Saturday, February 28, 2015

In Love With Excuses

Some years ago I befriended a man that lived across the street from our church. Every weekend I would stop to talk with him as I walked up Meadow street for Saturday night worship.  On a regular basis I would ask him, "When are you gonna cross the street and hear me preach?  We would love to have you join us."

His response was always the same.  "Preacher, you don't want me coming into that church. Lightening will strike if I come in."  And then he would nervously chuckle.

Well, one evening he actually did come in briefly but didn't stay - returning to his usual spot which was, sadly, only twenty feet away from a new life.

I am not sure all the regrets and obstacles in his life that were fooling him into believing that change was not possible - or who convinced him that Jesus didn't want him.  But those strongholds were in control keeping him from a life full of hope and new beginnings.  He soon moved away and we lost touch.

Zacchaeus, written about in Luke 19, was also a man full of regrets and obstacles. He had chosen a path full of corruption and greed - a lifestyle that forsook his namesake which meant "pure or righteous."  But in the midst of his bad decisions, he made a bold decision - one that changed his life forever.  He decided to draw near to Jesus.  Even with the obstacle of a crowd keeping him away, he got creative, pushing past the obstacle, and climbed a tree.  And that little bit of effort put events in motion that saved his life.

We are in love with excuses.  We not only keep a menu list of them readily available but we add more on a regular basis.  We get drunk on excuses - enjoying the mind-altering buzz they provide us. Excuses keep us from confronting the truth of our short-comings and dealing honestly with them. And then we wake the next day to do it again.

Zacchaeus had his regrets turned into redemption.  And so can we.  He pushed through obstacles and said "yes" when Jesus called his name.  And so can we.  He decided to no longer only watch Jesus from afar.  He left his usual spot and came "across the street."  And so can we.

Fall out of love with excuses.  Get unstuck.  All of us are only a few feet away from the start of a new life.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden     

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Can't Somebody Else Do That?

When it came time to prepare for the Passover, Jesus sent Peter and John - the unofficial leaders of the disciples.  They were accustomed to being selected for special assignments for Jesus had taken only them and James to witness what we now refer to as The Transfiguration.  They were special and probably knew it - not in an snobbish way but fully aware of their position among the disciples.

So when Jesus had a new assignment - to make preparations for the Passover - what was their response?  The preparation process was arduous, time-consuming, messy, and meticulous.  Jesus could have sent any of the twelve but He asked Peter and John.  In Luke's account (ch 22) we read that Peter and John immediately complied.  Despite being asked to do something that was quite a bit less exotic than a transfigured Jesus or a healing, they embraced the need at hand.  They resisted the temptation to ask Jesus a question that we are often prone to express:  "Can't somebody else do that?"

What we see in Peter and John is a supreme example of an emerging, spiritual maturity.  Namely, the closer we get to God, seeking Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, the more inclined we become to serve.  If a serving heart does not begin to flow from time spent in God's presence, than we remain spiritual infants - consuming but not giving.  Seeking God without serving others is spiritual narcissism in disguise.  It is a form of self-medicating - using God as a therapeutic fix that makes us feel better for an hour but lacking any substance.

This weekend is the finale of our Seek series.  We will conclude by focusing on serving because seeking must lead to serving.  If we miss this correlation, we run the risk of spending another year in spiritual kindergarten.  We run the risk of using God's presence for ourselves at the neglect of the needs in our world. We run the risk of chronically thinking or expressing the same question:  "Can't somebody else do that?"  It's time to change that immature question to a mature statement:  "Here I am Lord, use me."

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden