Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Swallow my pride. Grow an apple tree.

Sometimes my pride is so thick, a steak knife couldn’t cut it. It’s all fatty and beefy and saucy and tough. I can’t swallow it, that’s for sure.

It would be fitting and humorous and effective in this blog to share some examples of my pride with you, but… I’m too proud. So I’ll leave you thinking I’m amazing. Likeable. Fun. Godly. Faithful. Successful. Loving. Talented. Worthy of being imitated. Better than you.

Are you still reading?

If there’s even a hint of true humility in me, it’s a work of God Himself. Nothing in me naturally wants to look out for your needs before mine. Not one iota of my flesh desires to reveal how inherently, disgustingly sinful I really am. And it is not easy for me to bow to God’s will above my own. I was born thinking that my way is best, I know what’s best, and I am the best.

Oh, but there is a cure for pride like mine. And it ain’t a bigger knife.

The ultimate remedy for our sinful condition is Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. But God didn’t stop at the empty tomb. That would have been more than enough, more than we deserve (since we deserve hell); but He is so good to us that He promises to finish the work He began—conforming us to be like Him. (And that sounds so “Christianeez,” but becoming more like Him means wholeness and purpose and passion and fullness of joy and true freedom and peace and unbelievable glory and on and on....!!)

I think that one of the greatest of God’s conforming tools is much more painful than that steak knife. It’s the dreaded scalpel of…


John Bunyan put it this way in his Advice to Sufferers: “We also, before the temptation comes, think we can walk upon the sea, but when the winds blow, we feel ourselves begin to sink….And yet doth it yield no good unto us? We could not live without such turnings of the hand of God upon us. We should be overgrown with flesh, if we had not our seasonable winters. It is said that in some countries trees will grow, but will bear no fruit, because there is no winter there.”

My Lord faithfully sends the winds and winters to keep me from thinking that I can walk on water or grow apples on my own tree. I’m not better than anyone else. I’m not impressive or worthy of imitating. I’m not talented or successful. But I am deeply, unconditionally, infinitely loved by the One whose way is best, the One who knows what is best, and the One who IS the Best.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Corner on the Market

I’m happy with my bran muffin and cup of black coffee this morning only because I don’t have a choice. Euro Café looked abysmal, but it was the only breakfast option inside the BWI security checkpoint near Gate C6.

After taking my first bite of said bran muffin (and I use the term “bran” loosely, as it definitely tastes more like a flour-butter-sugar cake with brown food coloring), I realized that Euro Café could serve five-day-old bread crusts with cheap icing and it would still stay in business, with a long line of malnourished travelers—asked to content themselves on miniscule bags of snack mix once en route. Euro Café is just lucky to have a corner on the market, or the competition would surely sink it within a week. (No—make that a day. I just took my first sip of coffee.)

And it strikes me that Jesus, being the Only Option we have for eternal life, could get away with a lot if He so chose. He could slack off or be mean or moody, or just decide to withhold His best and offer a cheap substitute. And He wouldn’t have to give an account to us or justify Himself or answer for the lack thereof because we don’t have any alternative. Want eternal life? You’ve got just one choice.

But instead of cutting corners and leaving us starving, He has given us everything, His very life, so that we could live abundantly. He makes Himself really, really, exceedingly good to us. He says He’s the Only Way and then gives us more in Himself than we can ever imagine or comprehend or fully enjoy. And He’s not good just for that first taste, but He’s also continually, increasingly good, ever surprising us with how great He truly is. I love how Psalm 63:5 puts it: “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food.”

Our enemy and our flesh quickly deceive us with the classic lie: “God’s trying to cheat you out of something good.” Eve’s not the only one to fall for such a ridiculous lie. If we were completely honest, most of us would admit that we have at times believed God to be chintzy, cheap, withholding what would make us most happy or what seems best for us.

How little we understand about eternal realities. Oh, my soul, you have been given all you need in Christ—and more! “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)