The hard words of Jesus...

Filed under: by: Jeremy Riddle

This will just be a quick little note.  This morning I was reading in the book of Revelation chapter 2 where Jesus is addressing the church in Ephesus.  He begins by commending them for their works and patient endurance, but the line that  caught my eye and gripped my heart was this, "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first."  Whenever I read scripture, especially when God is specifically and directly addressing His people, I read that word as if it was written to me.  It doesn't matter how much it actually applies to me or my situation, at some level it always does and leaves me filled with a holy fear of the Lord.  So in this situation I imagined myself standing before Jesus and Him delivering those words to me.  In that moment I noticed how my heart was devastated by that line "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first."  In that moment of embracing the pain of His rebuke I realized afresh how much I needed His rebuke in my life- His discipline.  I was reminded yet again of the Father's love in that He disciplines those He loves and does so for their benefit.


So often we reject discipline; we run from the pain we know it brings.  We stop up our ears to the honest, critical words delivered by those close to us.  If left to our own devices we will create a world for ourselves where only comfort and convenience abound, because none of us like pain or discomfort.  But I've found that God isn't afraid of pain or discomfort at all and he isn't afraid to use these elements in our lives to sanctify us.  Hebrews 2:10 states that God the Father perfected His own Son through suffering, so I would be so bold as to guarantee He will perfect us through a similar means. 

Knowing what I know about ourselves and knowing what I know about God makes me slightly concerned about our American Church/Christian culture.  It seems we have become imbalanced somewhere along the way.  Take Christian radio for example.. I have searched high and low to find a Christian radio station whose slogans and messages don't have something to do with being exclusively positive and encouraging.  I've yet to find one.  Many of the sermons I've heard in many of the churches I've visited have a similar feel to them; the emphasis is grace and unconditional acceptance (certainly not all churches, but a lot of them).  My concern is not that we are promoting positive and encouraging messages or that God's mercy, grace and unconditional love/acceptance of us is proclaimed.  After all, these the foundations of the good news we've received!  My concern is the exclusive focus on these wonderful attributes of our Faith to the exclusion of equally vital aspects.  I'm concerned that we have lost our appetite for the harder sayings of Jesus because our diet has been so absent of them; because they are the least pleasant of foods to feast on.  We'll gladly take another helping of good news apple pie but we avoid the spinach of rebuke and correction like the plague.   

But Oh how we need His discipline in our lives!!  Let us not cast off His love for us by shirking His discipline.  Let us embrace the hard, piercing, sayings of Jesus.  Let us ponder them.  Let us grieve over them.  May they bring us to repentance. May they produce holy fear in our lives.  May they further shape us into the image of the Son that we may shine on earth the way He did.

11/20/08

Filed under: by: Jeremy Riddle

I spent the better half of my morning pondering the wonder of perspective.  I happened to be on a plane headed to New York and for whatever reason, perspective comes to me often in planes.   Perhaps its because flying always unnerves me to some degree.  You would think that after countless flights I'd be more comfortable on these contraptions but there is always this nagging thought "I don't think we should be doing this... I think we were meant to stay on the ground." :)  Maybe its the fact that I'm hurtling through the air at 500+ miles an hour in a metal like flute with wings and I’m fully aware that if the slightest thing goes wrong, we’re all toast.  Ha.  Facing death brings such tremendous perspective on life so I try and do it often.  Maybe there is something wrong with me. 

In many ways perspective is the lens through which we view life, and depending on our lens life can either be a blessing or a curse, ugly or beautiful, sweet or sour.  A positive lense can empower some to see good in an overwhelming negative time; power to look into the darkest storm and be at peace; power to have joy in the midst of great pain and hardship.  On the other hand, a person with a negative perspective can win the lottery and and be depressed.  I've met a few of these "Eeyore's."  I find myself somewhere in the middle.  I've never been accused of being overly positive; if I err, I err on the negative side.  I've been accused (rightly so) of being a pessimist.  

Regardless, I have always believed there is such a thing as "right" perspective; a correct lens through which to view and life and human interaction; an ultimate reality that supersedes all other “realities.” And I would say this reality- this perspective- is God’s and His alone.  Seems right yes? As such, it is the reality and perspective that I want to encompass and cloak the whole of my life. I am constantly yearning for heavens eyes. In every life situation I want to see things as God sees them. I want to see the people I encounter and interact with everyday the way He does. I want the things that grip His heart to grip mine as well. 

Whenever I encounter God’s perspective it lays waste the things I thought of great importance and exalts the small, humble things I’d written off as insignificant. It always makes me wonder how different my thoughts, my speech, and my actions would be if I carried this perspective with me at all times. Jesus always had the right perspective. He always had the ears and eyes to see and hear what His Father was doing. He always carried heaven’s perspective on earth. I want this in my life, and not only in my life but in the life of the Church as well. 

My prayer is this: God may we function the same. Give us right perspective; Your perspective; the ears and eyes of heaven as we live here on earth.