One of the many qualities coveted in this world is power. If you have ever been picked on because of what you wear, how you look or the way you say things, you understand the feeling of not having power. It has always amazed me how quickly fear, self-doubt and insecurities take root in our hearts and minds when we are made to feel powerless. I do not know how many of you have felt this way. I have and I know that who I have become and how I respond has been shaped by the these experiences.
So, what does power have to do with Lent? I have come to see that power is something we must steward in much the same way we take care of our monetary resources, gifts and talents. The amount of power we have may be determined by many factors, but in the end the issue is what will we do when we have it. However, there is a second issue connected with our possession of this influence. We also have to ask ourselves what will we not do when we have it.
One of my favorite examples of this is in the movie Bruce Almighty. In the movie, Bruce feels that God is picking on him and challenges God to show himself by “smiting” him. God takes up the challenge and gives Bruce his all of his powers. Bruce thinks this is all a joke, as well he should. What happens next, and what can only be illustrated in a movie, is Bruce indulges in his new found abilities. He gives himself everything he wants, and he still does not achieve the satisfaction and happiness he thought would come. Unfortunately for Bruce, his image of power was more like Zeus (lightning bolt in hand) than it was like the God of the bible.
By the end film, Bruce learns that having all-power does not guarantee joy. As a matter of fact having unhindered powers may actually get in the way unless and until there are controls and restraints on the exercise of the power. The irony in Bruce’s experience, and in life outside of the silver screen, is that true power comes through the exercise of restraint and not merely in the unfettered expression of power.
Do you have power? Or does your power have you? If it’s the second, you are not really as powerful as you have let yourself believe.
If there is one word that does not describe me, it would be rhythm. I can walk and chew gum. I can a great variety of activities that require coordination, but I can’t dance or keep the beat of a song. This reality makes for a frustrated guitarist! But, I pick along as best as I can (pun intended!).
One of the lessons that I have learned in the course of my faith journey is that faith has an ebb and flow. There are highs and there lows. The most constant reality is change. How we handle the changes that will come determines the richness of our experiences. It is quite fortunate for us all, that wisdom and age (normally, but not always) grow together. Lent has become one of the harmonies of my life. It is a reminder of the passage of time, but also the possibility for growth.
As in all things, superstition and abuse can take something useful and distort it and even destroy it. I, however, want to see this season of preparation and contemplation for what it is–an opportunity to turn my affections toward God. This does not mean that sin has ceased to creep at the door. Rather, my awareness of sin and its effects is heightened and brought into stark relief against the sacrifice of Christ on Easter. Every year, this time comes and we have another change to take steps toward deeper faithfulness and obedience.
The power of the Christian calendar is in its intentionally drawing our attention to God’s work in the world through the church. Can this calendar become a crutch or even a hindrance? Yes, it can. The task is working toward a balance and a consistency in our faith walk. Rhythm. Finding it and remaining faithful to it is one of the keys to a life lived with God.
The famed G. K. Chesterton found a unique way to describing our problem and our predicament. It has always captured my imagination and I share it with you in the hope that it captures yours.
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” (emphasis added)
One of the principles my dad taught me about communication is that words have meaning. Therefore, it is important to know the meaning of words. This principle has been a major part of my development as a person, because I have placed a significant value on words and using them. Over the course of my life and ministry I have seen how misused or even misunderstood words create confusion and hurt.
As we continue our journey through this Lent season, I am reminded of this simple word: RESET. If we break down this word we find that it is a compound of the prefix “re-” and the word “set”. Whenever this prefix is used we are saying that some action will be done again. Examples like repeat, remind, return, relive, etc., come to mind. There was an action and then a repetition follows. When we look at “reset” we are saying that we are taking something back to its set, or original position.
What I have learned in life is it does not come with a reset button. There is no way of undoing what has been done. We are left with one of two choices. We can learn and grow, or we can continue to make the same mistakes. The only guarantee in life is the untiring march of time. We will never begin more time and we don’t know when our time will be up. All we can do is keep moving.
So, why even talk about resetting? Because what can be reset is our mind. The way we think about our lives and circumstances can be altered. The process of resetting our perspective is difficult, but I would argue worth the effort. We can go back to what God had in mind when he created humanity. We were created to have fellowship with God. Our communion with God can be reset when we place our trust in Christ. Putting our confidence in Jesus’ sacrifice is the only means available to us for a hope-filled existence. At that moment, we are back to what God had in mind from the beginning. This return is needed if we are going to see God’s plan the way God planned it. In this season of Lent, take some time and reset your thinking to be more inline with God’s.
Within the Christian world, the idea of surrender has a peculiar twist distinguishing it from its more common definition. When the word “surrender” is used there is usually the idea of conflict between two opposing factions. In the end, one of those groups recognizes their demise and chooses to cease fighting and turn themselves over to their opponents. The central concept is that conflict brings about the surrender.
Within the Christian worldview, surrender is not brought about by conflict (although this is not an entirely improbable possibility). For the Christian, surrender is initiated when the beauty and majesty of God leaves no doubt within their heart and mind that to be ruled by God is better than to rule oneself. The mystery here is in seeing that the motivation emanates from God’s character rather than his power.
When I look at Jesus’ example I see a life surrendered to God, not because God would conquer, but rather because he was allowing himself to be conquered, which is preferable. To put it another way, we are talking about the difference between an enemy and a lover. When one soul gives itself to another, love and passion are what are exchanged. This is the image of the marriage chamber. God’s love for us is intimate and passionate. He does not merely want to crush us, he wants us to be wooed and enthralled with his majesty and utter beauty.
It can be uncomfortable for us to think of God in this way, but that is exactly the image we are given in the bible. Jesus has returned to his Father’s house to prepare a place for us. Too often, this “us” is understood in the plural. However, Jesus is described as the bridegroom. He will return for his bride, singular. We who believe have become a part of the one bride who Jesus died to redeem and purify. Therefore, the language of the scriptures is that of lovers and marriage.
As we continue our journey towards Easter morning remember that God’s love for you is not academic. It is real, personal and unquenchable. Jesus loves us and he is not indifferent to our circumstances. Why would we not want to give ourselves to him.