Thursday, September 15, 2011

Still Amazed!

I’m always amazed that in spite of having read through the Scriptures numerous times, my re-reading of familiar passages can touch me again and again in fresh and powerful ways. I experienced this “fresh touch” from the Word this morning when reading the very familiar account of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his continued sin in murdering her husband, Uriah. As I read, it seemed every detail jumped off the page, with the concluding paragraph of the chapter gripping me in its intensity and bluntness. I consumed the page detailing how Uriah’s uncommon and superior commitment to his duty exposed the extent of David’s consuming and unholy passions. I was aghast as I read of David’s effortless launching of the plan that led to Uriah’s demise. I was stunned as I recounted how David wasted no time in capitalizing on the opportunity to take Bathsheba as his own immediately after his treacherous plot of betrayal and murder had been carried out. More than any of this, I was stopped in my tracks as I read the last sentence of the chapter – a chilling phrase that serves as the greatest indictment any human being can experience:

“But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Samuel 11:27).

Why was I so shaken by this verse? Simply this: I recognize myself in David and know that like him, there lies within me the ability to displease God without batting an eye merely for the sake of my own convenience. I could easily replace my name with David’s:

“But the thing that [Sam] had done displeased the LORD.”

It was at that moment I found myself at the point of realization that the Apostle Paul expresses in Romans 7:22-25,

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

I am so very aware of my frailties and how much I really deserve God’s justice, but I am absolutely overjoyed with gratefulness because of the forgiveness and cleansing that comes through faith in Jesus Christ! Not only am I overjoyed – I’m amazed!

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Free "Bird"!! or Choosing to be at Peace

Earlier today, as Luz and I were traveling down the road casually, basking in the first alone time we’ve enjoyed in quite a while, a driver took us by surprise, zig-zagged in front of us and during the whole escapade, shot us “a bird”, “the finger”, the single-digit salute of the offended and highly displeasured of our society. He continued to flash his displeasure towards us as we continued down the same road until we took a turn towards our destination as he punctuated his silent rant with an elevated thrust of his animosity, laying hard on his horn as he continued through the intersection and in a direction opposite our own. It was almost comical, made even more so by the fact that Luz and I have no idea what set him off. We were driving along with the flow of traffic, which was well over the speed limit and passing many other cars, so I don’t believe it was our speed. Luz wondered if he didn’t like our pro-Army/pro-West Point auto decals. I chimed in that I suppose that could be the case, but I’m not sure that even the Chief of Naval Operations has that much venom towards West Point! Could it have been the “ICHTHUS” or Christian Fish emblem on our tailgate?

We were stumped. We pondered, postulated and considered the situation arriving at no satisfactory answer. I finally said in resignation, “Well, this is America, and you’re free to give someone “The Bird” if you want to! Luz responded, “Isn’t there a song about that?” I almost wrecked the car with my laughter. “Oh, you mean “Freebird” by Lynard Skynard?” I answered. I had never thought about it that way, but I guess one could! As I calmed down from my laughter, I actually considered something more important. Luz and I also had freedom in this situation that, by God’s grace, we exercised in a totally different manner than our highly agitated friend. I considered how many terrible incidents have resulted from someone making a gesture towards someone else, which then escalates into harsh words, which then escalates into a situation that turns ugly and on occasion tragic as the level of anger explodes into a violent confrontation that leaves all parties involved violated, injured and scarred.

The Scriptures command those who aspire to follow Jesus to be “Quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger”. I’m not sure of our level of intentionality, but by merely attempting to understand what was upsetting the friend in the truck and to see if there was something we could do to lessen his displeasure, we were obeying the spirit of this verse. We weren’t focusing on what was being done to us, but rather on how we should conduct ourselves and what options were ours to improve the situation. The result was a mysterious encounter, but not an ugly one that left us at its end, confused, but very happy and totally at peace.

If you find yourself in one of those situations where you’re facing someone who is so at odds with something you’re doing or something they imagine you’re doing that the recipient of your displeasing behavior feels obliged to exercise their freedom of expression, DON’T ENGAGE THEM! Rather, step back, take a moment, sort out the situation, don’t respond with harsh words and don’t allow yourself to be sucked into an angry response. “Quick to hear. Slow to speak. Slow to anger.” And, if you’re a Lynard Skynard fan, dig out your old collection, crank up “Freebird” and have a good laugh. You’ll feel better and there’s a chance you’ll have the opportunity to pass your chosen joy on to others as well. Until next time…