ISO One Magical Wardrobe

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I’m re-reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I can’t express enough how much I love this book. I also can’t express enough how much I’d like one of those magical wardrobes that you climb inside and wind up in a different world.

I’d love to be able to visit Narnia from time to time and see all those wonderful characters.

I do realize that wardrobes don’t work that way all the time. I also get that Narnia exists only in the world of fiction. Or does it?

There’s a little bit of Narnia in the best of my dreams. There’s a little bit of Narnia in those moments when I am truly and freely myself, when I really don’t care what anyone else, when fear absolutely ceases to exist for a moment.

These books were written for kids, but even as a grown-up, I still find so much that makes me pause and think. There’s really so much depth in the simplicity of these stories.

I love that Aslan isn’t safe, but He’s good. That’s true of God. We want Him safe and predictable, never asking anything unexpected of us. But that’s not the God I read about in the Bible. The God I read about isn’t safe, but He truly is good.

God’s primary concern isn’t our safety. It’s us looking and behaving like Jesus, even if we go through some harrowing places to get there. God doesn’t want us happy as much as He wants us holy (which probably goes against most of the feel-good theology that comes out of most pulpits these days).

I even love that Mr. Tumnus who started out to do a very bad thing, but repented and stuck to his word, even if it meant being turned into stone. And even Edmund became a decent fellow in the end.

I just love these books!

 

The One Thing

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“Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen” (from The Book of Common Prayer).

“Purity of heart is to will one thing” (Sören Kierkegaard).

“Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Martha, Martha, Martha. Bless her heart.

She’s too busy doing things for Jesus to spend time with Jesus.

Sound familiar?

She’s playing the part of the dutiful hostess and making sure all the guests’ glasses are filled and the hors’ d’oeuvres are replenished and the dishes are clean. She’s feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all and decides to vent her frustrations.

What does Jesus do?

Does He scold her for her impertinence? Does He lay into her for interrupting Him and making demands of the Son of God?

Not hardly.

He reminds her of what’s important. Of what really matters.

Mary has chosen to be near Him, to sit at His feet. That’s the only place in the room that matters.

Too often, I can find time for anything and everything but spending time with Jesus. That always ends up sliding down my list of priorities until I find myself at the end of the day with good intentions and no results.

Most of that to-do list can wait. Some of it can be left undone. What cannot be left off or undone is being in a place where Jesus can speak to you. For Jesus’ words are life. They are more vital than bread.

So make it your goal to carve out 15 minutes from your day for quiet contemplation and reflection. Even 5. Make time and space in your life to hear what Jesus wants to say to you.

And the truth is that Jesus doesn’t want to scold you. He doesn’t want to berate you.

He wants to remind you of something you’ve forgotten. He wants to remind you that you are still after all this time the Beloved, the apple of God’s eye. He wants you to know that there is a better life than you have ever known. He wants you to know it’s never too late to come back home.

So that’s your assignment for the week.

 

Old Movies and Theology

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I just watched an old movie. Surprise.

I saw Boys Town, a 1938 movie starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. It was definitely a feel-good movie, though it didn’t start out that way. I believe it was based on the true story of the founding of Boys Town.

The point of the movie is that Father Flanagan was trying to help boys who didn’t have mothers or fathers to look after them, who would otherwise end up on the streets and involved in crime. He wanted them to learn how to live as decent citizens and decent human beings.

I think we sometimes are quick to judge those who act differently than we do. Or maybe whose sins are different than ours. It’s very easy to condemn someone who struggles with an addiction or issue that we don’t struggle with.

But maybe what people need isn’t to hear how they’ve messed up and are headed down the wrong path. They probably figured that one out already. Maybe what people need is to know that someone out there knows and cares about them. That maybe, just maybe, they can change.

That’s what the Gospel really is. We like to harp on the sin part sometimes and maybe get a little too much satisfaction from telling people how bad they are, how they’re sinners headed straight to hell. Maybe we need to emphasize that it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe we need to point out that God loved the world so much that He gave Jesus so that it wouldn’t have to be  that way.

Jesus didn’t come to tell good people how good they were. He didn’t come to make healthy people feel good about their health. He came for the bad, the messed up, the sick, the broken. Which by the way means all of us.

Before you write off someone else, remember who you used to be. Who you might still have been but for the grace of God. That just might make all the difference in the world. In that person’s world.

 

Not All the News Out There is Bad

Sometimes, when you read the headlines, you get the sense that everything is going wrong and we’re all headed to hell in a very large handbasket. You sometimes get the feeling that all the news out there is depressing and bad with no redemption anywhere in sight.

But I ran across this little news story just now and it gave me hope.

http://www.today.com/pets/final-goodbye-dying-zoo-worker-gets-kiss-giraffe-2D79416546

It’s bittersweet and a bit sad but also a bit hopeful as well. It shows that people can be decent to each other and that even animals can be kind. I won’t add any more to spoil it.

Of course, not all the news is gloomy and bad. The Gospel, which literally means good news, says otherwise. The Gospel is the best news ever shared because it gives us hope. It gives me hope.

It says that no matter how bad my present may seem, the future will be much better. God has guaranteed it. The Gospel says that the ultimate and final victory has already been won and the ultimate Good Guys are the victors. It may not seem like it right now, but God’s promises are as good as done.

In fact, what God promises is so sure that we can speak of it as if it were already accomplished. We can speak of the future in past tense because it’s that certain. That’s what I love about the Gospel.

Here’s my take on the Gospel. You and I were born messed up and diagnosed with a terminal case of sin. We’ve rebelled against God and messed up our own lives as well as the lives around us. But God wouldn’t let it end that way.

He became one of us and lived among us and showed us how it’s done. He lived the perfect life. Not only that, but He died in our place, taking the punishment we deserved and offering a free and full life of abundance that we don’t deserve. Life that is rich and full and that lasts forever.

That’s the good news of the Gospel. And I think that’s good news.

Becoming the Un-cool Church

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I’m taking a break from my Things I Love series. I figure I’ve earned it after coming up with 1,400 entries. Plus, I’m seriously running out of ideas.

So tonight, I’m writing my own take on the Church, inspired by one or two articles I’ve read (more like skimmed) on Facebook in the past week.

I think too many post-modern churches are trying to hard to be hip and edgy and trendy and forgetting why they’re here. The millennial generation is leaving the Church, as I read in an article, not because they find it too hip, but because they’re not finding Jesus there.

I look at it this way. Churches can be all about having 50 different kinds of coffee and come across as a second-rate Starbucks. No matter how edgy the music, somewhere out there someone is doing it better. Watered-down messages and feel-good theology only work for so long until people run into difficult seasons in their lives and find out that Christianity Lite just doesn’t work.

I’m not against coffee or modern worship music. I’m not even against churches being culturally relevant, though I think I’d personally rather see a church be faithful and committed to Jesus. And if the Church isn’t faithful to Jesus, no matter how relevant it is it will be eternally outdated and obsolete.

The church will always be second-rate at the things it was never called to be, but what it can do better than anyone else– what it has always been called to do– is be a dispenser of grace and a displayer of the love of Jesus. Grace is a uniquely Christian commodity. By that, I mean the grace that turns the other cheek, blesses those who curse them, walks the extra mile, and forgives those who persecute them. It’s the grace that loves enemies and forgives the inexcusable in others because you knows God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. Or so said some British guy with the last name of Lewis.

That kind of radical love and obedience isn’t hip or trendy or cool. It will make you look very foolish in the eyes of pop culture and the media and the rest of the world. They won’t understand it and they will revolt against it (and you). But those who need God’s grace and love the most will be drawn to what they see. Those nearest to God’s heart– the outcast, the downtrodden, the poor in spirit, the nobodies of the world– will find their place in this Kingdom ruled not by dictators and power-mongers, but by Lovers and Servants.

The Un-cool Church just doesn’t talk about Jesus. They think Jesus is the most brilliant Man who ever lived and want more than anything to live out what He taught. Not just have the right answers or the right beliefs, but to actually do what Jesus said to do. All of it.

I still love the motto of a church I used to attend, which goes something like this. “Everyone’s welcome. Nobody’s perfect. Anything’s possible.” My prayer for the church is not another hip club or trendy coffee spot or a Christianized meet market for singles. It’s not a neverending behavior modification seminar. It’s about grace that transforms and love that heals and Jesus doing what only Jesus can do– save.