertilizer added to the water didn't seem to perk it up.  Last night I had to ask her if she was willing to let it go.  Nope....she wants to see if it can be nursed back to vibrant life once again.  There are probably lots of things which could replace that withered and anemic looking plant right now, but she won't let go of it.  I don't think it has what it takes to come back to the life it once had, so I am more inclined to just start over with the pot and go for something more vibrant and colorful.  What we hold onto the hardest may be the very thing we have to let go of in order to get a fresh start, though!

Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun!  All of this is a gift from our Creator God, who has pursued us and brought us into a restored and healthy relationship with Him through the Anointed. And He has given us the same mission, the ministry of reconciliation, to bring others back to Him.  It is central to our good news that God was in the Anointed making things right between Himself and the world. This means He does not hold their sins against them. But it also means He charges us to proclaim the message that heals and restores our broken relationships with God and each other.  (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 VOICE)

If we have been united with Christ, we can be confident of this one thing - we are being made new.  We are no longer the old man or woman we used to be - although we may look the same on the outside, the inside has been and is continuing to be made new.  New life begins where the ground has been prepared for it.  The work of preparing the ground belongs to God himself - the work of tending that ground begins with him and it includes each of us.  We actually become "ground-tenders" in the lives of those around us - not acting as their conscience or telling them what to do/not do - but through prayer, living as positive examples, helping with choices when they seek help, etc.  We are called to be engaged in this work of reconciling each heart to God.  It isn't our mission to "get them to Jesus", but it may be our mission to help maintain them!  God is in the work of pursuing lives - he is the one going after the heart, mind and soul of man.  We are his instruments of showing others what it means to live out this work of grace. We are living "testaments" of his grace.

There are times I think we believe "proclaiming" a message means we stand on the street corner with large signs and shout out to the ones passing us by that they "need Jesus" and their world won't be right until they find him.  This may be very true, but a message delivered in this manner rarely "hits home" in the hearts of the passerby.  What speaks volumes is this vitality and vibrancy they see within us as we live out the "regular stuff" of everyday life.  Occasionally I am asked what it is that seems to keep me afloat when so much seems to not be going as I had planned.  I might not always respond with a scripture verse, or some "saintly" explanation as to my "motivating force" within.  In fact, there are times when I just plain don't know what it is within me that keeps me going, but I trust it is the Spirit of God, living and breathing within me, helping me put one foot in front of the other until I reach the "other side" of the mess I am in.  There are also times I have to admit it is my persistent and self-centered pride that has held me up in the midst of what really should not continue in action in my life!

It is probably the hardest thing to admit one's pride is the thing keeping them going, but I honestly don't want anyone to confuse the power of Jesus and his grace within me as the motivating force for some of the stuff I do which I probably would do better just letting go of in the first place!  The fact we "persist" doesn't always mean we are moving in the right direction.  Just because we have said YES to Jesus and have his Spirit resident within us doesn't mean all the steps we are taking in a forward direction are going to produce life in the end.  Some of them will still end up being a little lifeless and fall short of anything we might label as "vibrant" in the end.  It is my willingness to admit when I have taken a wrong path which often speaks volumes about where it is I have centered my life.  At that moment, I was centered on what seemed right to me - when I finally let down my prideful exterior mask, one would soon see that there is nothing more important to me than me taking the path God shows me - not the one I may have forged in my pridefulness.

Vibrancy simply means we see signs of life.  Not all signs of life mean the growth is good, though.  I have some pretty vibrant weeds in my gardens and some pretty stubborn grass that grows in places far outside the confines of the lawn!  God calls for us to be honest with ourselves first, then honest with others next.  In that moment of honesty about where we have been and where we realized we needed to be going, we almost give a breath of fresh air to a soul hungry for hope themselves.  Admitting we were traveling a wrong path isn't going to make us appear weak, but will actually bespeak the strength that comes from within us because the person of grace indwells us.  The world needs this reality more than it needs "super-star" images of the "perfect Christian".  It needs real people, walking through real stuff, dealing with totally "anemic" obedience.  In this image of what God can do in the life of an open heart and submitted will, others can find hope for the "redo" they may need in their own life, as well.  Just sayin!